Most men gain weight throughout their wives' pregnancy. Unfortunately, guys don't have access to the one-day miracle weight loss plan that women utilize called giving birth. One minute, a woman is bursting at the seams with child, the next minute; she's 15 pounds lighter. Three months later, she's 30 pounds lighter. For men, what was once affectionately called "sympathy weight" is now referred to as "being fat". Once a guy is fat for a certain amount of time, he has officially "let himself go". And once he's "let himself go," it's not easy to get himself back. Here is a conversation with Jon Finkel, author of The Dadvantage.
ThePostGame: The tag line of your book is "Stay in Shape with No Sleep, No Time and No Equipment." When you had no time and weren't sleeping because of your newborn, did you gain some "new dad" weight on your own before writing your book?
JON FINKEL: It wasn't so much that I gained lots of weight as I just got completely out of shape. And it happened so much faster than I ever thought it could. The morning my daughter was born (scheduled delivery), I was excited about becoming a dad and I had energy to burn. I got up, put myself through a nice Master's swimming workout in the pool, showered and then we went to the hospital. That was June 10th. If you would have told me that my pool workout was the last time I'd exercise before July 4th, and that by Independence Day I'd have put on five pounds and I'd get tired just shooting a few free throws in my neighbor's driveway, I wouldn't have believed it.
TPG: What happened? How did you get so out of shape?
FINKEL: There are so many awesome things that come with being a dad, but the schedule of taking care of a newborn isn't one of them. Every involved dad goes through it, so it's no mystery, but when you're suddenly sleeping less than Al Pacino in "Insomnia" and you have so little time to make decent food that you know the name of your Burger King drive-thru guy, the odds of staying in shape aren't great. You top that off with a little stress and no time in your schedule to get to the gym, and it's a wonder all new dads don't end up on "The Biggest Loser." For me, personally, I've been a staff writer at magazines like Men's Fitness and Muscle & Fitness, and living an active lifestyle just goes along with that. When you're active, you eat a lot because you burn a lot of calories. After my daughter was born, my activity level dropped to zero, but my appetite stayed the same. A month of that led me to sweating like Patrick Ewing after only one lay-up.
TPG: And this problem of having no time is where your idea for the book came from, right?
FINKEL: Yes. Because time is the one thing new dads who work simply don't have, I wrote the book with that always in my head. That's why "The Dadvantage" is short and meant to be read in one or two sittings. The other thing I kept in mind was that blocking off even a half hour a day for exercise just isn't feasible for most new fathers -- there always seems to be something that comes up to sabotage you. Knowing that, I took a long, hard look at my day-to-day schedule and the schedules of a few of my buddies with young kids and I found dozens of wasted minutes throughout the day. It's during those minutes that you can start burning calories or building muscle. You add up the push-ups, Baby Bjorn Squats, Burp Lunges (you'll learn about the last two in the book), and all the other stuff I came up with as one-minute exercises that you can do and it is possible to get in a good 15-20 minute workout that fits seamlessly into your schedule.
TPG: The first part of the book is called "Conquering the Countdown" and it deals with advice for men and their pregnant wives. If your wife is indulging in ice cream, tacos and potato chips to satisfy her cravings, how can you possibly stay away? Not to mention keep her from feeling guilty when she's rightfully eating for two and you're nibbling on your lettuce wrap?
FINKEL:That's a good point, and honestly, the idea of the book isn't to turn you into a macrobiotic vegan while your wife eats at IHOP. It's kind of the exact opposite. The premise of the book is that you're definitely going to be sharing the chocolate chip pancakes with ice cream, and you're never going to be able to resist polishing off the nachos your wife ordered, but if you're going to do that, which every guy pretty much does, you can counteract it a bit by fitting some of the exercises and workouts in the book into your day somehow. It's meant to make things easier for you, not harder. The diet portion of the book could not be simpler (or shorter).
TPG: What about when your wife can no longer exercise, or she's too tired or just doesn't feel like it anymore because she's eight months pregnant? It must be tough to say, "See you in a bit, honey, I'm heading to CrossFit!" How do you strike a balance between commiserating with how your partner might feel and taking care of your own needs?
