By Mark Lawrence
The first few months after becoming a dad are challenging for many reasons, but one of the factors that rarely gets a mention is the effect it has on a man’s health. Late nights, poor sleep, less time to exercise and the additional stress of your new family dynamic (coupled with the alcohol often used to deal with it) can all lead to a phenomenon known commonly as ‘Fat Dad’. Yep, it’s those far-less-welcome additions to the family; the extra pounds around your waist, the turkey jowl under your chin and the extra breaths you take when attempting to climb the stairs in a hurry.
But by incorporating these simple – and largely effortless – measures into your routine, Fat Dad can very easily become Fit Dad!
1. Eat slowly, it’s not a competition. If you eat too fast your body doesn’t have enough time to tell you that you’re full. Subsequently you eat too much, or, to put it another way, more than you actually need to maintain your energy levels. Start with a smaller portion than you’d normally have and eat it more slowly. You’ll be surprised how satisfied you feel after just 70-80% of your usual intake.
2. Cutting down on your drinking is an obvious one, but it’s not always that easy alongside the stresses of being a new father. What can help is substituting beer for an alternative tipple. A typical pint of 5% lager has around 250 calories compared to a (single) spirit with mixer (soda, tonic, lemonade, coke not juice or red bull) which has around 105 calories or a double spirit with mixer which has around 160 calories. If you can handle the taste, then diet mixers provide even better results, with a single spirit and diet mixer coming in at only 70 calories or 110 for a double. If you multiply these amounts by an evening out, you could be saving 800+ calories…the rough equivalent to a 45-60minute run, 2.5hr cycle or an hours swim.
3. It’s the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the biggest. Avoid traditional fried breakfasts or mountains of toast, instead dish yourself up a modest bowl of muesli, granola or wholegrain cereal like weetabix or shredded wheat served with semi-skimmed milk or low-fat greek-style yoghurt. Sprinkle with honey or a few nuts or raisins to boost the flavour and away you go. Remember the first point and don’t fill your bowl to the brim as the likelihood is a standard size bowl (the guideline amount on the side of the pack, or thereabouts) will be enough to see you through to lunch.
4. Don’t snack between meals…and if you have to, snack on fruit or nuts. Again, it’s obvious, but that’s because it’s true. If 11am rolls around and your stomach is asking for a top-up, tuck into a banana, apple or satsuma rather than a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar. Remind yourself how tasty fruit is…and how it doesn’t leave your mouth coated in manufactured gunk. It’s cheaper too…and won’t make your breath smell like a butchered pig. Try to cut down on puddings or desserts after your evening meal. Fruit, yoghurt or a square or two of nice chocolate can provide some sweet relief instead.
5. Exercise. This can incorporate a myriad of activities…not just the usual few. Take your little one out in the buggy, at a hearty (but safe!) pace, for an hour or more, have some vigorous and drawn out sex with your partner, rather than just lying on your back like a troubled whale or go for a long walk or activity session as a family on the weekend, rather than spending it in a pub garden.
Don’t drop whatever exercise you were doing before your nipper came along. This might mean some healthy negotiating with your partner about the allocation of baby-sitting or chores, but that’s not the end of the world is it? That hour or so each week when you’re running through the park/providing a killer pass/swimming steadily/cycling along an empty road or smashing a forehand past your best mate will be more than worth it. Or you can turn dead time into exercise time; cycle/jog to work, use the stairs instead of the lift or have a swim during your lunchbreak instead of sitting at your desk trying to find a way around the firewall.
Lastly, buy some scales. You’ll be buoyed by the difference one week of restraint, and a small amount of exercise, can make. If you fancy it, make a note of your weight at the beginning of each week (first thing on a Monday, pre-breakfast) and you’ll be able to clearly associate the effort you’re making with the results you’re achieving.
Good luck…and don’t forget, the effects are threefold; you’ll look, feel and function better. Mark