Pregnant, FOOD, More Food, and Exercise Welcome back! In my second and final installment of Staying Fit During Pregnancy, I will focus mostly on food cravings, weight gain, and weight loss after baby.

You can read the first installment here.

First off, if there is any chance you might become pregnant, doctors recommend you begin taking at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Taking folic acid (a B vitamin) before and during pregnancy can prevent birth defects in a baby's brain and spinal cord. I could not stomach traditional prenatal vitamins (made me feel like I was going to throw up), so my doctor told me a regular supplement would be just fine.

There are many key nutrients that are important during pregnancy. Calcium and Vitamin D for your bones and baby's as well. Protein is crucial for your baby's growth, especially during the second and third trimesters. And iron to prevent anemia. If you are concerned that you are not getting enough of these nutrients through your diet, it would be helpful to consult your doctor about taking supplements.

Some foods that the Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding during pregnancy include: seafood high in mercury, sushi, unpasteurized cheeses, raw or undercooked meat, and excess caffeine and alcohol. Personally, I had no problem with this.

Now let's talk about the cravings and food sources that helped me make sure I was getting enough calories in :) . I definitely had cravings, and they differed somewhat during my first and second pregnancies. When I was pregnant with my oldest, I literally laid out an ice cream sundae bar every, single night. Ice cream, chocolate sauce, M&Ms, sprinkles, whipped cream, you name it. The second time around, I wasn't very interested in ice cream at all. In the beginning of my second pregnancy, I was insatiably hungry. I felt like I was eating from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. And I wanted salty carbs. I am generally not a salty carb fan, so this was surprising to me.

Other random things I craved while pregnant:

1) Sprite and Slurpees (pregnancy #1). I drank a Slurpee pretty much every day during my second and third trimesters. Thank Heaven for 7-11.

2) Utz Party Mix. Don't know what that is? Good, you would never eat it unless you were pregnant or stoned. Some godawful mix of Cheetos, BBQ Fritos, Doritos,Tostitos, and who knows what else?! Sold at the CVS.

3) Sandwiches; specifically, the Surfside at Jetties and the #300 at Wagshal's. I would walk into Wagshal's and whoever was behind the counter would immediately say, "Number 300?". Both contain salty pork products. Which leads me to…

4) BACON!!! There could never be enough bacon. I once went to a brunch buffet with a friend and came back to the table with a plateful of about 15 strips of bacon. She looked at me and deadpanned, "Wow, you weren't kidding when you said you've been craving bacon.". And, yes, I ate it all.

So, how much weight did I gain? Current recommendations say that if you are at a healthy weight, you should gain between 25-35 pounds during your pregnancy. They say it is not necessary to "eat for two" and that you only need about 300 extra calories per day. I say, if you are healthy and the baby is healthy, don't worry about this!

Pregnancy is not a time to restrict what you eat or count calories, for that matter. Besides, anyone who has ever experienced a pregnancy craving knows that they must be satisfied, so enjoy it!

The first time around, I did not get bigger anywhere but my belly. I looked just like my normal self, only having swallowed a basketball. Now, you can move your middle finger away from your computer screen because the second time around was an entirely different story. If you can imagine a hippopotamus crossed with Jabba the Hut, you can envision what I looked like during my second pregnancy. I was bigger pretty much everywhere.

The truth is, I really don't know exactly how much weight I gained during my pregnancies. I was fortunate to have a doctor who trusted me to weigh myself alone in the restroom, so I would just add a pound or so every time I visited him. Why would I do such a thing?! Because I knew that I was healthy, my babies were healthy and I didn't need to know that if I sat on a teeter-totter with my 6'3 tall husband, I might send him flying up in the air!

I should note that by the end of both pregnancies, I slowed down significantly in terms of workouts. About a month before giving birth, I stopped strength training and just took it easy on the good ol' elliptical. I did what I could until the bitter end, though.

I am going to go ahead and skip past the labor and delivery part (keeping with the PG theme) except to say thank God for epidurals! Amen.

I really had no expectations for how long it would take for me to lose the baby weight. I believe this is a healthy approach. I asked my doctor how long I should wait to exercise after I gave birth and he pretty much told me I could start whenever I felt ready. He knew that I had exercised consistently the entire time I was pregnant. This does not apply if you have a C-section. You definitely must follow your doctor's orders. I began with easy walks a few days after giving birth and slowly built up my exercise program again. Just like you did throughout your pregnancy, it is just as important to listen to your body after you give birth and not push or pressure yourself. I am not going to say how long it took me to get back to my pre-baby state, but I will say it was much quicker than I ever expected. And I attribute this 100% to staying active throughout my pregnancies, despite all the bacon.

Stay strong, feed the cravings.

Tara