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You Can Not Out-Exercise a Bad Diet

A few years back, I was beginning to notice a bit of weight-gain creeping in around my waistline. It wasn’t anything drastic, but as I neared my thirties, I was concerned that the steady buildup of poundage would be something that would continue unless I did something about it.

So, I decided to change my life. I purchased a gym membership, stepped up my home exercise routine, and made a vow to “get back into shape.”

And at no point did I even consider a change in my diet.

how to lose weight diet

This was unfortunate, considering just how unhealthy my food intake was. I’m not kidding; most of my meals were purchased through a drive-through window, and even the slightly less calorie-heavy meals I made at home were usually accompanied by a sugary soft drink. And yet, despite this, I was surprised and discouraged when the extra weight didn’t melt right off of my bones from the exercise. Sure, I was eating unhealthily, but the extra exercise was supposed take care of that. I’d binge on fast food, and then justify it by saying “I’ll make up for it in the gym tomorrow.”

How often have you heard this? The idea that exercise can somehow solve all of our health problems is one that has become incredibly prevalent in our society. Gyms, personal trainers, exercise equipment—all of these seem to exist based on the notion that as long as a person is active enough, then they’ll be able to consume whatever they want and still look trim and healthy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually work that way. I want to make my point in no uncertain terms, and at the risk of oversimplifying, let me just say this: you can not out-exercise a poor diet.

Certainly there is a connection between exercise and weight loss. After all, weight gain is a result of caloric intake. Exercise, on the other hand, burns calories. So how is it that I can say that exercising can’t trump unhealthy eating habits? Well, because most people don’t have a very clear idea of exactly how many calories a large meal can supply, and how few are burned while exercising.

For example, let’s say that you eat a Whopper meal from Burger King (and don’t think that I’m picking on them; I’ve chosen this particular meal because it’s my personal favorite) with a medium-sized fries, and a medium vanilla shake for dessert. Finishing the whole thing will net you a staggering 1,844 calories. Ok, so you decide to do some intense exercise to make up for it. You hit the weights and start a vigorous lifting session. After 30 minutes of intense workout, you feel as though you’re about ready to collapse. And what about those calories you’re trying to burn away, are they taken care of? No, not really, because your vigorous weightlifting has only burned about 190 of them. That leaves you with 1,654 calories that aren’t going anywhere, and every meal is another chance to pile on a few thousand more.

No, if you really want to lose some weight and look better, you’re going to need to approach the problem from the other end. Studies suggest that one pound of fat is equal to approximately 3,500 calories. So, in order to lose weight, you’re going to have to start cutting those extra calories from your diet. By reducing your calorie consumption by as little as 500 per day, you’ll be able to lose weight at a rate of one pound per week. And although that may not sound like much, it’s better than the alternative.

Keeping track of calories, monitoring food intake, and avoiding foods that are high in fat and sugar are all necessary if you want to actually start seeing results along your waistline. Take it from me—I exercised like it was an obsession, but I didn’t begin to see noticeable results until I took responsibility for my eating habits. 

Working out is a wonderful thing. It can prolong your life, increase the health and efficiency of certain organs such as the heart and boost the immune system. (As always, consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. If you don't have one, find the best ones around you with a service like ZocDoc or Yelp. You can also find more helpful articles at Fatherhood.org/Fathers.) While exercise is extremely important, it simply won't make up for a bad diet. When it comes to weight loss, the real battle is one that occurs in the kitchen, not the gym.


This post is from 
Paisley Hansen. Paisley is a freelance writer and expert in health and fitness. When she isn’t writing she can usually be found reading a good book or hitting the gym. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

Father Facts are Pesky Things

We get a lot of inquiries here at NFI about “trends in fatherhood.” One of the most common “trends” people want to know about is the rising number of single fathers in the country. I hear this inquiry so often that I started to believe it was true, until I actually looked at the data.  

According to the US Census Bureau, 4.2 percent of children lived in “father only” homes in 2000. In 2012, that number dropped, yes dropped, to 3.96 percent. Not a huge drop, but a drop nonetheless.  

