By Matt Stone

Your average person, your doctor, your personal trainer, even many health researchers believe, foolishly, that weight is a simple matter of moving more and eating less.  Those that are ever-so-slightly higher on the intellectual totem pole (or lower, I’m not sure) believe that weight is a simple matter of eliminating one or several dietary villains.  It’s the wheat!  It’s the carbs!  It’s the fructose!  It’s the “bad” fat!  It’s the animal products!  It’s the hormones!  GM Freaking O’s!!!

So it’s not surprising, with the religiosity people have about their dietary beliefs combined with their mental need to simple-mindedly pin it all on one Satanic dietary and lifestyle entity, that real conversations about the multifactorial, nebulous, and complex causes of excessive body fat storage get people all worked up.  And heaven forbid I say something that isn’t “scientifically proven,” like proposing that idea that feelings of guilt or restraint when it comes to eating may trigger hibernatory mechanisms in the body, as stressors are known to do.

One of the things I strive to do is get people to be less sure about everything.  Being sure about something that has no definitive cause is just dumb, and fosters that kind of stubborn arrogance that prohibits a real conversation from taking place.  If I’ve noticed anything after nearly a decade-long journey through the colon of health discussion and debate, it’s that most people are far too busy knowing everything to learn the truth.

Well here’s a great example of one of the most mysterious phenomena… Couvade Syndrome.  When you let Couvade Syndrome sink in a little bit, hopefully it will help you feel a little less certain about pretty much everything you think you know.

What is Couvade Syndrome?  Couvade Syndrome is where a man, when his partner is pregnant, gets a host of pregnancy symptoms himself.

If obesity is just a simple thing.  Eat less, exercise more, blah blah blah.  Then why, in a survey of 5,000 males, did the average man gain 14 pounds during his wife’s pregnancy?  And who could even begin to blame this on one type of food?  Sadly, the articles I’ve seen written about this finding all look to explain this away with simple explanations, such as increased availability of snacks, or the Inspector Gadget length reach of this statement…

“One more explanation for the weight gain during “male pregnancy” is that many couples spend more time visiting restaurants and pubs for dinner, in a bid to enjoy each other’s company most of their time before the baby arrives.”

Interestingly, some research has shown changes in cortisol, testosterone, and prolactin levels in males during and after their partner’s pregnancy.  This pattern of a rise in cortisol and prolactin and dive in testosterone is known to be part of the metabolic syndrome profile.  These changes are synonymous with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, a decrease in fat metabolism, belly fat gain, and so forth.

Snacks cause this?  Enjoying each other’s company at restaurants?  This is insulting.

In reality, pregnancy can cause stress and anxiety, which can lead to these hormonal changes that favor the metabolic changes that favor fat storage.

But Couvade Syndrome, in its entirety, goes much deeper.  It appears that males are hard-wired to respond to spending a lot of time around a baby or pregnant woman in a certain way.  Just holding a baby can decrease testosterone levels significantly.  It is thought that this metabolic change is a natural change that occurs with parenting, to help dads make the switch from wanting to make babies and slam them up against walls when they make noise, to being a lot more patient, kind, caring, and gentle.

Anyway, I hope this helps to greater complexify the issue of body composition in your mind.  It’s just not that simple, and having kids, for both the mother and the father, increase your risk of being chubby.  That’s not something to be ashamed of or take on as being all your fault somehow, embarking on a low-calorie or low-carb diet that further reinforces elevated cortisol and prolactin and decreased testosterone and thyroid.  Take it easy man.  Throw in some Blues Clues, kick back, and enjoy singing along to songs about taking a dump.

Would love to hear any personal experience with changes in body composition, mood, demeanor, and so forth that any dads have experienced.  Would not love to hear from parents who didn’t gain any weight and take all the credit for it, as if their amazing diet and lifestyle practices or superhuman ability to restrain themselves from snacks was the reason for it.  We already know that you are awesome and that everyone else is weak and lazy.