There is an issue affecting men that nobody is really talking about. Well not in public anyway. The issue is that Dads are gaining weight after the birth of their baby.
They despise it, it frustrates them, they want to do something about it, but they also want to be a good Dad and partner.
They often don't know what to do... or they don't feel that their family is supported enough without them...or they're not really sure if they can safely take a break from their caring role long enough to take action (without getting resentful glares on their return).
I see this happening a lot. So what is going on??
The truth is there are likely a range of factors at play, most of which are largely out of Dad's control.
1. Time vs. Money
Dads are often faced with constraints of time and money. Spending the time and money on expensive, solo activities that were a part of his life pre-baby are often not possible anymore (or at least not as often). Often the Dad is faced with being the sole provider postpartum (at least in the short term) meaning less disposable income for the family.. and when he's not at work he's expected to share the workload at home equally with his partner.
'I want to look good, but I have to be there for the family, so gym time is usually put aside so the family stuff gets done. This means gym time sometimes doesn't happen."
2. Deep Sleep Is A Distant Memory
He is likely not getting much sleep. Newborns right through to toddlers (and even children) often wake in the night, sometimes numerous times (research shows that sleep deprivation can affect the thyroid gland and sleep deprivation is strongly associated with weight gain due to changes in appetite hormones called leptin and ghrelin).
3. Good nutrition takes time and effort
pre-baby at least one partner would have the time and energy to make nutritious food. Post-baby is a whole different world. Shopping with a newborn takes effort. Cooking while breastfeeding can be dangerous. So many reasons why it's harder to eat well with a baby.
4. Relationship Stages
I recently finished my certification with Elly Taylor, doing her Becoming Us training. Her model of Relationship Stages sets out three distinct stages of relationships. Coming Together - Growing Apart - Growing Together - they are a part of the model which explains how we go from being two distinct individuals to being a family.
Now given how long it takes to give birth to a baby after conception, and that in many couples a relationship is started pre-conception, it is really common for new parents to either be in the Growing Apart or Growing Together stage in their relationship by the time baby arrives.
What effect does the relationship stage have on the postpartum Dad?
Quite simply, don't be surprised if a couple who are 'Growing Together' or 'Growing Apart' experience conflict. This conflict may affect how easy the Dad finds it is to negotiate exercise and diet (without extra conflict or even just the fear or expectation of conflict).
If we assume that the couple are in the Growing Apart Stage, the Dad will likely be spending more time on his individual growth, conflict is more common and that is before Dad starts to negotiate 'individual time' to exercise.
If the couple are in the Growing Together Stage, the Dad will likely be channeling his personal growth into growing the couple and the family, and this becomes more important than solo activities.
What can Dad's do to lose weight with a newborn>
The best thing to do is to come up with an agreed plan. Part of the Nest Building Plan (the Plan that I use with couples as part of my Birth Support Package), sets out exercises or activities that are appropriate for each parent (or both to do together).
A daily walk with baby is a great low impact way to start improving your fitness. Gentle activity alleviates stress, and lifts mood.
The key here is not so much the activity itself, but coming to agreement about who will do what, and how often.
Babywearing is a great way for Dad's to spend some time with baby and get exercise. Click here for more info on safe babywearing.
It's then up to that partner to make the time to make it happen on a regular basis (and their partner to support and encourage them).