To put these numbers in even broader context, the percent of children who live with neither parent stands at 3.6 percent, virtually the same as those living with single dads. It’s interesting that I have never received an inquiry about the “huge” numbers of children living without their parents.  

As most people can probably guess, the number of single-mother homes still dwarfs the number of single-father homes—24.3 percent of children live in mother-only homes. The percent in 2000 was 22.4 percent. Yes, it is single-mother homes that have become more common in the last decade, not single-father homes.

Why am I pointing this out? Because it is critical that discussions about the family are based on facts, not impressions. We don’t have to guess about most of this stuff; we have good, free, abundant data at our fingertips.  

We often see the same thing happen when people are thinking about the impact of father absence. Does it make a difference? How can we really know for sure? Based on at least 30 years of research, father absence does make a difference. Take a look at this small sample of very persuasive data to get an idea of the great scholarship available on this topic.  

Moreover, it can indeed be dangerous if the media (or whoever) is creating news by manufacturing impressions that are not based on facts. Even I, someone who works in this field, was under the (false) impression that there has been a rise in single fatherhood. I mean, everyone is writing about it, right?! The fact that the real story is actually the opposite—that more children are living in single-mother homes, which are of course father-absent homes—is critical. We (NFI, our culture, you and I!) need to be focused on reducing father absence, not weaving fantastical tales about single dads.  

So, the next time I get a call asking me about the rise in single fatherhood, I'm going to burst someone’s bubble and tell him he should write about the rise in single motherhood (read: father absence) instead. I would then be happy to give him more facts, if he doesn't hang up on me. 

When Moms Mark Their Territory

Over the last four decades, men have had to give up their “territory” in the workplace to make room for women. Culturally, we’ve gone from Mad Men to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies list. But has the same change happened at home? Have moms given up their “territory” to make rooms for dads? 

While a definitive answer to such a complex question is hard to come by, we occasionally come across evidence that the answer is “not yet.” Take the incident outlined in this segment that aired yesterday on Good Morning America. 

Can't see the video? Watch it here.

It is disappointing to see that some moms have such low expectations for fathers. Why is this the case? Certainly, dads have done their part in lowering our culture’s expectations of fatherhood (see data on father absence here). But another significant part of it comes down to a basic human emotion that was mentioned at the end of the GMA segment: jealousy. 

I was not old enough during the 1970’s when the workplace started to transition from a man’s world to a more equal place, but I imagine that many men during that time felt jealous that the women in their lives were being seen as equally capable of doing what they had been doing at work for generations. Today, as men are starting to do the same things women do at home – like care for babies – many women are feeling jealous. After all, since time immemorial, moms have been seen as the “default” parent and nurturer of children. I think it is inevitable that some moms are going to feel a bit jealous that dads are taking on that role with aplomb.  

However, given the economic realities of the day, moms and dads have to share responsibilities at both work and home. It is becoming less and less possible for one parent to work, one to stay at home, and for that to be a static situation for a family for an extended period of time. Families have to be fluid and respond to the economic environment, like the family depicted in the GMA segment, where the Google-employed mom was the one who continued working after the baby was born for reasons I imagine were related to her pay, flexibility, and workload. 

The best news in all of this – we know from decades of research that kids do best when raised by both of their parents, and when dad is involved in providing for, nurturing, and guiding his children. So, moms should be celebrating the dads who are finding various ways to be involved in the lives of their children. I think many are, but as this segment shows, some moms are still jealously guarding their territory. 

Do you know any moms who are jealously guarding their territory at home and in the playground? Let us know in the comments.

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Help Families in Oklahoma: Give to the Red Cross Now

"...As a father it's humbling...it's heartbreaking...to know that we still may have kids over there that's possibly alive..." —Volunteer with search & rescue post-tornado last night

Our thoughts and prayers are and will continue to be with the families involved in this storm. Please take time to help to the people of Oklahoma. Below are a couple of videos from CNN.com that tell the story on the ground in Oklahoma. Please consider giving to the Red Cross—they are on the ground now helping Oklahoma with food, shelter and support [details below.] 

