The Baby Weight. That’s a big one, right? How to prevent it, how to lose it, how to come to terms with it. This stuff is all over stork sites, mom blogs and rag mags. Our bodies change when we harvest a human. It’s a real thing, and we talk about it. But you know what’s not often talked about? When the husbands gain the baby weight.
Here’s my reality: our baby wasn’t a sleeper. She was awake roughly every 1.5 hours for her first 1.5 years. It was Zombie Nation here at The Holtstead. Of course I’m the one with the boobs, but my husband was up just as much as I was many nights. And while I could spend some of my days crying in the fetal position on my couch, he headed out every morning for a 10 hour work day…where he had to interact with other humans (gasp).
The stress of not sleeping coupled with zero free time left him with 30 extra pounds on his frame.
But it’s not all bad news. Over a year ago, my husband committed to getting fit. Not only has he lost that 30 pounds, but he’ll be greeting our daughter’s third birthday in the best shape of his life.
Here are my tips – as both a nutritionist and wife – on how to help your husband lose the baby weight.
1. Give him the grace you would want.
When I work with new moms who are stressed and exhausted, I often ask them to table their weight loss expectations for awhile. Weight loss and recovery can NOT be simultaneous goals, and lack of sleep, stress, breastfeeding, running yourself into the ground, (enter ANY new mom activity here) can certainly delay recovery.
While your huzz didn’t have to grow or birth a human, the dad stressors he experiences are real. ALL stress can register as physical stress to the body. He may need some recoup time.
Personally, I wouldn’t have felt awesome if someone tried to encourage me to “get myself back” before I was ready. We should offer our partners the same grace we extend to ourselves. (And side note: please DO extend this grace to yourself.) When my husband was steadily packing on the pounds, I didn’t push or prod him. I just waited.
BUT…we all know that time can turn into apathy. So if he’s been holding onto the baby weight for years and needs a little help getting kick-started, then keep reading…
2. You can’t do it for him.
As well-meaning wives, this might be the most challenging thing to wrap our heads around. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way with my clients: I can encourage and support, but I can’t do the work for them.
You wear enough hats as wife and mom; don’t take on the responsibility of his change. That only puts pressure on you and disempowers him.
Do you do the majority of food shopping and cooking? Get your spouse on board. It’s HARD to make changes for ourselves if we don’t feel empowered. Creating grocery lists, shopping for food or helping with meal prep forces him to take responsibility for his change and therefore gives him some power. Ultimately he must get to a point where he wants it so bad, he’s willing to put the work in to make it happen for himself.
You might be thinking YEAHHH RIGHT. If self-motivation isn’t your husband’s forte, here’s how you can help:
3. Know your spouse.
Have you ever felt like you’re talking to a brick wall when trying to make suggestions to your partner? Perhaps it’s because those suggestions don’t align with his personality.
I am a big fan of the author Gretchen Rubin. She researches happiness habits and has come up with 4 ways people tend to respond to expectations.
Knowing which category your husband falls into can help you understand how he approaches change (spoiler alert: it might be different than you!), and also how best to encourage him and support him in his endeavors.
Fun activity: take this quiz together. Understanding ourselves – and our partners – is a giant step in learning how to change our health habits.
4. Start small and commit to the long haul.
This is advice straight from the horse’s mouth. When I pressed my husband for his “secret”, he told me it was his focus on sustainability. He approached his dietary and fitness changes as a lifestyle he could stick with, versus a quick fix for weight loss.
He created small, achievable goals in the beginning. First it was to just get started and move every day. Then tweak his diet. Then shave minutes off his swimming mile. Then add in interval training. Each time he achieved a small goal, he felt a small victory (a literal dopamine rush for all my physiology junkies). And that motivated him to keep going.
This winter, he summited four 4k NH peaks in 48 hours. Being able to tackle something like this was in his long-term plan. But he didn’t start out by setting huge, lofty goals. He started by taking the first small step. He truly committed to this for life, so there was no sense of urgency or rush.
Taking a bird’s eye view allows wiggle room and flexibility. You can hit a bump in the road without feeling derailed.
Consider discussing this with your partner. How does he see himself? Who does he want to be? How can he get there? Wait until he is ready, help him to find something that makes sense for him long-term, and encourage him to take the first step on his own. I think this is the best support you can offer!