The dad bod trend and your health

The Dad Bod: A pregnant woman and a man with a beer gut touch stomachs.

Having a baby leads to a lot changes in the new dad’s life. Sure, lack of sleep and not enough time for hobbies are two he may face, but there is also the dad bod trend.

What is the dad bod? In the summer of 2015, this story about the dad bod explained it is a body type of a guy who occasionally works out but is also rocking a beer gut. Additionally, the Associated Press story covered a study about the trend.

The Dad Bod Study

The study, authored by Northwestern University’s Craig Garfield, MD, and several other researchers, says the dad bod phenomenon may be a real thing. In fact, researchers found men typically gain three to five pounds after becoming a father.

Only three to five pounds? That doesn’t seem like much, but how big a deal is three to five pounds really? To weigh in on the matter, Courtney Isley, MD, from the Banner Health Clinic in Johnstown, Colorado, explained what this weight gain could mean.

“There is evidence to suggest that weight gain during late adolescence and early adulthood is associated with increased risk of diabetes, accelerated coronary atherosclerosis – a hardening of the arteries that feed the heart – future heart disease, and even cancer and early death,” Dr. Isley said. “This is also the time when many men become fathers for the first time, so weight gain at this time may make them more vulnerable to these risks.”

A look at your diet

While exercise is important and can help reduce the risks of disease, Dr. Isley suggested diet changes are critical as well.

“For instance, a person has to walk about four miles to work off the calories from one can of soda. Hint: it would be better not to drink the soda,” she said.

Because sleep patterns, food choices and activity levels will likely change once the baby comes along, Dr. Isley suggested the better strategy is to make lifestyle changes before the birth.

Some of Dr. Isley’s suggestions:

  • Try to limit screen time to less than two hours daily. When you watch TV, you don’t move your body and are generally tempted to snack.
  • Cut out sugary drinks — these “liquid calories” do not fill you up, but rather pack in more calories on top of meals and snacks. They are usually not nutritious (including fruit juice, which is mainly sugar).
  • Share night-time duties so that both parents can get the rest they need. Sleep deprivation can sap your energy to make healthy food choices and get exercise.
  • Take walks with your baby. Get out of the house for needed breaks and do something active with friends.
  • Avoid over-doing fast foods and frozen foods, many of which are high in salt, carbohydrates and fats. Keep fruits, nuts and vegetables in the house as healthy snacks.
  • Establish a primary care provider who can help you with following a healthy diet and weight-loss strategies.

Why Change is Good

The good news is Dr. Isley says it’s never too late to get started on making changes. And, the reasons a dad should make those changes are pretty important.

Dr. Isley noted the study shows a father’s weight has a huge influence on his child’s weight. In fact, in families where the dad is overweight and the mom is normal weight, the odds that the child will be obese were more than four times greater. Those odds jump to more than 14 times if the father is obese.

“Most dads would do anything it takes to provide a healthy future for their kids,” Dr. Isley said. “So, not just for them, but for their children, these changes are really, really important.”

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