Can see the video? Visit CNN.com for more details.

This video from CNN.com shows moments after the storm in Moore, Oklahoma...

The American Red Cross issued this statement following the tornado in Oklahoma yesterday afternoon, excerpts below: 

People in Oklahoma near the tornado area are encouraged to connect with one another and let loved ones know that they are safe. This can be done through the I’m Safe feature of the free Red Cross tornado app. In addition, if you have access to a computer, go to redcross.org/safeandwell to list yourself as safe. If not, you can text loved ones or call a family member and ask them to register you on the site.

This has been a major disaster, and the Red Cross will be there for the people in this state and this community. People who wish to make a donation can support American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas as well as disasters big and small throughout the United States by visiting redcross.org, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

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(Video) Oprah on Fatherhood & the Mistakes Single Moms Make

"It's difficult to be what you don't see." —Roland C. Warren, Board Member, National Fatherhood Initiative (on the importance of role models)

Roland Warren was on Oprah’s LifeClass last Sunday to discuss fatherless sons and single moms working to parent their sons. In the video, Roland asks a single mom in the audience, "what kind of father do you want for your son? What kind of father do you want your son to be?"

The show focused on mistakes single moms often make. Single mothers tend to focus on the finances. In the video, Roland explains that finances can't be the primary issue of focus. Watch the video and see Roland share vital advice with a single mom on how she should be raising her fatherless son. He makes it clear that finances aren't as important to your child as you being there physically for your child.

Roland draws a clear distinction in the video between the wallet and the heart. Which one are you chasing after? 

Can't view the video? Click here.

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(Video) Dads Club Strengthens Fatherhood

NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed today on Fox News Live about our new Dads Club™ and our partnership with Dove® Men+Care™.

Jonathan Hunt of the "On the Hunt" program discussed how NFI's partnership with Dove® Men+Care™ will strengthen fatherhood by helping fathers be better dads.

Learn how you can connect with other dads and share parenting tips today!


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NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ Team Up to Launch Dads Club™

New Club Will Be Place for Fathers Who Care for What Matters to Support Each Other and the Cause of Responsible Fatherhood
In a national press release posted this morning, National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove® Men+Care™ have partnered to launch the Dads Club™, a membership club where dads can come together to support each other and bolster efforts to strengthen fatherhood.

National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove Men Care Dads ClubToday’s dads are finding that social media and the Internet are providing unprecedented opportunities to network, share stories, and support each other in their fathering journeys. However, there is no “hub” where fathers can come together to not only help each other become better dads, but to also make a meaningful contribution to the cause of strengthening the institution of fatherhood in America.

A corporate-nonprofit partnership is an ideal mechanism to meet this need, and Dove® Men+Care™ and National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) are the ideal partners. NFI has worked since 1994 to strengthen the institution of fatherhood through public education campaigns, research, and the distribution of fatherhood skill-building materials to individuals and organizations around the country. Dove® Men+Care™ has demonstrated a true commitment to creating a more positive and inspirational image of men and fathers through its “Real Moments” campaign (www.dovemencare.com)

“NFI is delighted to have a committed partner like Dove® Men+Care™ to not only help us provide a safe place for dads to help each other, but to become a partner in our work to ensure that every child has an involved, responsible, and committed father,” said Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s vice president of development and communication. 
 

Members of the new Dads Club™ will receive various benefits upon joining, including:

  • samples of Dove® Men+Care™ products 
  • Exclusive monthly e-newsletter with expert fathering advice or funny stories and encouragement for dads plus special messages from Dove® Men+Care™
  • a co-logoed Dads Club™ t-shirt 
  • a Dads Club™ photo magnet 
  • and a copy of NFI’s “Dad’s Pocket Guide” 

“Dove® Men+Care™ is proud to partner with National Fatherhood Initiative to launch Dads Club™ in our continued effort to help men care for what matters most,” said Rob Candelino, vice president marketing for Unilever Skincare.  “Research shows that men today are prioritizing taking care of their families, and as a dad, I understand the importance of having dedicated resources and tools on which men can rely as they continue to embrace fatherhood. This program is one important way Dove® Men+Care™ aims to support the dedicated, caring, dad community.” 

