6 Ways to Be Healthy As a New Dad
By Thomas DeLauer
Suddenly, you’re responsible for more than yourself. You’ve been telling yourself throughout the entire pregnancy that once that baby enters the world, nothing is going to change as far as your diligence with your diet, your workouts, your healthy lifestyle. You’re committed to health. You’re committed to your own path…
Then, that day finally arrives. It’s a feeling that many men have experienced for as long as we can remember or chronicle. But it doesn’t change the uniqueness of your very own scenario. The bottom line is that no one can prepare you for what you’re going to experience, because it is YOUR experience.
The first couple weeks go by and it’s not too bad. A little lost sleep, but for the most part, you’ve got it. You’re super-dad, right?
Slowly (yet at the same time, rather quickly), you realize that time is shrinking on you. The little things add up. A diaper here, a bottle there, a quick nap time routine. But it adds up fast.
Sure, being a dad is difficult in its own right, but the perks far out weigh the extra work. Your nemesis is not your bundle of joy, but your own time. Time is what you need to get better at negotiating with. Not your wife. Not your kid, not your babysitter or nanny, not even your boss.
In the words of some of my favorite inspirational leaders, “Nobody Cares, Keep Going."
Now, I know that sounds crass and a bit non-empathetic to say, but it’s actually quite the opposite. By dropping the ego for a minute and clearing yourself of the victim mentality, you can realize that the battle you are up against is with something you cannot control no matter how much you want to… and that is Father Time.
So understanding this battle and your inability to effectively win, gives you a peace of mind that allows you to make conscious choices that will work for you. Every decision you now make is in the spirit of doing it with efficiency.
So what does this look like with nutrition?
Well, at the end of the day, make no mistake; calories in vs. calories out still play the almighty role. But you can start playing with your timing or having various snacks that can eliminate the ever creeping dad bod from rearing its ugly head (or spare tire).
- Don’t be afraid to skip a meal. We have this thought process that we need to eat every so often. Candidly, that is old news. We’re not going to starve if we skip a meal. And more often than not, we are better off fully skipping a meal and allowing our body to tap into our stored tissue than we would be scrounging for that extra teething cracker that’s laying in your wife’s mommy bag. A quick bit of hunger is never a bad thing. There is a difference between being a little bit hungry and being starving.
- Green Tea is your best friend. I love coffee, and I am not going to tell you not to indulge in it after you’ve been up with the teething munchkin all night. But green tea offers you some additional calming effects from components like theanine that trigger a vasodilation response that can help relax you and soothe tense muscles a bit. Plus it’s a lower caffeine content, so after you switch over from coffee, you’re not going to disrupt your sleep cycle.
- Cut off your food intake after 7pm sharp. This is the quickest way to reset your circadian rhythm so that you can capitalize on a more restorative sleep during the potentially smaller amount of hours you are sleeping. Not to mention, there are numerous studies that indicate that lesser calories in the evening hours equate to more efficient fat loss and more stable insulin levels overall. Not to mention, when you cut off your food earlier, it puts you into that fat-burning fasted state that much faster. So by the time you wake up, you’re 2-3 hours deeper into a fasted state, making your morning workout more effective at lipolysis (fat mobilization).
- Keep Healthy Snacks for the Babies Around. This could be more applicable if kiddo is a bit older, but having some of the young toddler treats laying around is a recipe for disaster for dad. It’s easy to snack when the baby snacks, but their metabolism is so different… you’re not growing organs and brains, you’re growing your waistline… So extra calories are not what you’re after. If your kids are tad older (2+) give them higher fat snacks that might be more satiating for you if you do snack on them and so that you don’t have an aggressive insulin spike with something sugary. Think things like almond butter, coconut butter, maybe some healthier, high fat style snack bars.
- Eat a bigger breakfast if you are not intermittent fasting. Big breakfasts are better. Small, light breakfasts lead to over eating later on in the day when your judgment is impaired from being exhausted. You are better off to make a conscious decision to eat more calories in the morning when you have good judgment and then be satiated throughout the remainder of the day. I tend to recommend 40% of your daily calories with breakfast, 35-40% with lunch, and 20-25% with dinner.
- Clear, defined meals, vs consistent snacking. Every time we snack, we turn off the fat burning process to a degree. With slow down glucagon, which slows down hormone sensitive lipase activation (allows fat burning). It is okay to have clear boundaries with when you eat. The aimless snacking or the old “I need to keep my metabolism revving by eating all the time” is only going to make things worse. Clear. Defined. Boundary Driven eating is going to be your best friend.
One of the biggest drivers for you making healthy choices and to avoid the dad-bod are going to be bigger than your own aesthetics. It’s how you feel. You can fight it and fight it, but eventually you realize that what you want out of life is to be true to your core so that you can reflect a positive image to your children. Being a dad is a right of passage into a new way of thinking. You will elevate yourself by recognizing that you are doing this for not only you, but for your kids as well.
Being a father has taught me that I have been chasing something superficial and unrealistic for years. But at that same time, it was those insecurities and walls that made it so that I could appreciate what I am today as a father.
Time can be on your side if you make the right choices. It’s less about “eat this and not that,” and more about being wise with your time. Sacrifice things where they should be sacrificed, because you will NEVER get these years back… and as cliché as it sounds… “don’t blink!”