Most people know about the freshmen fifteen, or the common weight gain that afflicts new college students. Studies now show that new dads are in for the same type of body mass increase to their body mass index. If you are an expecting first time dad, expect weight gain in the near future.
Science Says Yes To Dad Bod
Not only must you prepare the nursery, the diaper changing station, the pantry, and play room, but now you need to be extra vigilant with your own diet and overall health. A large scale study covering 10,000 men over 20 years shows that men who didn’t become dads lost weight, while men who became dads gained weight over the same time period. These findings were published in the American Journal of Mens Health.
Notable findings include: resident dads (new dads who end up living with their new children) gained an extra 2.6% weight versus non-resident dads (new dads who don’t live with their children) who gained an extra 2.0% weight versus non-dads who lost weight. The study equated the percentage to a 6 foot tall man gaining 4.4 pounds versus 3.3 pounds versus losing 1.4 pounds.
Lead author Craig Garfield noted that the change might be attributed to lifestyle changes as a new and first time dad. “You have new responsibilities when you have your kids and may not have time to take care of yourself the way you once did in terms of exercise. Your family becomes the priority.” The extra weight gain can potentially lead to health problems down the road. “The more weight the fathers gain and the higher their BMI, the greater risk they have for developing heart disease as well as diabetes and cancer.”
Researches note that the numbers might be conservative when it comes to weight gain, and they could actually be much higher in some men. Couple this with the fact that married men are also more likely to gain weight, and the problem can compound over time and additional children.
My Experience As A First Time Dad
I agree with the study, especially the part about it being conservative. I gained around 10-15 pounds (it fluctuated) from a few months before the baby came to about 6 months after D-Day, when it kind of leveled off. I will admit, I wasn’t really paying attention to my health a whole lot over that time period. But the weight gain was definitely there. Here are a few things that really stick out about that time period:
- Sleep deprivation – I didn’t end up getting a lot of sleep until my daughter turned one. She was a terrible sleeper, had bad acid reflux (which was pretty terrifying early on since she would spit up and choke on it if we layed her down), and was a poop machine during the night. Since my wife had to get up to nurse, this also woke me up and I tried to support her by helping with the diapers in the night so she could get some sleep. Science also shows that poor sleep habits can also contribute to weight gain, and in this case, I think this was as big a contributor as any.
- No energy – This point is directly related to the sleep deprivation point. Because I wasn’t getting my 8 hours of shut eye, I had little energy after getting home from work (which for me is an 8 hour shift with 2 hours of commuting) to exercise. I know, exercise is supposed to energize you. Maybe it was a lack of motivation. Either way, I neither had the energy nor the gumption to get off the sack and work out with any consistency for basically that first year.
- Poor diet – It seemed like there wasn’t even time to cook real meals. We ate a lot of pizza, frozen meals, and junk food. No time, no energy, no motivation to eat right.
- High stress – This one is pretty self explanatory, but definitely a contributor to the weight gain. As a first time dad I thought “I am now financially responsible for a new human being.” Even though I was exhausted every day, I often found myself thinking into the night about our budget and finances. Things were pretty dicey and we were walking a fine line with our budget before having our daughter, and after there were just so many new expenses that I hadn’t considered before.
- New lifestyle – Gone were the days of doing what we pleased. No more Netflix binge sessions, hanging out with friends late at night, and the active lifestyle that we enjoyed together (snowboarding, hiking, fishing). We pretty much stayed at home for the first year and didn’t get out hardly at all. I take that back, the Netflix binge sessions were still there, and probably actually increased.
Now that I look back on that time period, I’m surprised I didn’t gain more weight than I did – ten pounds actually looks pretty good at this point. It took pretty much that first full year to take my life back and get into a more healthy routine, and it wasn’t easy. Part of it just took time to get used to having additional responsibilities (financial, dad related) and getting into a groove with the new chores and duties. Once things settled down, the stress started to go down, which helped with the sleep deprivation. Those in turn brought back the energy and motivation to get my diet and physical self back into shape. I think the key was establishing a routine that dedicated time for taking care of my physical self every day by exercising and cooking/eating healthier.
I had no clue what I was in for as a new dad when it came to my role and duties, let alone the fact that it was going to throw my health out of whack. Had I known, it might have been easier to establish healthy goals up front. If you are a new or expecting dad, stay out in front of the “New Dad 15” or “Dad Bod” by proactively setting health goals and heading off the points outlined above. Expect that the new lifestyle changes will adversely affect your health unless you do something about it ahead of time. Good luck –
Did you experience new dad weight gain? What tips do you have for avoiding first time dad weight gain? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!