Through the partners’ Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, web properties, a members-only e-newsletter, and use of the hashtag #dadsclub, Dads Club™ members will have various spaces in which to come together as fathers, receive advice, and support the cause. Over time, NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ will engage notable dads to become inspirational figures for fathers and ambassadors for the cause of strengthening fatherhood. Dads Club™ membership will be available for a one-time $35 contribution to NFI, a portion of which will be a tax-deductible, charitable donation to support NFI’s work. This one-time contribution entitles dads to a lifetime membership in the Dads Club™. Fathers can join at http://www.fatherhood.org/dadsclub. 

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A Working Woman's Response to 'Leaning In' to Fatherhood

This is a guest post by Claire M. Fraser, PhD. Claire is a Professor of Medicine and Director, Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine. If you are interested in guest blogging, send us an email. 

As a successful professional woman who has risen to the top of the ranks in the male-dominated field of academic science, I have been on the receiving end of many questions in the past couple of weeks asking my opinion about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to women to “lean in” more in the workplace - to speak up, to self-promote, and to move outside a perceived comfort zone in order to climb the professional ladder.

balancing work and family can be tricky for both genders“Leaning in” has been essential to my career success, and for many years I did it reluctantly, feeling like I was a fraud whenever I dared to express my thoughts and opinions. Today, I encourage my junior female faculty members to “lean in” every chance they get, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may feel. This is not an option – it is essential if we are to realize our full career potential.

While this seems like straightforward advice, we should also consider what it means to “lean in” outside of the workplace. I was fortunate to hear Vince DiCaro’s Fox News interview on March 28, in which he encouraged moms to “lean in” to fatherhood. This is indeed good advice.

From my own experience, and in speaking with many colleagues over the past 20 years, I have come to believe that a healthy work-life balance - which taps into the best that we and our partners have to offer to ourselves, each other, and our families - must be a goal. From what I‘ve observed, professional women often take on an enormous burden when they try to do it all at work and at home, and end up feeling that they do nothing well. I’ve had many tearful conversations with talented and accomplished young women in academia who think that they must assume the lion’s share of responsibility for their children because this is what’s expected of them as women, while at the same time they know that they must secure as many grants and publish as many research papers as their male colleagues in order to be successful.

I’ve also had a more limited number of conversations with male colleagues who would like nothing more than to spend additional time with their children, but fear that their value as a parent is not fully appreciated by their wives or partners, and their reputation as a hard-working, committed professional will suffer if they work anything less than a 60-hour week.

Just as women have demanded equal consideration in the workplace, it is time to make sure that men are afforded equal consideration in areas that have traditionally been “owned” by women. Collectively, we must do more to frame discussions about work-life balance in terms of a broader, gender-inclusive context.

Seeking a more balanced life is not just a women’s issue. Balance is good for all of us, most of all our children, who will then hopefully grow up to be committed and caring members of society.  

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photo credit: adesigna

(Video) Moms Should "Lean In" to Fatherhood

NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed yesterday on Fox News Live's "On the Hunt" with Jonathan Hunt to discuss mothers and "leaning in" to fatherhood.

DiCaro points out that culture seems to tell mothers that they have to pick between career and motherhood. However, it's a good idea to consider a third option, and "lean in" to fatherhood.

Too often, mothers do most of the share of work in the home and fathers go to work—end of story. Perhaps mothers should consider supporting and encouraging, not discouraging, more father involvement. Several real-life examples are pointed out in this interview between DiCaro and Hunt. There are several ideas worth considering.