FINKEL: This one is tough, and it might be a long answer, but I feel like there is a huge difference between sympathy and guilt. You were born a man. It is physically impossible for you to carry a child. No matter how uncomfortable or miserable your wife begins to feel towards the end of her pregnancy, you can't take her place. You should definitely feel sympathetic, but you should definitely not feel guilty. Of course, do whatever you can to help your wife out and make her feel comfortable (foot rubs comes to mind), but you are allowed to enjoy physical activity even though your wife can't.
Think about it this way: If you and your wife both loved playing tennis, and you sprained your ankle or pulled a hammy the last time you played, would you tell your wife not to play until your ankle or hamstring got better? Of course not. What does one thing have to do with the other? Why should your inability to enjoy a sport stop your wife from playing it? How selfish would you be if you said, "Listen, honey. I know you look forward to your tennis game every week, but my leg is killing me, I don't think you should play." The point is that you can be supportive of your pregnant wife and continue to enjoy working out. Of course, you don't have to rub it in. I wouldn't dress up like Bjorn Borg and start hitting forehands off the garage to remind her that she can't play, but just let her know that between your job, taking care of her and preparing to be a dad, you need the physical activity to work off some stress and clear your head.
TPG: Is there a void in our culture for looking after the father's health and fitness when it comes to pregnancy? We spend so much time obsessing over celebrity moms who are back in their bikinis in three weeks, or the opposite, the ones who might have a harder time shedding the baby weight -- but the media largely ignore what the dads look like before and after babies.
FINKEL: There is a huge void and that's why I wrote the book. If you're a guy and your wife is in the third trimester, what are you doing to get ready for your kid? Chances are you’ve got the house prepped: Crib, changing station, dresser, clothes, diapers, formula, infant bath, butt cream, baby wipes, bottles and on and on. You've probably got your wife all set as well: nipple pads, cabbage for sore boobs (trust me), What to Expect: Year One, cocoa butter, shea butter, Spanx, and whatever else your wife heard from her friends that she needs. Now, what about the guy? Does he have a list or a game plan for how to deal with being a new dad? Probably not. So he wings it, eats ten pounds of chicken wings and pizza a week and ends up on cruise control to middle age.
TPG: Why do you think this is how it is? And do you expect to see a shift?
FINKEL: I think that the very existence of so many men's fitness magazines speaks to the fact that yeah, guys care about their physiques almost as much as women, even though people don't pay as much attention to it. This concept has certainly taken off the last decade or two, and when you couple that with the modern family, where often both parents work and both equally share the parenting responsibilities, you have a situation where it's a fact of life that new dads need to schedule time to exercise and blow off steam right along with scheduling their next meeting or deciding whose night it is to give the baby a bath. Eventually, the kids get older and parents get their lives back ... But it's important not to put yourself in too big of a health hole that you can't dig yourself out. I don't know if there will be a huge shift, but maybe "The Dadvantage" will be the start. That would be cool.
TPG: What are the top three tips you'd give a new dad or a father-to-be right now to stay in shape?
FINKEL: In no particular order:
1) Look at your schedule and identify the minutes throughout the day that you waste. Then, instead of wasting those minutes, do a set of push-ups. For instance: When you turn the shower on and it's getting to the temperature you want, take those 50 seconds and crank out a set of push-ups. Get into this habit every day. If you can bang out even 20 at a time, that's 140 push-ups a week you weren't doing (if you shower every day, of course).
2) As for your diet, one of the easiest ways to consume wasted calories is through soda, fruit juice, alcohol and sports drinks. If you commit to only drinking water during the week, you'll be eliminating thousands of calories a week from your diet right there.
3) For the new dad, every time you put your child in her removable car seat, do a set of 10-15 curls, nice and easy with each arm. Car Seat Curls are great because the weight automatically gets heavier as your child gets bigger. By the time your child is too big for the car seat, you'll have arms like Popeye.
-- Jon Finkel's "The Dadvantage -- Stay in Shape on No Sleep, With No Time and No Equipment" is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For more information on Jon, The Dadvantage, or his previous works, visit JonFinkel.com. Follow on him Twitter @3dollarscholar.