According to a study conducted by UT’s Population Research Center, weight gained during the time of pregnancy can last more than just nine months and affects both mothers and fathers.
A study by sociology professor and faculty research associate, Debra Umberson, found parents gain more weight throughout life than adults who choose not to have children.
“The data are from a national sample of over 3,600 people in the United States,” Umberson said. “They were followed over a 15-year period and interviewed four times over that period.”
The goal of the study was to find social factors relating to weight gain, Umberson said, because excess weight contributes to morbidity and mortality risk. She realized the majority of the overweight people studied were parents, therefore discovering a factor of weight gain.
“Parents have less time to exercise and eat regular meals with their children, plus snacks,” Umberson said.
Women are usually associated with growing dress sizes during pregnancy, but men experience the same increases because of dramatically altered lifestyle choices, Umberson said. Lifestyle choices usually associated with men are aspects such as a sudden decrease in exercising, cessation of alcohol consumption and use of cigarettes, Umberson said, and the body must readjust to every change.
Having multiple children adds more weight to the amount of weight gained from the first child, the study shows. Umberson said this is because of the biological effects on women, as well as the added constraints and more responsibilities.
Umberson said those who have children around age 27 experience the least amount of weight gain. If under the age of 27, parents lacking higher education degrees are less likely to complete school, and therefore gain low socio-economic standing. Umberson said lower-class families are more likely to eat less healthy meals. She said those above 27 have children at a time when it is normal to gain weight, and so they battle two factors of weight gain.
“Living with a child is always a period of more rapid weight gain,” Umberson said.
These findings show the importance of both men and women maintaining a healthy weight before and after having children, Umberson said.
English freshman Susana Naranjo said she can see the effect raising her little brother has had on her parent’s weight.
“I think adults with children gain more weight because they get accustomed to feeding their children whatever is quick and easy even if it is not very healthy, and soon, they just join their children in eating the unhealthy food,” Naranjo said.
The result of the study is not surprising to psychology freshman Morgan Harnois.
“Parents tend to focus more on their child than themselves, so it makes sense that they’d gain weight,” Harnois said.