For instance, in some cases, moms simply do not trust the father to be involved. DiCaro says moms and dads need to "work together as parents." Moms can sometimes have a way of "knowing and doing all" when it comes to kids and the home. Therefore, in a sense, they set up a situation where they make the father feel he isn't needed. Then, he checks out, only focuses on his career, and does less at home and with the children.

DiCaro says, "If moms recommit themselves, in a sense, to strengthen the institution of fatherhood, it's only going to help them be better at their careers and be better moms." 

 


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Video: Is a father factor at play in the Newtown school shooting?

In case you missed it, Vince DiCaro was interviewed on Fox News discussing our recent blog on the father factor and its possible role in the Sandy Hook School shootings.

Parents: watch the interview and tell us; what should be done to prevent these tragedies?

Connect with The Father Factor on Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

A Macaroni Dad’s Hanukkah

This is a guest post from Eric Cohen. Eric is the Co-Founder of Macaroni Kid. He lives in Southampton, New York with his wife and two kids. Follow the Chief Dad at Macaroni Kid on Twitter @MacaroniDad. If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

hanukkah menorahAs a kid, Hanukkah was my favorite holiday. Of course the presents played a big part of it, but what made it really special to me was how for eight nights in a row, my dad was home to share dinner and the festivities. Most of us who are now fathers grew up in a time when dad was the breadwinner and worked long hours, and mom was home with the kids. Family dinners were reserved for Sunday nights.

But Hanukkah was a special time. Work for my dad eased off and he made it a priority to spend time with us. Sometimes we’d take a family vacation. I celebrated Hanukkah under palm trees in the tropics and at a ski lodge in Vermont. My parents would pack the presents, menorah and candles and we’d have Hanukkah “to go”.

With my own kids, I want to ensure that what they remember most is the time we spend together around the holiday, not the new iPod, Barbie or video game. So we have a few traditions of our own that put the emphasis on family.

We do this by “theming” several of the nights of Hanukkah. One night is always “book night” where we exchange books as gifts. Each child gets a book or two, and my wife and I exchange books as presents. This is a nice way to share the gift of reading and remind our kids how important reading is.

Another night of Hanukkah we declare as “sock night” where everyone in the family gets socks. Gym socks, dress socks, ski socks and more have made appearances on sock night. As much as this is something we need, it reminds our kids that not every present has to be about fun and games, and the important thing is being together. We probably laugh more on sock night than any other night.

The next themed night we have is “trip night.” Prior to Hanukkah, my wife and I plan a family trip sometime in the new year, and on trip night we share where we are going with the kids. It’s a way of extending Hanukkah and promising more family memories.

The last themed night and maybe the most important one is “charity night”. On charity night we give the children each a budget and package of information about non-profits that we feel will interest them. Then they pick which one they’d like to donate to. One year, they gave a goat and two chickens to a family in Africa. Last year my son selected Doctors without Borders and my daughter the World Wildlife Fund.

The other four nights are devoted to typical presents and Hanukkah fun. But we have seen that the true joy of Hanukkah is spending time together and celebrating our family.

Question: What's the one thing that makes the holiday season special for you?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: oskay

5 Ways To Say Thanks By Giving

We're finishing up our "Thanks, Dad!" campaign this week. Through November, we’ve given you tips and advise for raising a thankful childshowing thankfulness in your home, creating a memorable Thanksgiving and now we want your family to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness that continues beyond the Thanksgiving holiday!

One of the best ways to express thankfulness is to give to others! Check out our five ways of saying thanks through giving and be intentional about teaching and modeling these ideas with your kids today.

give

  1. Give Your Time: Whether it's volunteering at the local homeless shelter, participating in a community clean-up day or taking an hour to make cookies for your neighbors, investing time to help or encourage others is a great way to cultivate a thankful attitude or to say thanks to those who have helped you. When you take time to get your kids involved in the process, they will have fun and you will connect as a family as well! It's important that you explain to our child what and why are you giving your time to help others. You can explain in more detail depending on the age of your child. The point here is to not only give, but to teach your child about giving in the process.
     
