(Long Island, NY) A new study has concluded that men gain weight when they become dads. Men who become fathers experience weight gain and an increase in body mass index. Body mass index is the measurement of body fat based on height and weight. A new large-scale study tracked more than 10,000 men over a 20-year period. Men who didn’t become dads actually lost weight over the same time period. Findings came from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and published in American Journal of Men’s Health.
Researchers studied various factors that affected fatherhood such as weight loss and young men’s BMI, a study that’s the first of its kind. Study author says fatherhood can affect the health of young men. The more weight fathers gain, the higher the BMI. High BMI increases risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Weight gain differed for dads who lived with their children (also called “resident dads”) versus those who didn’t.
The study began in 1994 where researchers analyzed BMI measurements were taken of 10,253 men at 4 different stages in life ranging between early adolescence and early 30s. BMIs generally do change over time as men age, but the difference here was the increase these men experienced depended on whether they were dads.
First-time resident dads experienced an average 2.6% increase in their BMIs over the study period.
- Translates to a 4.4 pound weight gain for a 6-foot-tall dad who lives with his child
Non-resident dads experienced 2 percent increase
- Translates to a 3.3 pound weight gain for a non-resident dad
- 6-foot-tall man with no kids lost 1.4 pounds
BMI increase may be the result of lifestyle changes that come along with fatherhood such as:
- New responsibilities
- Altered everyday routine
- Less sleep
- Irregular diet and eating habits
- Fewer minutes of exercise
Men tend to gain weight in the belly area and belly fat is one of the most deadly forms of fat, leading to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It is also one of the hardest areas on our bodies to lose weight. Having a “beer belly” is not only unappealing, but it is also unhealthy to have on our bodies. In fact, having excess belly, or abdominal, fat is worse than having excess fat on most other places on our body.
Another factor is that men tend to be older when they become fathers. This can be where hormones begin to play a role. There are five hormones that need to be at stable levels in order for our weight loss efforts to be the most effective: cortisol, estrogen, insulin, testosterone, and DHEA. These hormones are considered imbalanced in a way that affects weight loss when we have high cortisol, high estrogen, high insulin, low testosterone, and low DHEA.
There’s no doubt a major transition occurs when entering fatherhood. The question is what bad habits are being picked up to cause this much of a change in weight. It could be due to not getting a good night’s rest or pulling through the McDonald’s at lunch because it’s easier and quicker. Over time, as we adopt these habits, they become the norm in our lives and next thing you know you’ve gained a lot of weight. The truth is fatherhood is hard and one could argue you need to be in the best shape of your life when your children are in their early years.
There are five things that are essential in order to lose that unwanted belly fat: a clean diet, four to five days of moderate to vigorous exercise during the week, proper rest, self-control, and determination.
- Physical inactivity. Losing belly fat is not impossible without exercise, however, it is much more difficult.
- Eating or drinking too much sugar. Avoid sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices and foods high in sugar.
- Drink water and eat naturally sweet fruits instead.
- Eating too much fat. Cut back on desserts, fried and processed foods, etc. Load up on healthy carbohydrates and protein instead. It will make you feel fuller for longer.
- Drinking too much alcohol. The liver does not burn fat when processing alcohol. Alcohol contains empty calories and increases your appetite, causing you to eat more. When drinking, stick to a low calorie wine or liquor.
- Eating your feelings. People tend to eat more, and less healthy, when they are stressed out or feeling down. Stress can increase your cortisol level which increases belly fat.
- Eating late at night. Our bodies don’t process food as quickly or effectively when we sleep, which makes it more likely to turn into fat. Avoid eating anything at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- Not getting enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep increases our cortisol levels, which as we know, increases belly fat. The average adult should get around 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
- Not eating enough protein. Protein helps us feel fuller for longer. It also helps balance our blood sugar levels and maintain a strong metabolism. Grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, fish, and quinoa are all excellent sources of protein.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery, and an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City, where he is heard Sundays at 10 a.m.