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Do You Have a Dad Bod?

Posted 7/5/2016 by UHBlog

Fatherhood and bulging bellies needn’t go hand-in-hand. If you need help losing weight, we can help.

Do You Have a Dad Bod?

If you were a high school track star, but now your midsection jiggles as you play hopscotch with your daughter, you’ve got “Dad bod” – and you’re not alone. A study found men who become fathers gain 3.5 to 4.5 pounds by their early 30s, yet men who remain childless do not.

“To a certain extent, Dad bod is what happens over the age of 25,” says internal medicine specialist Roy Buchinsky, MD. “The tummy and biceps become more flabby. Dad bod, in essence, has been described not just as the male partner of a female pregnant lady, but also of the male aging and his testosterone levels and metabolism decreasing.”

According to Dr. Buchinsky, a father’s weight gain often begins when his partner is pregnant. He may join her when she indulges in unhealthy food cravings, plop in front of the TV when she’s too tired for their nightly walk or join his buddies for a round of beer when she doesn’t feel like socializing. When pregnancy disrupts a woman’s sleep, it often disturbs her partner’s slumber, too – leading to next-day fatigue that fuels poor food choices and offers a ready-made excuse to skip the gym.

Once children arrive, some dads neglect self-care to focus on their families. They also tend to finish food off their children’s plates, which, in many cases, consists of fried chicken nuggets or fat-laden macaroni and cheese.

Yet the best gift a dad can give his children is to take care of himself, Dr. Buchinsky says.

“Overweight parents have overweight children,” he says. “Some of it can be genetics, no doubt, but the bigger part is nurture. What kids see parents do, kids will do.”

That means dads must take steps to keep their waistline below 40 inches. Anything above that measurement may cause chronic internal inflammation, which occurs when the immune system misinterprets healthy tissue as abnormal tissue and turns on itself to attack the tissue. As a result, blood vessels throughout the body begin to narrow, potentially causing conditions such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction or impotence.

To get back into shape, Dr. Buchinsky offers these tips for turning pudgy papas into fit fathers:

  1. Schedule “me” time. “Your first appointment of the day should be with yourself,” he says. “You need to exercise or meditate rather than making an excuse not to take care of yourself.”
  2. Eat mindfully. Avoid processed starches, which spike blood sugar and insulin and can lead to abdominal fat, inflammation and adverse health conditions.
    “If it’s white, it’s not right – except for fish and cauliflower,” Dr. Buchinsky says.
    Watch portions, too. It’s certainly healthier to eat whole-grain pasta than white pasta, but stick to a reasonable helping.
    “A whole plate adds up to a huge amount of calories,” he says.
  3. Move it. Dr. Buchinsky recommends at least 10,000 steps or 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Include at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular activity (such as biking, walking or dancing) three times a week and 15 minutes of resistance training (such as lifting light weights or performing planks, lunges or squats) at least two times a week.
  4. Control stress. Life comes with many stresses. Parenthood, at times, may top the list. Stress can result in sleeplessness and bad food choices that lead to a chain reaction of weight gain, inflammation and undesirable health conditions.
    “Stress is ubiquitous,” Dr. Buchinsky says. “The question is, how do you avoid stress from turning into distress? Stress busters like walking, meditating, yoga or deep breathing come into play to lower inflammation and abdominal fat.”

Roy Buchinsky, MD is an internal medicine specialist and the director of wellness at University Hospitals. You can request an appointment with Dr. Buchinsky or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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