  2. Give Your Talents: If your kids have musical or singing talent, nursing or retirement homes always welcome having young people to play or sing for their residents. If you're a handyman, consider offering help a single mom in your neighborhood with seasonal "honey-dos" and bring your kids along to help. There's an opportunity to serve for every kind of talent!
     
  3. Give Your Things: A couple times a year, encourage your kids to sort their clothes, books, and toys and set aside items in good condition and donate to a homeless shelter. This will help your kids realize how much they have to be thankful for and to experience the joy of giving to others who have less than them. It will also provide you a way of getting your kids to clean their rooms; at least twice per year. Go ahead and mark two cleaning dates on your calendar!
     
  4. Give Your Thoughts: Giving doens't have to mean money. Encourage your children to take a moment to say something thoughtful to the people around them, whether it's "thanks," "you look nice today," or "I appreciate your friendship." Set the example by regularly saying thoughtful and encouraging things to your family members and others. Remember, this attitude starts with you--the parent! How you talk and interact with people teaches your children to react the same manner.
     
  5. Give Your Treasure: For those with more money than time, consider supporting charitable causes and organizations financially. Encourage your children to donate a portion of their allowance or income to a specific cause. Talk with your kids about the charitable organizations you contribute to and why you give to those groups. Again, it's important to give, but it's also very important that you children know the why behind the what. Use giving as a teachable moment for your family.

As you and your children give, you will find it easier to notice all the things you can be thankful for in your life. Start saying "thanks" by giving today!

What's one thing you could change in your weekly schedule to help you and your family show thanks through giving? 

Thanks DadVisit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why the dad in your life deserves thanks!

photo credit: Tim Green aka atoach

March of Dimes’ Big Miss

small 107729240Very good news was just released about the United States’ preterm birthrate: in 2011, for the fifth consecutive year, it decreased. The rate now stands at a 10-year low of 11.7%.

This news was rightfully celebrated by the organization that is probably the single biggest advocate for maternal and infant health in the U.S., March of Dimes. That admirable organization has set a goal of a 9.6% rate by 2020.

We sincerely hope and pray that the goal is met.

However (you knew a “however” was coming), we at National Fatherhood Initiative believe that March of Dimes is missing an enormous opportunity to reach and surpass the goal they have set. As far as we can see, they are doing little to nothing to acknowledge or encourage the role that involved fathers play in maternal and child health.

Before I say more, I will take this opportunity to inundate you with data, because there is so much research out there that shows, unequivocally, that father involvement matters to maternal and child health.

In a landmark study conducted by the University of South Florida and published in the Journal of Community and Family Health in 2010, researchers examined the records of all births in Florida from 1998 to 2005 – more than 1.39 million live births. They found the following:

  • Infants with absent fathers were more likely to be born with lower birth weights, to be preterm and small for gestational age.
  • Regardless of race or ethnicity, the neonatal death rate of father-absent infants was nearly four times that of their counterparts with involved fathers.
  • The risk of poor birth outcomes was highest for infants born to black women whose babies’ fathers were absent during their pregnancies. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic differences, these babies were seven times more likely to die in infancy than babies born to Hispanic and white women in the same situation.
  • Obstetric complications contributing to premature births, such as anemia, chronic high blood pressure, eclampsia and placental abruption, were more prevalent among women whose babies’ fathers were absent during pregnancy.
  • Expectant mothers in the father-absent group tended to be younger, more educated, more likely to never have given birth, more likely to be black, and had a higher percentage of risk factors like smoking and inadequate prenatal care than mothers in the father-involved group.

