take back your life

Hey, New Dad: Here are Five Ways to Take Back Your Life

Being a dad can be tough. Finding ways to balance work, life, relationships, and time for yourself can be exhausting.

As a busy dad myself, I remember what it was like when my little girl arrived.

Stress was piling up at work, the days were getting longer, I was sleeping about 2-3 hours a night, I felt my relationship was diminishing, and I cranked up the caffeine to do everything I could to stay awake and function.

I was a walking zombie, going through the motions, until one day my body shut down. On the way home from work after a long day I feel asleep at the wheel and ended up in the hospital.

From then, I knew something had to change, and started to take back my life.

If you find yourself struggling with being a new dad, life does not have to be so complicated and I am here to show you 5 actions you can take right now to feel good about yourself and become a better man and father.

1. Create a Better Sleep Schedule

Lack of sleep is something us fathers will constantly go through, but a bad sleep schedule does not have to become a routine.

Did you know that lack of sleep will have a huge influence on how the body functions? Consistent lack of sleep will not only add pounds to the mid-section, the body will enter a fight or flight response by causing an increase in appetite and cravings, produce higher amounts of stress, and a promote a steady decline in muscle mass and sex drive. Lack of sleep is your body’s natural killer.

While it may be tough to get sleep at times, especially if you are new father, it is possible to get sleep.

What is your routine before you go to bed? Do you stay up late to watch sports or TV shows? While I am not suggesting that you give up activities you enjoy, as that is important for mental health, I am suggesting that you think about how you can create a better environment that will allow you to find a better sleep schedule.

Here are some of my suggestions for newer fathers: take turns caring for the baby, get in small naps whenever you can, accept help from family members so you can rest, go to bed 10-15 minutes earlier each day.

2. Keep Caffeine and Alcohol Intake Minimal

The fast paced world of today makes it easier for us to consume caffeine and alcohol; there is a coffee shop or convenience store at every turn. When you are tired a coffee or energy drink may seem like the best way to stay awake, however energy peaks will do more harm than good and can even interrupt your already struggling sleep patterns.

After only a few hours of sleep a night for weeks, I resorted to over 1000mg of caffeine a day to keep me awake. This seemed like a great idea at first, but actually caused me to end up in the hospital twice in three months.

On the other side of the spectrum, you may want to have a drink to take the edge off of a long day. Did you know that alcohol is a depressant? If you have a few drinks to relax before bed you prevent the body’s natural ability to fall into a deep sleep. Not to mention the potential to quickly pack on extra pounds to that midsection due to the empty calories and snacking associated with drinking. Save the drink for a date night with your partner.

Limit your caffeine to around 350 MG a day, which is approximately 3-4 cups of coffee and cut yourself off after 1PM. The later you rely on caffeine, the more your body will go through energy spikes and crashes, which will alter your sleep pattern and increase stress levels.

3. Eat More Whole Foods

Some of you may be asking what does that even mean? Simply put, if it is in a package or our ancestors did not have access to it, then it probably is not good for you. Some of the most common deficiencies among men today are:

  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Protein

While I am not suggesting counting calories, as that would add to more stress associated with the craziness of fatherhood, I am offering some easy guidelines that you can follow to ensure you are getting the right nutrients your body needs to function appropriately.

  • Protein: Protein helps you feel full and aids with recovery. Men should have at least 2 palm-sized portions at each meal. Ideally you should get your protein from lean meats and fish.
  • Vegetables: Vegetables will help preserve muscle mass, increase energy levels, and decrease body fat compared to the non-nutritious foods. Try to consume around 6-8 cupped hands per day or 1-2 cupped hands each meal.
  • Fats: Dietary fats are made up of fatty acids, which our bodies use for building cell membranes, making hormones, and ensuring that everything else in our body functions well. Try to get at least 1-2 thumbs per meal and stick to oils, nuts, seeds, and fish for healthier sources.

4. Choose a simpler approach in the weight room

It is time to set the ego aside and realize that it is time to get rid of sit-ups, curls and all of that other fun stuff you did as a kid to impress people. While some of those exercises still have a place in training, as a busy father you need to learn how to spend your time more wisely when you train.

Focus your training sessions on compound movements and shorter workouts. These are exercises like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, lunges, and carries that help build the most muscle and burn fat.

Try something like this:

Perform as many as rounds as possible with little rest in between each exercise. After you complete a circuit rest 90-120 seconds between each circuit.

Goblet Squat x 10 reps
Pushups x 10-15 reps
Barbell Inverted Row x 12-15 reps

Reverse Lunge x10 reps/leg
1 Arm Dumbbell Row Off Bench x10 reps/arm
Side Plank x 30 seconds

5. Have Fun!

Being a dad does not have to mean it is the end of the world. Sure, things are going to get rough at times, but you cannot let fatherhood get the best of you. Go out and have a night out with friends, surprise your significant other with a date night, or find something that you enjoyed to do before becoming a dad and go do it again. Remember, in order to be a good dad you must first take care of yourself!

Photo credit

George Kalantzis

View posts by George Kalantzis
George Kalantzis is a personal trainer and massage therapist at Equinox in Boston. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, possesses an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University, and spends his free time with his wonderful wife and daughter. He maintains a fitness related blog at www.sgtkfitness.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgtkfitness Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/george.kalantzis.5

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