I’ve been thinking a lot these days about the “optimal” diet for fertility. Between finishing up with Baby Making and Beyond and working towards my Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) certification, nutrition is number one on my mind.
So, back to my question, is your fertility diet actually sabotaging your ability to conceive? What do I mean by that, well, let me explain. This question was triggered by an email sent out by Real Food Liz, my BMB partner in crime. In it she posed the question, are you “accidentally” dieting. Listening to the Balanced Bites podcast this week there was some discussion about how we view our food choices. There is a large tendency in our food and looks obsessed culture to diet, go on detoxes and boot camps. Some of these programs can be great re-sets for helping us move towards a more healthy, balanced real food approach, but sometimes, the “rules” they create can end up extending past these 21 or 30 day challenges, limiting our diets, but more importantly, create a toxic relationship around food. Food can be labeled, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and even worse ‘permitted’ or ‘not permitted’. We can lose our ability to enjoy eating and enjoy our meals.
Back to my original question, is your fertility diet actually sabotaging your ability to conceive? While I’m trying to create the most optimal dietary guidelines to maximize fertility it is my most sincere fear that these “guidelines” could actually cause more damage than they create good by causing toxic STRESS and feelings of deprivation for some women who just so desperately want to do the very best thing for themselves and for their future babies. Stress, in any form, is toxic to fertility. Put very simply, stress activates adrenal hormones (think cortisol), which sends signals to your body that now is a stressful time and not a good time to conceive. Stress is powerful enough that the benefits of even the most “perfect” fertility diet could be nullified by the effects of elevated cortisol.
Here’s the issue with stress when you’re seeking to optimize fertility:
- Cortisol raises blood sugars and promote inflammation as well as unhealthy weight gain (especially around your tummy).
- Cortisol reduces your body’s ability to make it’s own sex hormones including thyroid, estrogen and progesterone
- The constant stress on the adrenal system tells the body that it’s not “safe” and that now is not a good time to raise a baby successfully.
So, what to do about it? What can you do if you feel trapped in a “diet” or set of eating “rules” . What do you do if you're feeling deprived, stressed out or exhausted by trying to achieve the perfect diet ?
1. Let go of all the rules! We each get multiple times each day to make food choices. We are all individuals, not robots. Sometimes we make more nutrient dense choices, while other times we may make choices that just satisfy our souls. When enjoyed, these are all GOOD CHOICES. Try to choose nutrient dense most of the time. Other times just enjoy the ice cream Sunday or gluten free pizza. Heck, last week I ate a marshmallow that fell in the fire pit. Whatever. No stress, no consequence. One choice at a time.
2. Create a list of ‘smart’ deal breakers Always avoid things that obviously are harmful for your body and are known to cause a reaction or be a source of inflammation. For me it’s dairy and gluten. They are an absolute NO GO. That being said. When I want my ice cream sundae, I’ll make it with decadent coconut milk ice cream and dairy free chocolate fudge. No suffering here!
3. If fertility is your goal, create a list of things you want to include each week and then fill in the gaps with spontaneous eating habits that nourish your body and soul. For example, you want to eat liver twice each week, eat dark leafy greens every day and enjoy more bone broth. Easy! Meet these goals and then fill in your diet with spontaneous unplanned choices that keep your mind, body and soul satisfied.
4. Create a stress free culture around meal times. Enjoy your food. Sit down with family for at least one meal per day. Try not to eat on the run or be distracted by the TV or computer when you nosh. Take five deep breaths before sitting down to eat. Not only will this aid in digestion and nutrient absorption (fertility bonus),but it will also acts as a potent stress reliever. If regular meditation or yoga isn’t already a part of your fertility practice, MAKE IT A PRIORITY. Yes, I said this loudly, a stress management plan is just as important as anything you put in your mouth. We will have a GIANT stress section in Baby Making and Beyond, so stay tuned for that.
If you need help with your diet or nutrient plan, feel free to send me a message. I’ll be accepting new clients in the spring of 2017 and have a waiting list started of everyone who’s interested in a bit of help. I’ll be offering a wide variety of both hormone and allergy testing as well as fertility, prenatal and post- baby nutrition packages. So stoked for this new phase in my career and excited to keep working with all of you wonderful women. Also, stay tuned for a series of e-books designed to help you get on your way to fertility and pregnancy friendly paleo eats.
Till then, enjoy that Sundae. You know how I feel about ice cream!