If that data is not enough to convince you that March of Dimes should do more to engage fathers, here’s more:

  • Infant mortality rates are 1.8 times higher for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers. 1
  • High-quality interaction by any type of father predicts better infant health.2
  • Children living with their married biological or adoptive parents have better access to health care than children living in any other family type.3
  • Premature infants who have increased visits from their fathers during hospitalization have improved weight gain and score higher on developmental tests.4
  • When fathers are involved during the pregnancy, babies have fewer complications at birth.5
  • Babies with a father’s name on the birth certificate are 4 times more likely to live past 1 year of age.6
  • Twenty-three percent of unmarried mothers in large U.S. cities reported cigarette use during their pregnancy. Seventy-one percent were on Medicare.7

Given the powerful case that the research makes, it is critical that every entity working to improve maternal and child health invests in increasing father involvement. All indications are that March of Dimes is not doing this in any noticeable or significant way.

A legitimate question at this point is, “How do you increase father involvement in maternal and child health?” There are three broad categories:

  • Awareness – The first step is to ensure that the public is aware of the data that we provided above. Do you think most people understand the central role fathers play in this area? March of Dimes is positioned better than any other organization in the country to make a big deal out of how important dads are to maternal and child health. By simply listing this sort of research on their website and talking about father involvement as a factor in determining the preterm birthrate, they can have a great deal of influence. In the USA Today article from 11/13/12 in which I found out about this news, March of Dimes spokespeople cited things like access to prenatal care and reduced smoking during pregnancy as critical to preventing premature births, but nothing about involved dads.
  • Research – Given what we know from the above research, and given the continued emphasis on research into why preterm births happen, more research dollars should be dedicated to understanding why fathers play such an important role, and then, how we can get them more involved from the start. Based on their website, it appears that none of March of Dimes’ research grant recipients are studying father involvement.
  • Skill-building – Finally, every entity that interacts with pregnant moms (hospitals, birthing centers, Lamaze classes, nurse home visits, etc.) should be encouraged and equipped to provide fathers with inspiration and education about the importance of their role. Many fathers are afraid to get involved in pregnancy and infants’ lives because they fear that their lack of parenting skills will hurt more than help. We need to collectively disavow fathers of this notion by providing them with high quality skill-building materials to increase their health literacy and get them in the game. Again, it does not appear March of Dimes is doing anything on this front.

small 3233086359There is a concept called the “tipping point” that can be described as follows: “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”8 We believe that for reductions in the preterm birthrate to reach a tipping point, increasing father involvement needs to become an important part of the noble efforts currently underway. Otherwise, there is a very strong possibility of the reductions plateauing and lots of very smart people wringing their hands about why they can’t get the needle to shift further.

Let’s work together to encourage March of Dimes to pay more attention to the father factor in maternal and child health Here’s how. Contact March of Dimes to praise them for their great work, but to also encourage them to take the next step by acknowledging, celebrating, and encouraging the central role that fathers play in determining the preterm birthrate.

  • Ask them a question about their research here. For example, you can ask “What are you doing to investigate the role that father involvement plays in reducing preterm births?”
  • Comment on their Facebook wall. For example, you can say, “Research shows that father involvement is a key to reducing the preterm birthrate. What is March of Dimes doing to encourage father involvement?” Share with them the research we provide in this post, and tell them that father involvement during the prenatal period is key to reaching a tipping point in their effort. Encourage them to work with NFI.
  • Tweet about the father factor in maternal and child health and tag March of Dimes. For example, you can tweet, “There's a father factor in preterm birthrate. Data here: http://bit.ly/nfiblogdimes112612. What is @MarchofDimes doing to encourage father involvement?”

Collectively, we can help a great organization reach a very important goal by speaking up for dads and the important role they play in nurturing healthy moms and babies.

