A British research firm previously reported that the average weight gained during pregnancy is around 14 pounds… by the baby’s father.
This weight gain is typically referred to is “sympathy weight.” I consider it to be the foundation of what has now been coined the dad body.
Before we get too far down the road, let me share my weight gain and weight loss (and weight gain) story with you.
My Oh Sh*T Moment
My wife was three or four months pregnant and the first trimester was full of emotions and food.
She ate. I ate. And I didn’t really care what I was consuming. Burger and fries? Sure. Pizza? Of course.
One morning I decided to step on the scale to check my weight. It did it’s magical calculation and then 189.5lb’s displayed on the screen. “Oh sh*t!” is exactly what came to mind.
I stepped off the scale. Let it clear. And then stepped back on. Once again it read 189.5.
I walked out of the bathroom, head down and frustrated.
A good normal weight for me is around 170 lb’s. At 165 I’m pretty lean and feeling good. 189.5 was far from either of those numbers.
I don’t know that I’ve ever weighed 190 lb’s and certainly wasn’t about to start. Something had to change.
How I Made a Change
The next day I was back at Crossfit with my newfound goal of losing weight.
On day two of Crossfit I did a double-take when I saw a guy that I’ve worked out with at the gym before. He was never overweight, but he’d definitely leaned up.
I went over and said, “Hey man, I don’t mean to be weird, but have you lost weight?” He said, “15 pounds!” I said, “how’d you do it?” He replied, “Whole 30.” I then gave an “oh, ok” as if I knew what he was talking about.
Later that night I started googling all sorts of stuff about the Whole 30. Essentially, it’s a 30 day commitment to a paleo diet.
In short you eat meats, vegetables and fruit. You don’t eat carbs, sugar, beans, drink alcohol or any of that jazz. It’s clean eating.
I started texting with my friend Matt who had already claimed his dad body and told him about the Whole 30. A few minutes later we both committed to starting the plan two days later.
Getting rid of sugar and bread was a bit challenging — I traditionally have terrible eating habits – but after a good five days I was headed in the right direction and could already see weight coming off. Screw you 190!
By the end of the 30 days, with very little working out, I lost around 17 lb’s.
17 lb’s of weight loss by simply eating right. Think about that for a bit. Heck yeah!
Six Months Later
I stuck with the Whole30 and it’s general principles for a while, but eventually started slacking.
As you might guess, I’ve gained some weight back. Only around six or seven pounds, but I’m definitely sliding in the WRONG direction.
Disclaimer: I tend to have pretty good metabolism and imagine that my six or seven pounds may have equaled 15 or 20 for many other guys.
The great thing is that by doing the Whole30 I now understand a bit more about my body and what it takes for me to lose weight and/or maintain healthy eating habits.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
We Had a Baby
Once we had our baby the thought of seeing a gym for the first six weeks was almost a joke.
What wasn’t a joke was the amount of sweets and crappy food that entered our apartment and my mouth.
As another pound or two added to my body weight total I started to get pretty unhappy. My belly was sticking out a bit more and I could feel my clothes fitting a bit different. Not cool. Not at all.
I love helping my wife around the house and with our child, but it was almost as if I found myself waving a white flag and pleading for help. I needed to find a way to take care of me without abandoning my family.
Why Men Turn to Food
What I’m about to say is strictly a hypothesis and has no scientific backing.
When a baby enters the household men traditionally take a back seat.
They don’t feel important and needs aren’t met.
All of the attention goes to mom and the baby, as does virtually all forms of assistance to make life easier. Guys are supposed to “man up” and handle things.
Then, shortly after the baby is born, due to the pathetic time off standards for men after pregnancy, guys go back to work five to 10 days after the baby is born. That topic is an entirely different post — it’s just absurd.
Now you have a guy that’s back to work, sleep deprived, feeling not so important and spiraling towards what I’ll call New Dad Mini Depression.
This New Dad Mini Depression (call it whatever you want) prompts guys to look for happiness. And the most immediate way to find it is with food.
With life in the way, this new found happiness becomes like a best friend and a path to gaining a quick 30 lb’s. Babies soothe themselves, and this is essentially a man soothing himself.
Again, all of this is just my little theory, so that prompted me to ask a bunch of dads the following question.
“Let’s say you prescribe to the notion that men (in large part) gain weight after having kids. Why do you think men gain weight after having kids and, as seen below, end up with a “dad body?”
The Five Step Path to a Dad Body
The dad respondents are in various stages of fatherhood, but among the responses five key themes seemed to be to blame for weight gain and the eventual dad body.
- Lack of Sleep – Dads, especially new dads, can find themselves routinely exhausted.
- Stress – This can increase cortisol levels which can increase appetite and lead to eating more.
- Eating Whatever and Whenever – Exhaustion and lack of time prompts us to eat whatever and whenever we can. Mostly “easy” and unhealthy food.
- Lack of Energy to Exercise – A lack of sleep and eating things that lean towards the unhealthy side of the scale can reduce energy, which results in little to no exercise.
- Repeat – This unfortunate cycle happens over and over and over again and is an almost certain path to the Dad Body.
How Mom’s can Help Dad’s
There’s no “easy button” to fixing the Dad Body phenomenon. And this is in no way a poor me post for men.
What this is, is an attempt to give guys a voice. Because we traditionally stink at talking about our feelings and needs. So moms, we need your help.
We need your support and understanding that for whatever reason, we get fat pretty easily. Most dads would like to be around for the family as long as possible, and not being fat drastically increases the likelihood of that happening.
There are two massive things you (moms) can do to help.
- Lets try to nix the crappy food around the house. For instance, I told my lovely wife two days ago that on Monday I really wanted to try and get back on track with food. I also stated that I was going to trash the brownies and cinnamon rolls (the devil!). The next day, I came home and what was on the kitchen counter? Some obnoxiously delicious soft chocolate chip cookies.You might be thinking, “she can have the cookies. Just don’t eat them.” Under normal circumstances I totally agree. But standing by the sink warming a bottle at 2 am isn’t “normal circumstance.” When you’re exhausted and not completely coherent it’s really easy to reach over and grab a cookie. Or two. Ok, I ate four.
- Help us create an environment where it’s OK to go to the gym. I know this sounds crazy. We’re big boys. But we can also feel super guilty for taking care of ourselves. Taking care of you and our kids is what we put first. Our well being seems to get put on the back-burner and we feel pretty guilty we taking/making time for ourselves. If you can help us get to the gym — even if for just 30 minutes — you’ll be doing us a massive favor!
This obviously isn’t the end all be all post on men gaining weight, but hopefully it has offered some insight on why the weight gain happens and how you can get it off, and how a spouse can also be helpful.