Expecting women often worry about pregnancy weight gain. Some take pregnancy as license to eat (read: feast) as much as they want. Others see extra pounds/kilos with aversion that putting on weight during these nine months will ruin their figure forever.
Whatever opinion you have about pregnancy weight gain, it is a very sensitive topic. Women are so conscious and often times overly critical about the female form. None of this is helped by the endless number of celebrities who are so publicly either admired for losing their “baby weight” or scandalized for not.
Pregnant women, hear me one more time: you are beautiful and you are sexy. Especially to your own partner, the lucky guy who helped you arrive at your present condition. So when you do receive a precious compliment about your looks, don’t’ take it for granted. It’s not something to be dismissed or discounted.
With all that being said, this post is not about you!
Are you an expectant father? If so, then following scenario may be all too familiar to you: the future mother of you unborn child has a convincing excuse to capitulate to her cravings for chips and ice cream (at the same time). There’s nothing wrong there, but why are you digging in just as fast? You might find yourself asking: “Wait, who’s pregnant here?”. Chances are you’re not just sharing snacks…
I guess it’s inaccurate to call it pregnancy weight, since women are the ones who are pregnant. We, the men, are just expecting. In addition to expecting the baby, we were also expecting to be merely nervous sideline-spectators, or at best cheerleaders to our partner’s physical transformation to motherhood. If you’ve been on the ride long enough, you know better by now. Science says that about 90% of men experience at least one pregnancy-like symptom. Pregnancy-like symptoms? Let me list some of them here in the order of least likeliness (imho):
- missed period,
- swollen/tender breasts,
- more frequent urination,
- nausea/morning sickness,
- lower backaches,
- food cravings or aversions,
- weight gain.
Take your pick!
If I could and I had to pick anything from that list, just one symptom, then weight gain would be the winner for me. I will call it the sympathy weight!
I feel more confident to talk about it now, since over the holidays her weight gain surpassed mine. Me and my wife, we’ve always been in a fairly good shape. We still have about a month to go, but up until recently I had gained more weight since becoming expectant parents than she had. In my defense, her weight gain has been on the low end of what’s considered normal. The “recommended” weight gain for women, who were at normal weight before pregnancy, is about 25-35 pounds (roughly 10-15 kg). So if women are the ones growing their belly, then why did a British report revealed in 2009 that the average weight gained by soon-to-be dads during pregnancy is 14 pounds (6-7 kg)?
I don’t know whether this is more of a psychological (envying her procreative ability and/or feeling pushed to the side and crying for attention) or a physical issue (being worried about the massive life change and eating to comfort myself, or simply eating more because she’s eating more).
Regardless, it is a fact that our lifestyle has changed. Here are my excuses/reasons for my sympathetic weight-gain:
- We’re eating out more frequently or have it delivered to our home, to make the most of our precious time together before the baby is born.
- We have a lot more snacks around the house. One of my most effective strategies to stay healthy has been not to have junk food around. If you can’t see it, you can’t eat it, right? Now my will-power is tested constantly, and recently I end up giving in regularly.
- Fortunately, she doesn’t have any weird cravings and she’s quite conscious about eating (and her weight). On top of it, since she’s pregnant she can consume a lot less food at a time (compared to her pre-pregnant self). So most of the time, on top of my own food, I also end up eating her left-overs.
- Since she’s eating more often and I eat with her.
So, no wonder that my “paternity” wardrobe is limited. Whereas lots of her extra calories go to the baby, mine go to my belly.
Here’s what science says
Neuro-psychiatrist Dr. Brizendine says there’s much more to men during pregnancy than meets the eye. Her research shows that during the mom-centric nine months the transition from man to dad is full of real physical, emotional and hormonal changes.
Yep, once that little embryo has latched on to mama, as it turns out, the father’s hormones get affected too. Basically, when boy’s brain turns to man’s brain during puberty, man’s brain is slowly converting to daddy’s brain during pregnancy.
Sympathetic snacking is not the whole story. The bigger culprit is cortisol, aka the “stress hormone”. It helps regulate blood pressure and the immune system during a sudden crisis, whether a physical attack or an emotional setback. Poor cortisol, it means well but just doesn’t know when to quit. It also regulates insulin and blood-sugar levels so our body may think it’s hungry when it’s not. Plus, cortisol directs where these extra pounds/kilos are stored, which is – you guessed it – to the belly.
As your cortisol levels surge, your testosterone reduces (especially closer to the end of the pregnancy). This too shall pass, you think? Nope, you will never be the same again (says science) – there’s been numerous studies to show that becoming a dad lowers men’s testosterone levels.
Feels like your life is crumbling down? The same researches also say that “a decline in testosterone associated with the parental role is really not a bad thing.” It’s simply part of an adaptive phenomenon in our physiology that may be beneficial for a man’s overall health and providing good parental care.
Here are couple of steps, that you can do about all of this: stock your kitchen with healthy snacks, be mindful of how often and what you put in your mouth and amp up your exercise routine to boost testosterone, reduce stress(hormones) and your waistline.
Bonus material! I promised you bonus material every time and today is no exception!
If the end of the post got you all worried about your manliness, then I will share a story from biology to show you that some others have it even worse.
The Oscar-winning documentary “March of the Penguins” showed that the male emperor penguins go through a lot more that gaining some sympathy weight. After laying an egg, Mama Penguin takes off for two months (the entire incubation period), leaving the Papa Penguin with the little egg, protecting it from predators and the Antarctic’s brutal cold. As a result, he loses nearly half of his body weight. The Mama returns from the sea by the time the baby is ready to hatch or has already hatched. In that case the Papa even has to feed the chick, although he hasn’t eaten for months himself.
There’s still plenty to be thankful for! I’m happy to be just an expectant dad with my few extra pounds/kilos!