Dr. Randy Martin: We’ve all heard that parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there. Every new parent knows that having kids really changes your lifestyle. Well, recent studies have now shown that parenting also might make you fat and out of shape. Dr. Harry McFarling, OB-GYN at Piedmont Hospital, tells us more.
A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics found that mothers of young children ate more unhealthy food, exercised less and weighed more than their childless counterparts.
“It goes without saying that if you do something that causes you to have less time in your day, you’re going to have less time to plan healthy meals and less time for exercise,” says Harry McFarling, M.D, an OB-GYN at Piedmont Hospital.
Studies have shown that even if mothers eat well for the most part, they also consume more sugar-sweetened beverages, saturated fat and total calories than non-mothers. The assumption is that mothers opt for quick, easy meals when it comes to feeding their children – and meals their children will eat without a fuss. For convenience, mothers end up eating these same foods or picking at the leftovers.
“Having kids does not make you fat,” insists Dr. McFarling. “People either have a commitment to staying healthy or they don’t.” He says commitment, which includes both diet and exercise, is the key, and suggests that if people are committed to a healthy lifestyle before having kids, they will make the necessary changes to their new life once they have children. “If a woman was a regular jogger before kids, she might buy a jogging stroller to be able to take her child jogging with her,” Dr. McFarling explains.
An added concern is that children will mimic their parent’s behavior. If children don’t see healthy behaviors, they won’t learn healthy behaviors.
“Anyone who has had kids knows parenthood changes the normal rhythm of your life, and you have to adapt,” says Dr. McFarling. “But the key to being fit and healthy, or not, relies on personal commitment to a healthy lifestyle – not on parenthood.”
Dr. Martin: So, it’s not the parenting that’s the culprit, it’s not making the commitment. If you eat right and exercise regularly, you’re doing the right thing for yourself and your family.