You come home from the hospital with a new baby and a good 20 to 30 pounds you were sure would come out with the kid. You may be kinda depressed, indescribably happy and extremely tired. What you most likely are not - ready to eat healthy and exercise.
New research from the University of Minnesota found moms with young children consumed an average of 400 more calories a day than non-mothers.
The data comes from the university's Project Eat, which tracked the eating and exercise patterns of nearly 1,600 women and men.
Co-author of the report, Jerica Berge, said all of the women in the study ate similar amounts of healthy foods. But moms consumed more sugar and saturated fat.
"They were having more sugar-sweetened pops and beverages. They had higher fat intake. And then more of just overall calories than the non-mothers," Berge said.
Mothers also had higher body mass indexes — or BMI — a calculation of height and weight that determines body fat.
I don't know how much the BMI can count. Most of these women had a baby less than a year ago. I'm still trying to loose "baby weight" from my 4-year-old, or I'm just fat. But Berge suspects that's not the main reason for their higher BMI, go figure.
"Their dietary intake was still different, and so the higher amounts of the unhealthy foods and nutrients is still going to be a problem in the future if they still maintain that level," Berge said. "It's still going to contribute to weight in the long run or unhealthy dietary patterns."
Berge said the data cannot be generalized to draw conclusions about parents with older children.
University researchers don't know what accounts for the differences in diet between mothers and non-mothers because they didn't ask their subjects to explain their eating choices. But Berge hypothesizes that moms may be too busy tending to the needs of their kids to make healthy meals for themselves.
Really? I would say yes, that's the reason. Some moms can't find time to shower, so a well thought out meal plan is far in the beyond.
"So it might be that they're eating the chicken nuggets, the macaroni and cheese because they have to choose quick meal alternatives because they don't feel they have the time to do the healthy meals all the time. And their BMI is probably where it's reflected," said Berge.
Berge said that the consumption of high sugar beverages is probably because moms are chasing that energy they once had. They are facing fatigue like never before.
"You could hypothesize that they were trying to drink more caffeine to stay awake because they're tired from the demands of parenting," she said. "But it was all sugared drinks so it could be. . .the Kool-Aids and lemonades, too, that maybe they were having with their kids."
The study found no differences in diets or BMI between fathers and men who did not have children. From my experience this is because the fathers still have time, or make time to eat how they did before. But dads did report less physical activity than non-parent males.
Berge said the findings show that the demands of early parenthood can significantly alter the health behaviors of parents, especially mothers.
My findings show that motherhood can alter mood stability, finicial situations, social life and alcohol consumption, all of which contribute to weight gain.
"Really, I think the take-home message is we found a time that's particularly a high-risk time and we need to find ways to support parents to be able to pay attention to their health, as well as face the demands of parenting," Berge said.
Becoming a new parent is overwhelming, scary and difficult for so many more reasons than, it could make you fat. But, sadly, that is too often my main concern. Imagine all the other things I would obsess over if I ever got back into those jeans.