Being a new father is exciting, but between diaper changes and sleepless nights, it can be difficult to focus on your health. You might be wondering how you can find the time–and energy–to make healthy dinners and stay in shape (because with or without kids, finding the time to prioritize your health can prove challenging!).
Many new dads experience this same dilemma. It’s probably one of the reasons “dad bod” became a trending term. A recent study showed men entering fatherhood were more likely to see their BMI increase as compared to their single counterparts—who actually tended to lose weight over the same period of time.1
As you focus on caring for the newest member of your family, don’t forget to care for yourself—being mindful of your health is one of the best ways to make sure you’ll have the energy to keep up with your little one. Use these helpful tips to help stay on a healthy path while still spending lots of time with your new bundle of joy.
1. Make better health your goal
While losing weight is a common goal to set that can lead to better health, when you’re in the midst of living around a newborn’s schedule, it may be more helpful to reframe your goals around just getting healthy. Start small. During nap time, cut up some fresh vegetables and keep them in the fridge for easy access. And if you can, meal plan every weekend for the week, so you’re not making impulse decisions at the drive-through. Outsource meal-planning if possible, and get the support you need to help you with your health goals. And remembering why you want to get healthy is always a good way to keep up your motivation, so write down your “why”; is it to be able to play with your kids without getting out of breath? Being a good role model for them? Keep those motivations in a spot that you’ll see often.
2. Eat according to your circadian rhythm
Life is busy, especially with a new baby. Focusing on feeding your baby may have you putting your mealtimes on the back burner! In fact, a recent survey found that parents eat approximately 156 meals while standing up each year. One way to help prevent excess weight gain and to assist with weight loss is to eat with your circadian rhythm.2
Your circadian rhythm refers to the mental, behavioral and physical changes that occur in your body over a 24-hour cycle.3 When you have limited time, working with your body’s circadian natural rhythm may help maximize your metabolism’s efficiency.4 When you eat and what you eat both contribute to weight loss.
To eat in accordance with your circadian rhythm, make sure to start your day with a healthy breakfast. Researchers have found that regularly eating breakfast may help with weight loss by reducing hunger, providing you with more energy and setting you up to make smart food choices throughout the day.5 Another tip: Avoid late-night snacking to allow your body the time to properly rest and focus on repairing its cells rather than digesting food. Ideally, allowing 12 hours between your last meal and first meal of the day can help this repair process.
3. Don’t skimp on sleep
Shut-eye is a precious commodity for most new parents, and studies show getting enough sleep may be essential to achieving a healthy weight.6 Sleep and weight loss have a strong connection: too little may make you more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks and eat more between meals.7 In one study, adults who slept only four hours a night reported they were hungrier than those who slept for 10 hours.8 Why? Lack of sleep tends to lead to an increase in the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.9 What’s more, those who sleep less may also be more likely to feel fatigued and engage in less physical activity.10 So while healthy eating and staying active is important to improve your health, getting enough z’s each night is just as crucial.
Taking care of a newborn can be exhausting, which may motivate you to reach for a that extra-sweet latte or sugary energy drink. While delicious, your favorite caffeine-packed drink can hold hidden calories, contributing to weight gain without you even realizing it.11
The best way to avoid these liquid calories is to drink more water and cut back on beverages like soda and energy drinks. Drinking water nourishes your body and can quench your thirst. Want extra flavor? Try adding a lemon wedge or sliced cucumbers for a refreshing twist without the added sugar.
Like sugary drinks, alcohol may also set back your weight loss goals. Reaching for a nightcap after a long day might be tempting, but alcohol may hinder your weight loss by interfering with sleep, adding extra calories to your diet and impairing your ability to make good food choices. Try a healthier alternative: unwind with a soothing herbal tea instead.
5. Stress less
It can be stressful to balance family time, work obligations and other responsibilities when you welcome a new baby into your busy life. But be wary: Chronic stress may lead to weight gain by increasing cortisol levels, a hormone that is naturally produced in response to a crisis.12-13 Increased levels of cortisol may boost your insulin levels, leading to a drop in blood pressure. As a result, you may be more likely to reach for foods high in fat and sugar that you’d usually avoid.14
To help reduce your stress levels, make time for yourself to do something you enjoy. Whether it’s shooting hoops with your friends, or taking a walk just to gather your thoughts—it’s a great way to combat stress and ensure that you’re taking care of yourself! When you’re happier and healthier, you can better support your family and enjoy your time with them.
Finding time to be active doesn't mean you need to spend less time with your little one. Get the best of both worlds by choosing an activity you can do together. Grab the stroller or baby carrier and go for a walk together around the neighborhood. Once your child is old enough, spending the day at the park or playground will keep you both moving.
Finding ways to increase your activity in little ways can add up and help keep you on track toward better health.
Welcoming a baby into the world is an exciting and busy time, so to make time for yourself, you might have to get a little creative! When you strive to get more sleep and pay more attention to the foods you’re eating, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the way your body responds. As a new dad, it’s important you create healthy habits to keep up with your little one for years to come–the physical benefits are the nice bonus!
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, CA. They’ve focused on writing within the health and wellness space for the last several years, but have dabbled in the tech and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Stephanie employs a “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoys the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find Stephanie photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: Green apple slices with sunflower butter.
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