Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Busy Dad Body: Lose Weight, Increase Energy, & Still Have Time For Family

By Ridwan Mao

Mike was 35 when he and his wife had their first child. At the time, Mike was exercising consistently 5 times a week, felt great about his body and his small business was growing.

The first 6 months were the most hectic -- and for him that meant his priorities shifted drastically and his health hit the back-burner. His life became a juggling act of trying to balance work, taking care of his baby and spending time with his wife… all without sleeping or showering.

After 6 months, Mike had gained 10 pounds... and after a year he had gained 25.

Between being on-call for the growing baby and increasing demands from his business, his body changed almost without him noticing.

Mike currently has 3 children, and has tried repeatedly to jump back into his old exercise routine, but the hour-long workout sessions 5 times a week no longer fit into his lifestyle. Diet has never been a major focus in his life, but as a father he's been thinking more about the nutritional value of his food for his children.

His self-confidence has taken a toll, but more than that he wants to be a role model for his children and have the energy to play with them. He knows he has to make a change before it's too late...

Except as a busy dad, where do you begin?

You might even be stuck on the Busy Dad exercise plan,

                        The Busy Dad exercise plan:

                        In the office, move the mouse back and forth x 100.

                        Lean back in your seat and sigh x 5

                        At home, sit on couch and rub stomach. x 5

For Mike, it's not about a 6-pack or looking like a fitness model; it's about regaining his self-confidence, feeling good and having the energy to get through each day alongside his family.

It’s about holding his daughter’s hand as she takes her first steps without his lower back hurting so much he has to stop and sit down.

Your metabolism can slow by about 2-4% every year, which means you can eat the same amount consistently as you age and still start gaining weight. Muscle loss also happens simultaneously with metabolic decline, especially without exercise. Between the age of 25 and 65 you can lose at least five pounds of muscle every 10 years.

Staying healthy should never be as difficult as battling illness. But it does take some fiddling to make it fit right with your lifestyle.

As a father, you're a family man, a working man, and a husband to your wife. You owe it to everyone you love and to yourself to take care of yourself so you can better take care of them.

Without taking your time away from your family, weight loss starts with building a solid foundation for how and what you eat. Before food itself comes your relationship with food and your specific eating habits.

Here's a 3-point system to get started on losing weight and increasing your energy, while still having time for your family!

1. Replace existing foods:

The key to success is to make small changes that you can stick with -- NOT A HUGE OVERHAUL. Don't think about DIETING. Think about gradually making healthier choices and testing them to see if they work for you.

Now, small changes don't mean small impact. Focus on the things that will make the biggest difference.

What's more impactful?

Weighing the pros and cons of "heart-healthy, cardio protective cereal" versus a "whole-grain, high fibre sliced bread" for breakfast OR cutting back on drinking soda (and replacing it with alternatives)

Your goal in this is to slowly change your diet to have more whole foods, more vegetables, and more lean protein, with less processed foods and sugary drinks for improved energy, improved body composition and weight loss.

For Example:

  • Replace your breakfast cereal with a fruit or vegetable smoothie (to get more nutrients into your diet) with some Greek yogurt for added protein. (Bonus: This can take 5 minutes with a pre-decided recipe, and you can make it the night before.)
  • Buy a reusable water bottle, and keep that with you instead of reaching for a can of soda.
  • Prepare your lunch in advance and add a side of mixed greens (you can buy them pre-packaged and washed so all you need to do is put them in a container to take, or put them in a bowl to eat right there). This also helps prevent you from eating out when you get hungry at work -- a big contributor to weight gain. More on this in step 2.

Don’t worry about getting it perfect from the beginning. This is a journey to make sustainable changes to your health. Ask yourself: what’s one thing I can change to get me closer towards my goal? Chances are, you already have a small idea of what you should remove from your diet, and what you should add.

Think about this as you eat your regular, daily meals. No need to go crazy; just make tweaks as you notice them.

2. Meal Prep & Planning

The underlying principle behind planning your meals ahead of time (and a HUGE concept) is to MAKE THIS AS EASY AS POSSIBLE FOR YOURSELF.

Make the big decisions ahead of time so that when the time comes you only need to focus on executing.

Take an hour on the weekends to grocery shop, plan and prepare your lunches for the week. This can drastically cut down the time you need to prepare meals during your week, and helps you to stick to your healthy choices.

If you’re a coffee-and-go kind of guy, making breakfast easy and quick can mean preparing a smoothie the night before along with a whole-grain bagel to take with you.

When you wake up ready to tackle your day and your son or daughter makes a mess that now you’re responsible for cleaning, making a healthy meal is going to be the last thing on your mind.

When lunchtime hits in the office and you decide ONLY THEN what you're going to eat, you will most likely go with what feels the best in that moment.

Mike knows that he has to choose his food, and not let his food choose him. That means to consciously decide what he’ll eat, and prepare it in advance, so that he doesn’t find himself snacking on junk food out of habit without realizing it.

For example:
  • Mike has begun cutting red peppers and broccoli the night before, then taking them with a dip to work the next day to snack on, instead of hitting the vending machine.
  • Preparing your grocery list in advance, buying a reusable water bottle, cooking several servings of brown rice and chicken on the weekend, etc.
  • Now, this alone can be daunting if you're not sure how much to change all at once, so consider the next point.

3. Portioning:

Portioning doesn't mean you have to have a measuring cup and a scale in your back pocket at all times, but it does mean being aware of how much you're eating at any given meal. Don't worry about counting calories (it's inherently flawed, but that's a post for another time...); instead start simple.

If your goal is to lose weight, remember that the key is to eat less than you expend. Start by taking less food on your plate and gradually decreasing portions. Obviously you don't decrease gradually until there's nothing left, and that’s why you need to be aware of how your food makes you feel.

You're always portioning the food you eat, because of what you're used to or what you "feel like," but how often do you make a plate based on what you SHOULD be eating?

The key is to actually pay attention to the meals you're eating. You want to eat until you are satisfied, not FULL, and this might mean leaving food on your plate until you mentally adjust to the amount of food you'll eat.

Bonus: it's intuitive and won't take more time than you already have.

To Recap:

Replacing your existing foods, preparing food beforehand and watching your portions alone will take you far. Maybe not all the way, but the first step is often the most important.

Remember: Your goal in this is to slowly change your diet to have more whole foods, more vegetables, and more lean protein, with less processed foods and sugary drinks for improved energy, improved body composition and weight loss.

Take steps to improve your health, and remember that it’s a process. Your body, and your family, will thank you. 

About the Author

Ridwan Mao is a Health Sciences graduate from the University of Ontario in Canada. His main goal is making healthy living as simple as possible for everyone. He loves talking about nutrition and his main focus is on the things that will have the most impact towards your health goals. His motto is that living a healthy lifestyle should never be as difficult as battling illness, and understands the importance of looking at your lifestyle and other priorities when it comes to improving your health. You can contact him at to ask him a question about his articles or just to talk openly about nutrition and fitness. Don't hesitate to reach out - he loves receiving emails from people starting or working on their fitness goals!

Share This