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Eating for The Trimesters with Lainey Younkin

Eating for The Trimesters

[This is also an episode of Friday Free Talk on The Tranquility Tribe Podcast on iTunes. Listen here.]

Hey Tranquility Tribe!  Do you ever feel crazily overwhelmed by all of the opinions that everyone seems to have about diet, workouts, and weight loss?  The world of weight and exercise can be filled with frustration and disappointment, especially in a time when newsfeeds are constantly flooded with images that only portray the most perfect sides of people’s lives.  Today, Hehe talks to Lainey Younkin, a dietician, about body positivity and what you should truly be focusing on before, during, and after pregnancy.

Who is Lainey?

Lainey Younkin, whose nickname is “the dietician who doesn’t put people on diets”, is a nutritionist in Boston who takes an honest and realistic approach to helping her clients live a healthy lifestyle.  Rather than putting clients on diets that often only yield the desired results in the short-term and can make you feel guilty about eating, Lainey helps her clients make gradual, more sustainable adjustments that allow them to live healthier lives in the long-term.

What to eat when you’re expecting

As both Hehe and Lainey point out, the most important thing, whether or not you are pregnant, is to listen to your body.  You know yourself best, and your body will tell you what it needs. That means that if you’re hungry, you need to eat! Although it can be easy to compare your diet and weight to those of the people around you, everybody’s body is different, so the amount of food you need on a daily basis will be different too.  And this goes for nutrition apps and calorie counting as well! Your activity level will vary from day to day, and therefore the amount that you need to eat will too. Lainey encourages her clients to shift their focus from the number on the scale to their internal hunger scale in order to help them reach their goals while making sure that they give their bodies what they need.

Lainey explains that most people eat for one of three reasons.  You may eat because you physically feel hungry; if that’s the case, you’re listening to your hunger scale - keep it up!  On the other hand, you may eat because you are craving a certain food, not necessarily because you’re hungry.  Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you can’t combat that craving.  And if that’s the case, Lainey says you should eat the food that you are craving, but do so mindfully.  The third reason that many people eat is because they feel stressed and they use food as a source of comfort.  If this sounds familiar to you, Lainey advises finding the root of the stress – once you address why you are feeling upset and find other methods for dealing with stress, it will be easier to decrease your stress-eating. 

If you are trying to get pregnant, Lainey’s biggest piece of advice is to make sure that you have enough folic acid in your diet.  Folic acid is extremely important for neural tube development, which starts very early in pregnancy!  During your first trimester, you should continue to take folic acid and also begin to focus on getting enough omega-3s, which help with the development of your new baby’s brain.  Salmon is a great source of omega-3, and if you are worried that you aren’t getting enough, you can always take a multivitamin too!  Many women have cravings for a lot of carbs during the first trimester; if you find yourself craving carbs, Lainey recommends trying to go for healthier options such as sweet potato fries or whole wheat bread so that you can get as much nutrition from your food as possible.  But you don’t have to make the switch immediately – start slowly and transition to healthier options as you go.

Going into the second trimester, you may find yourself getting hungrier than normal – this is your hunger scale telling you that your body needs more calories!  In addition to eating more, it’s also important to focus on getting enough iron and vitamin D.  And as you move into your third trimester, you’ll need even more calories as well as more iron, because your baby will start storing iron to use during their first few months of life.  Lainey recommends getting lots of vitamin C as well, as that will help your body absorb iron. 

Postpartum health

Immediately after your birth, Lainey recommends setting up a meal train or having others help you prepare meals, because you will have less energy and time to cook but getting the calories that your body needs is extremely important to help your body heal.  This is especially important if you are breastfeeding; the food that you eat is fuel for both you and your baby, so you will need lots of extra calories!  One trick that Lainey shared is to make sure that you find portable foods such as string cheese, nuts, or dried fruit that you can have with you at all times. 

In our society, there are many unrealistic expectations surrounding weight during the postpartum period.  In reality, everybody’s body and birth experiences are different, and your own body will be different than it was before your birth.  As Lainey has learned from her work, many people gain around 25-35 pounds during pregnancy, lose 10-20 pounds during the few months after, and then feel stuck and unable to lose more weight.  But Lainey points out that your postpartum period is not the time to diet or to be stressed about weight – you may not get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, and that’s okay!  Your body grew and carried a tiny human, which is an incredible accomplishment as well as a big change, so it may take some time to get reacquainted with your postpartum self.  Rather than worrying about the number on the scale, Lainey recommends focusing on eating a nutritious diet for yourself and your baby, allowing your body to rest and heal, and then getting into an exercise routine that can help you destress and feel healthy.  And if you really feel stuck or unhappy with your body, reach out for help!  There are countless resources, including Lainey, who can help you find a healthy, balanced lifestyle and build up your body positivity.

Lainey’s postpartum journey

As Lainey points out, it’s extremely important to talk about the struggles that come during the postpartum period in order to combat those unrealistic expectations – you may feel like you’re suffering alone, but in reality there are many others who are going through very similar experiences!  Lainey shares that she had a very difficult weight journey after she had her baby.  Throughout her pregnancy, she went from 145 pounds to 176 pounds, and then got back down to 155 pounds a few months after her pregnancy.  At that point she felt a little stuck, so she started to focus more on exercise by doing at-home workouts.  These workouts, which were focused on strength and cardio, helped her feel stronger and she lost five more pounds.  She also started running and was able to get back down to 145 pounds, but then she broke her toe and gained some of the weight back.  She expected that she would have more luck losing weight after she stopped breastfeeding, but that didn’t happen.  Although she is still struggling with her weight, now she is focusing more on maintaining a healthy life and adjusting her body image to feel more positive about her postpartum body!

If you want to learn more about Lainey and get involved with her one-on-one coaching or her group workshops, you can find her at or on Instagram at @laineyyounkin!

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"Welcome to the Tranquility Tribe"

Written by our Guest Blogger, Kyra Shreeve. She is a Biochemistry, Health Policy, and Music student at Brandeis University. 


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