You’ve heard the terms: sympathy weight, fatherhood fifteen, paternity pounds, dad dough, child chunk (okay, I made that last one up). Whatever you call it, no cute little turn of phrase, play on words or awesome alliteration makes it more acceptable that most new dads pack on weight after they have kids. And you don’t need a psych degree to figure out why this happens.
Between the cravings you end up sharing during pregnancy (for my better half, it was Italian food, Swedish fish and ice cream), the stress, the lack of sleep and the lack of time to exercise after baby arrives, it’s no wonder some guys develop man boobs faster than their wives develop nursing boobs. The question is: As a dad, what are you going to do to stop this from happening to you? (And if you’re a woman reading this, what are you going to do to help your husband?)
For me, this wasn’t an easy question. As someone who has made a career out of writing for magazines like Men’s Fitness and Men’s Health, I’d always taken my workout time for granted. I lifted weights regularly, played basketball a few times a week, swam on a Master’s team, and more. I was probably naive to think that I’d be able to maintain even half of my activities after the arrival of my first daughter, but when it turned out that during the first month or so of being a dad, I was maintaining exactly zero of them, it was a shock to my system. Couple that with the fact that I had the sleeping hours of a first-year med student and I was eating fast food like I was back in college. I was in trouble.
I hit this point about three weeks after the birth of my daughter and that’s when I decided I needed to come up with a plan to somehow squeeze exercise into my new dad life. I needed to get my blood moving so I didn’t feel tired and weak all the time. In order to do this and have any success with it, my plan had to meet these criteria:
1) It had to fit into my existing schedule.
2) No equipment would be required.
3) I would have to be able to get other things done simultaneously.
4) I’d have to burn calories or build muscle and not burn any time.
5) The exercises had to be simple and effective.
After examining my schedule, taking stock of my daily activities and poring over a bunch of the fitness articles (ones I’d written!), I developed a plan that worked for me, and that I think every guy can follow to stay in shape. It’s not P90X. It’s not the Insanity workout. It won’t rebuild your body. It is simply a common-sense fitness plan to help you bridge the gap between your “I’m in great shape and about to have a kid” days and your “my kid sleeps all night and I sort of have my life back” days. Ideally, this will help you avoid the “I haven’t worked out or slept in three months, I eat like crap and I’ve gained 15 pounds” days.
The exercises and workouts I came up with are practical and they work. For instance, when you burp your baby, don’t just sit on the couch, do some Burp Lunges across your family room. They’re slow, great for your lower body and core, and they might even help induce the belch you’ve been praying for the last 10 minutes. Or next time you have your child in your Baby Bjorn, do a set of 10-15 body squats as soon as you strap her in. Making these kinds of things habits will turn everyday activities into calorie burners and muscle builders.
I wrote about these ideas and literally dozens more (along with lots of advice) in a book called The Dadvantage: Stay in Shape on No Sleep, with No Time and No Equipment. The book debuted this week in the Top 10 of Amazon’s ‘Fatherhood’ section and it has been climbing every day. No hard sell here. Just thought it might help some other dads out there. If you want to give it a shot (it’s short, meant to be read in one or two sittings) check it out.