One of the not-so-joyful aspects of parenthood is weight gain. And the pounds add up with each addition to the family. According to Duke Health researchers, each child increases obesity risk by 4 percent for dads and 7 percent for moms.
“Kids take time,” said Truls Ostbye, M.D., a professor of community and family medicine at Duke. “Parents who may have been very disciplined before children, now find they have less time to prepare healthy foods, less time for physical activity, and overall less time for themselves.”
Starting healthy habits early is key. “Be mindful what you eat during your pregnancy and right after the baby is born,” Ostbye said. “New moms should start being physically active as soon as they can.” Breastfeeding can also greatly reduce weight gain from pregnancy.
Dads are just as likely as moms to struggle with weight gain. “Time for exercise drops, there are more snacks around the house, and there’s less time to prepare food. These are all contributing factors,” Ostbye said.
To keep parental weight gain at bay, heed these tips from Elisabetta Politi, RD, nutrition director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center:
- Commit to an exercise plan. The biggest hurdle is often carving out time to exercise during a hectic schedule. Discuss your schedule with your partner and create a plan so both of you can get in your workouts during the week.
- Get the family active. No one says you have to do this alone. Take walks, ride bikes, or start a pick-up game of soccer in the backyard.
- Don’t nap at nap time. Pop in an exercise video or do some weight training in your living room. Just 15 minutes of cardiovascular activity is better than nothing.
- Plan your meals. It’s easy for parents to get in a routine of snacking throughout the day and eating when your child does. Planning meals will help evenly distribute the calories throughout the day and help ensure your family follows a healthy diet.
- Make a list and go grocery-shopping solo. The last thing you need when you’re trying to maintain control of your diet is a child crying for the latest processed food they’ve seen on TV.
- Be a role model. Living a healthy lifestyle is good for you, but it also sets a great example for your children and ensures they develop the right habits at an early age.