The domains of fitness and nutrition are heavily dominated by masculine energy. By masculine, I mean that we approach the body, it’s appearance, and it’s abilities in a very left-brain, direct, and scientific way. We distill the greater essence of what it means to be alive into bite-size materials and processes. We obsess over numbers: calories, macronutrient profiles, percent body fat, naked mass, run times, weightlifting totals, and cholesterol levels. First, let me say that there is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with masculine energy. It’s completely necessary for life and deserves to be honored. We experience negative, secondary effects (especially with women) when the masculine goes unbalanced by this enigmatic energy we call the feminine. By feminine, I mean right-brain, creative, emotional, unpredictable, pleasurable, and nourishing. When was the last time you heard these words associated with fitness and nutrition!?
Since we all are OF the masculine, feminine, and Divine (the recipe for conception), we all ARE masculine, feminine, and Divine (our essence). Everyone resides somewhere within this triangular spectrum but I propose that comprehensive wellness lives in the center. Therefore, abandoning the masculine for the sake of the feminine is NOT the answer.
Issues that arise from the over-masculinization of fitness and nutrition include living in our minds (not our bodies), the quest for the perfect diet (read: perfect body), punishing exercise (i.e. “I’m going to run until my thighs fall off”), and the idea that we are inherently broken and need fixed. These negative effects are exacerbated for a woman when she becomes pregnant. All of a sudden, she loses the taste for her staple foods (eggs and salad, anyone?), begins craving a shame-inducing amount of carbohydrates, and has erratic energy levels. The masculine-centered approach to fitness and nutrition tells us to use willpower to overcome these impulses—dominate and stay the course at all costs. For the pregnant woman, however, the feminine balance is physiologically calling us back towards center.
So, what does the feminine approach to fitness and nutrition look like and how do we implement its principles?
According to Marc David from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, the feminine means nourishment over nutrition, movement over exercise, natural food over synthetic foods, mystery over scientific “certainty,” and body wisdom over book knowledge. At any given point in time, we may need a little more or a little less of the masculine and feminine. For the pregnant woman, her femininity is blossoming into peak expression and incorporating the following feminine principles is necessary for both her and her baby’s wellbeing:
- Nourishment is so much more than nutrition. It goes beyond the macronutrient profile of a meal and arguably, goes beyond food itself. Nourishment is physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual sustenance. Recall an occasion that truly nourished you. Perhaps you ate a lovingly prepared meal with dear friends, shared heartfelt conversations, and bathed in the warm ambiance of a summer evening. Nourishment is so essential for life that it starts in the womb: baby is fed, cradled, protected, and receives loving energy from mama. As an expectant mother, you instinctually know how to provide nourishment and the need for nourishment doesn’t disappear after birth. Everyone needs it at all stages of life.
- Movement is so much more than exercise. While exercise targets a specific muscular stimulus or caloric output, movement invokes the natural, pleasurable, and invigorating. One is neither inherently good nor bad. When we use exercise to punish ourselves into a body we hate less, we’re moving away from wellness. For some, yoga, marathon training, and CrossFit workouts are, indeed, pleasurable forms of exercise. During pregnancy, movements that once felt extremely natural and pleasurable may cease to do so. Invite the mystery of the feminine into your movement routine. Get curious about what movements feel invigorating day-to-day and trimester-to-trimester. Just because one particular movement doesn’t feel spectacular during the first trimester doesn’t mean it will remain that way for the duration of the pregnancy.
- Finally, balancing book knowledge with body wisdom leads to elevated wellness. To some extent, the over-reliance on book knowledge is a fair and necessary outcome of the food science era. Synthetic foods are marketed to create addiction for the consumer and financial prosperity for the company. Understanding that intense sugar-density surpasses cocaine reward is super helpful book knowledge. Book knowledge at the exclusion of body wisdom, however, is extremely problematic and even more so for pregnant women. How many times have you heard, “every woman and every pregnancy is unique?” We all know this yet we often seek the external guru to tell us exactly what to eat and how to move during pregnancy. Again, not at the exclusion of but in addition to this, we also have the ability to tap into the guru most in touch with our specific circumstances—ourselves. When you have a craving, get curious about it. Take 5-10 deep breaths and ask yourself, “what do I really need right now?” Often times, I find myself standing in front of the open fridge, completely unsure of my presence there. After the breathing exercise and calling on my body wisdom, I often find that I don’t need food at all; I simply need a hug, warm beverage, or nap.
The spectrum between the masculine and feminine is both beautiful and exhilarating. Where do you reside on this spectrum? What steps are you ready to take to achieve more balance?