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Did Marriage/Kids Affect Your Exercise/Eating Habits?

Posted by on Apr. 13, 2011 at 3:20 AM
  • 6 Replies
The Associated Press
updated 4/11/2011 8:20:41 AM ET 2011-04-11T12:20:41

Could kids be to blame for new parents' bad health habits?

A study found that mothers of young children were heavier and ate more calories, sugary drinks and fatty foods than childless women. Dads and moms in the study were less active than their peers without kids.

Sheri Lee Schearer, 34, says the results reflect her life with a 5-month-old son. Before, when she worked as a paralegal, she had time to make a spinach salad or go out for one. Now, as a stay-at-home mom in southern New Jersey, she grabs whatever is easiest and quickest.

"I often find that his needs come before mine," she said. "Do I get to the gym? No. Do I eat always healthy? No."

Quick, easily prepared foods are often high in fat and calories. Parents who choose these foods may end up serving them to their children, perpetuating a cycle of unhealthy eating, the study authors said.

"This isn't a study about blame," said co-author Jerica Berge, a University of Minnesota researcher. "This is about identifying ... a very high-risk time period" for parents that doctors should be aware of so they can offer solutions, she said.

That may include diet advice, parent-child exercise classes, or just getting parents to take walks with their kids, the researchers said.

The study involved 1,520 adults aged 25 on average, including parents with children younger than 5 years old. They were among more than 4,000 Minneapolis-area public school students enrolled in a study in their teens; the new study includes those who responded to two follow-up health surveys and answered questions about their diet and activity.

Results are published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Slightly higher average BMI
Mothers ate more fatty foods and drank about seven sugary drinks weekly, versus about four among childless women. Moms also had an average of 2,360 calories daily, 368 calories more than women without children. With that many calories, women that age would need to be active to avoid gaining weight, walking more than 3 miles daily at a moderate pace.

But mothers got on average a little more than two hours of at least moderate activity weekly, versus three hours weekly among childless women. Mothers had a slightly higher average body-mass index than childless women — 27 versus 26. Healthy BMIs are in the 19-24 range.

Fathers ate about the same amount of daily calories as childless men and both had an average BMI of about 25, but fathers got less physical activity — about five hours weekly, compared to almost seven hours among childless men.

Among study participants, more of the parents were black and had low incomes than the childless adults, but the researchers took race, income and other factors into account that might have affected diet or activity levels.

The study has several limitations; there's no data on how many women recently had babies, whose weight would still reflect pregnancy pounds. There's also no information on the number of single parents, who likely face even more diet and exercise challenges than married parents.

Sarah Krieger, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and St. Petersburg, Fla. dietitian who works with new mothers, said some of the mothers may have had postpartum depression, which might affect their eating and exercise habits.

Schearer, the New Jersey mom, said she's lost half the 40 pounds she gained while pregnant and doesn't care if she never loses that last 20 pounds.

Becoming a mom "has been the best thing that ever happened to me," she said.

P.S. other studies have also shown that bmi's tend to go up in married couples over singles


1. Did getting married affect your eating/exercise habits? For better or worse?

2. Did having kids affect your eating/exercise habits? For better or worse?

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by on Apr. 13, 2011 at 3:20 AM
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by on Apr. 13, 2011 at 3:53 AM

1. Kids- I ate unhealthy as a teen/young adult but had a super high metabolism so could eat whatever and as much as I wanted and still be very very slim, even after the first 3 kids., but then after my 4th in my late 20s it SWITCHED to the opposite and then even with dieting and exercise I have struggled up and down ever since. I cared a LOT more about nutrition and health after having kids bc of their best interest too.

2. Marriage- I eat as healthy if not healthier since getting married bc Todd goes to the gym for body building regularily and he eats low carb and high protein and healthy foods like I do. Even though I measure portion sizes and count carbs, calories etc I STILL struggle with losing weight, its very frustrating.But I will continue to eat healthy and consciously no matter what for health and longetivity even if the weight struggle sadly continues.

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by on Apr. 13, 2011 at 8:56 AM

Cooking to please my husband really changed my diet. He was a fast food/ junk food kid. His mom rarely cooked and when she did it was junk. I ate very healthy and very little meat. After a while of making two meals it just got to be to much work and cost. Of course it was me that had to make the changes. I just bulked me and the boys up with fresh veggies with whatever I made for dinner.

Having the kids only made my diet better. My oldest son was so easy and I didn't loose much of the baby weight (which I gained tons during all 3 pregnancies). My middle son I was on my own and his was sick all the time. I walked miles a day in my livingroom with an 11lb new born. I lost weight quickly with him:) The youngest was a laid back baby. I gained again with him and by that time I was married to their dad and not eating so great anymore.

So I guess my husband made it worse but my kids made it better. Now we are back on  track.I finally figured if I want my husband to live past 50 he is going to have to eat a few veggies:)

by on Apr. 13, 2011 at 9:54 AM

1. No. I was the same size when I graduated high school, and both times I got married.

2. Well, it affects my weight for a while after each child, but not for too long. I love to exercise and workout and I'm a naturally BUSY person. I just am. I always eat well because I'm terribly afraid of the chemicals that are in foods eating is good. Exercise IS tougher with little kids sometimes. I find that with my grandbaby that I keep. (she spends the night and stays all week). But I do run, jump and play with you can MAKE exercise happen. I just sometimes wish for my "yoga every day" days....sigh...

by Member on Apr. 13, 2011 at 10:50 AM

1. Married.  Eating was impacted for the worse. My dh, although he likes to think he is a good eater, really is not. There are alot of healthier foods that I like that he does not. I too, got tired of the 2 meal situation.

2. Kids. Definitely worse. I am being honest here. When the kids were younger it was actually better. Got more exercise with them. Now, they are older and both are picky eaters. Also, I think a much bigger impact for me was related to career. After the kids, I got a very sedentary, solitary job. I really loved the solitude in many ways but also missed the social/peer interaction. I actually ended up working from home which was even more solitary/sedentary and now I am currently looking for new employment that is outside my home and in my career field. I think that will help greatly. It's just getting the motivation to make the changes necessary.

by Susie on Apr. 13, 2011 at 12:22 PM

Getting married didn't effect me at all.  I didn't gain but 3-4 pounds the first 6 years of marriage.  Then I got pregnant. 

by Susie on Apr. 13, 2011 at 12:23 PM

I noticed many couples seem to gain 10-15lbs the first couple years of marriage.  Dh and I didn't do that at all. 

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