Registered dietitian, TV regular and monthly columnist here at Honest Mum, Laura Clark‘s guest posts are always informative and motivating. Read below to discover why we parents can put on weight easily and what we can do about it.

Over to Laura.

This week I have spoken with lots of parents, some, friends, others, clients, about our bodies, weight and health. The narrative on dieting is all pervasive online, and we as parents (people most likely to be in our 30s and 40s) are so often the target for the myriad of diets we’re pushed towards day-to-day. 

I’ve seen many successful parents, juggling high pressured jobs, long hours and family demands pondering the question, “I can achieve most things if I put my mind to it, so why can’t I master weight control?” It’s tempting to feel the answer lies in a new diet regime but perhaps true success is seeking out habits/ traps we’ve fallen into in our chaotic lives, recognising these and making changes. I help below. 

Do any of these diet woes resonate with you?


Skipping breakfast

Did you used to eat breakfast and now you don’t? Multi tasking can make mornings total carnage and the fall-out of this is often skipping our own fuelling, vowing to get something later or on the way to work. The truth is another hour or so down the line, we may make less healthy choices as both our brains and stomachs are on the back-foot. The science doesn’t prove breakfast is essential for weight loss although it is correlated with healthier habits generally. In my clinical experience however, non breakfast eaters tend to eat a lot more (and not necessarily the right things) later on in the day, or certainly by 11 am!


Avoiding carbs

This is a popular method for losing weight, however the science tells us low carb versus low fat diets yield no differences in weight losses after a year. For more on this take a look here. Overall, what creates weight loss is a consistent approach. Some find low carb diets work for them but for many, they battle with cravings and a general feeling of low energy. There is often a miss-match between the fuel needs of the body and what we are feeding it. I dedicated a post on Honest Mum’s blog to carbs here

Busy parents are often incorporating a lot of brain power, potentially some high intensity exercise, lots of multi-tasking and are always rushing around. All of this increases the body’s demands for carbohydrate. Diets that are moderate in carbs can still give an energy deficit, but the difference is a lot more energy, less lethargy and the readily available fuel for the tasks in hand. By all means, swap your rice for cauliflower rice if you fancy a change and want to use this as a way to reduce calories in your diet but if you’ve got your hand in the biscuit tin at 9 pm and you find it hard to stop, this is your body’s way of telling you it needs carbs, not because it is weak-willed but because it genuinely needs that fuel to function.

Parenting is a hardcore job and one you’re potentially doing on top of another hardcore job you actually get paid for. Don’t underestimate what your body needs to survive. Fuel, and nourish yourself with care, don’t deprive and restrict. There is a balance to be struck.


Snacking with the kids

The witching hour is between 3 and 4 pm – right on school pick up time. Give yourself a planned snack at this time that has a beginning and an end. Try not to pick mindlessly as those calories aren’t being clocked.


Rewarding ourselves in the evening

Between 9 and 10 every parent in the country is saying, This is my time! If those children come downstairs or dare to demand anything of me, I’ll get the job description out and show them. My working hours are long but seriously there is no parenting after 9 pm. It’s time to reward myself for keeping them alive for another day. I have no problem with this, but our reward systems can result in an extra 3000 calories a week if we have a couple of glasses of wine of an evening for example.

Instead, do things that create pause points, get out of the kitchen. Don’t bring the wine into the lounge and don’t buy a large bar of chocolate that blatantly won’t get shared for example. Savour and enjoy small treats, don’t inhale them whilst distracted by Love Island.

In John-Paul Davies blog for Vicki he says, “Helping and taking care of other people or animals, as long as it’s not to the detriment of your own self-care, is a great way to maintain happiness”.

I agree, the notion that our self-care has to rank just as highly as our care for others is so important as without that attention to our own health, self-esteem and happiness will likely, suffer. The aeroplane safety briefing of always fitting your own air mask first before you help a child is a good analogy to think of in daily life. Tweaking some of these daily habits that have evolved alongside parenthood can make all the difference to our bodies.


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First photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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