What College Freshman Can Teach Dads About Healthy Living
College Taught Me Something Unexpected
In college I was introduced to a new phrase. There was a phenomenon where each year a sizable number of incoming Freshmen would gain noticeable weight over their first semester, about 15 pounds. This was attributed to the lifestyle changes of moving away from home. The culprits of this phenomenon were; social events with free beer, unhealthy snack and fast foods previously avoided at home and unlimited buffet-style cafeteria food.
This phenomenon was called “The Freshman 15.” It earned its name because it was both common and predictable. My experience of the “Freshman 15” is that the young adults who experienced it saw what was happening and grabbed the reins of their lives and took action. This results in many of them getting back to the same shape (or better!) then when they arrived.
The Fatherhood Version of the “Freshman 15″
The “Dad Bod” (“Fatherhood 15-40”?) phenomenon has a familiarity that many Dads recognize. As we get older, with more responsibilities, and the associated stress that accompanies them, many Dads find themselves growing their girth. The “Dad Bod” is born, as a phenomenon both common and predictable for middle aged Dads.
The additional roll around the gut, the extra 20 (30? 40?) pounds of unwanted weight can seem like an anchor. You don’t move like you used to. It’s hard to keep up with your kids. Forget doing a high energy activity, you just don’t have the stamina for it.
Dads have A LOT more on their plates (metaphor there!) then their college-aged selves did. Between the demands of work, spouse and family, eating healthy and exercising can seem way down the list of importance.
Just like the “Freshman 15”, the “Fatherhood 40” is both common and predictable. What makes them different is the priority we give them. I like to call this the Selfishness Gap.
The “Selfishness Gap”
The difference between these phenomenons is not about their cause. Both causes are predictable, and therefore preventable.
Most young adult experiencing the Freshman 15 are only responsible for themselves. They have fewer responsibilities than parents, and can more easily re-arrange their lives and priorities to combat unwanted behaviors and habits.
Dads have multiple overlapping responsibilities are bombarded with expectations. Expectations come at them from society, their work, their partner, their kids and themselves. It can easily create a circumstance where self-care is at the lowest end of the totem pole.
Taking care of ourselves can feel selfish. Selfish has a negative connotation in our society. Parents know this feeling when they chat with a single co-worker (OK, I know this feeling.) The single co-worker may makes last minute plans for a weekend away, go wine tasting after work or spontaneously decide on a tropical vacation. They can focus on THEIR needs above all others because (I huff) they have no one else to be responsible for.
When we see this behavior, it can make you feel envy, jealousy and judgement. But there’s something to learn here. I think it’s time for some more healthy selfishness for Dads.
More Selfishness For Dads
So, let’s get clear to start. I am NOT suggesting spending all your money on the newest 90” ultra-HD-8k-VR TV (if there is such a thing). Nor am I saying you should blow off helping your kids with their homework or doing your share of the responsibilities at home. You’re still a Dad and have a lot of responsibilities. Your kids need you as does your spouse. But YOU need YOU first.
What I am advocating is putting your health and well-being FIRST. If your health (physical or mental or both) is out of whack, it’s time to get back into the driver’s seat with it. No one is going to do it for you.
Decide, Share, Act
This is where we get actionable. First, decide what is out of whack with your self care that you want to address. Next, share this decision with the people around so they can support you, brainstorm an action plan and coordinate your life to meet this new decision. Lastly ACT! Get in action to change your lifestyle.
There is no time like right now to start making a difference in your health and well being. Your commitment alone will be inspiring to you and the people around you.
You’re awesome, you selfish bum, you!