Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

A COUPLE of months before Fionn was born I began to notice a few physical changes in myself.

I was, or I thought I was, getting slightly broader around the shoulders and overall I thought I looked, well, more manly.

At the time I wondered had any research been done on physical changes in men before they have their first child. 

“Stronger shoulders to hunt bison and protect the cave,” I thought to myself as I admired my bulging biceps in the mirror.

I looked into it for...oh...all of half an hour and turned up nothing. 

There was no evidence or research that suggested men go through any sort of physical change before number one pops into your life and changes it forever.

So as you can imagine, my interest was piqued when last week an article appeared in the American Journal of Men’s Health which suggested that men do indeed change during and after pregnancy. 

I waded into the article with enthusiastic curiosity but came out the other side of it sodden and dripping with disappointment when the report turned out to be rather negative in the extreme. 

According to the research, which was carried out by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, we dads all become porkers when we have our children. (Is that cackling I hear from the fairer sex?)

It would appear that the once mythological ‘Dad-bod’ theory is in fact very real. 

The study, which was conducted over a 20-year period, tracked more than 10,000 men and found that they experienced weight gain and an increase in body mass index when they became fathers. 

Men who didn’t become dads actually lost weight over the same time period. (Please note, I expect you to look at that last line with a raised eyebrow of doubt but hey, that’s what the researchers say.)

“You have new responsibilities when you have your kids and may not have time to take care of yourself the way you once did in terms of exercise,” lead author Craig Garfield said. “Your family becomes the priority.”

Though more research is to be done on the issue, the conclusion drawn by Garfield and his team is an interesting one in terms of focusing on the state of fathers during and after pregnancy.

Recently, there has been a welcome upsurge in material written on the mental side of fatherhood — feeling neglected, coping with work and a new home life. 

As with most issues surrounding fathers, the attitude of the media to this report has been a little flippant. 

Those carrying out the study say they are flagging a very real problem which if not dealt with can lead to all sorts of health issues 10 or 20 years later - an age away for a young single man with time on his hands but not so far for a man looking after his kids with little time to prioritise his own well-being.

I know I put on weight when Fionn was born. Admittedly, I’ve never looked after myself in the “we’re gonna pump you up” sense but I was a great walker. 

In the last three years, opportunities or reasons to go for a ramble have decreased. Pair that with the copious amounts of chocolate and croissants that I was consuming and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. 

The pounds began to rack up and it wasn’t helped by the fact that I quit the smokes (pretty much).

In recent months, I’ve gone all Peter Stringer and cut out milk and wheat (I know, it’s such a fad) and I feel much better for it in my head and yes I have lost about a stone in weight; a stone that needed losing too. 

The pints of Guinness that I allow myself to have at the weekends probably don’t help my cause in the weight department but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

So, dads of Ireland, if you need an excuse to get up off the couch and get out for a stroll here it is on paper. No need to write and thank me, I’ll see you in the pub.


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