Endnotes:
1. Matthews, T.J., Sally C. Curtin, and Marian F. MacDorman. Infant Mortality Statistics from the 1998 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 48, No. 12. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2000.
2. Carr, D. & Springer, K. W. Advances in families and health research in the 21st century. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 743-761 (2010).
3. Gorman, B. G., & Braverman, K. Family structure differences in health care utilization among U.S. children. Social Science and Medicine, 67, 1766–1775 (2008).
4. Coleman WL, Garfield CF, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. “Fathers and Pediatricians: Enhancing Men’s Roles in the Care and Development of their Children”. American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, Pediatrics, May, 2004.
5. Alio, A.P., Mbah, A.K., Kornosky, J.L., Marty, P.J. & Salihu, H.M. "The Impact of Paternal Involvement on Feto-Infant Morbidity among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics". Matern Child Health J. 2010; 14(5): 735-41.
6. Ibid.
7. McLanahan, Sara. The Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study: Baseline National Report. Table 7. Princeton, NJ: Center for Research on Child Well-being, 2003: 16.
8. http://www.amazon.com/Tipping-Point-Little-Things-Difference/dp/0316346624

photo credit: bies via photopin cc

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children

thankfulNational Fatherhood Initiative's Vincent DiCaro was recently featured on CNN for writing "5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children."

Vince writes about the first time he heard his young son say "Thank you, daddy" and gives parents five ways to raise thankful children. He says, "I can say with confidence that thankfulness does not come naturally to children, mine included." But Vince continues, "Parenting, like having a good jump shot, is a skill that can be learned through the right techniques and practice."

There are things you can do to help cultivate thankfulness in your children. Read "5 Ways to Raise Thankful Children" and take comfort that if you make habits out of these guidelines, you will start to see positive results in your children. And for that, you will most certainly be thankful.

Visit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture or writing a short note commenting on this blog, Facebook or on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: cheerytomato

5 Ways to Create a Memorable Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here! Yeah, I can’t believe it either. It’s been a busy month and December is almost upon us. This month, we’ve shared ideas for raising a thankful child, showing thankfulness in your home, and now we have ideas for creating memorable Thanksgiving traditions! Check out our ideas and then read Thanksgiving traditions that NFI staff share with their family. After you read our traditions, tell us yours in the comment section!

Be Thankful

Here are five ideas to get you started:

  1. Get Active: One of the things we often take for granted is our health and ability to engage in physical activity. Being active together as a family is a great way to create a memorable time together. You know you’re going to watch football at some point during the day. You also know you’re going to consume great portions of turkey and dessert. Consider getting outside and throwing the football during commercials or halftime to be little more active this year. You can always take a nap between games later!
  2. Get Creative: I’ve heard of families having their kids make handmade place cards for every person at the table or letting your kids act out a skit to say thanks to those who made the meal. The point here is to get creative and to get the whole family involved. Consider having everyone (parents and kids) draw a picture of the things they're thankful for this year and then post drawings in a high-traffic location. Make it competitive by offering two categories for best drawing awards; one for kids and one for the parents’.
  3. Get Alone: Okay, maybe this step is over-reaching, but if at all possible, try and get a moment to yourself…just to think! Yes, even if it’s only a few minutes, take time to reflect on what is truly important. Seriously consider the question: What do I have to be thankful for this year? If you can make this step happen, you’ll be ready to lead your family from a deeper perspective. Perhaps it’s your family’s tradition to spend a few minutes before or during the Thanksgiving meal to take turns sharing what you are thankful for or to express thanks for a specific person at the table. No matter your tradition, be sure you take time during all the busy schedules to be grateful!
  4. Get REALLY Traditional: There is no need to reinvent the wheel during the holidays. Keep it old school. You can learn a lot from your parents about traditions! What made the holidays special when you were a kid? Consider incorporating those traditions into your family’s list this year. Continuing traditions from the past is a great way to help connect your children with previous traditions that your kids may not have experienced.
  5. Get Your Mind Off Yourself: There’s no greater time than the holidays to consider ways you can serve and help others. Whether you spend time buying gifts or serving food, find a cause or opportunity to serve with your whole family. Serving as a family can make for a very memorable family tradition.

NFI Staff Answers: What Makes a Memorable Thanksgiving?
Now that you have five ideas for how to create meaningful family traditions, take a look at how some NFI staff answered the question, “What makes Thanksgiving memorable to your family?

 “We take out a bit of our furniture and lay 3 long tables end to end to accommodate about 18 people (in my small house). Everyone brings something and it is quite noisy. Before we pray we go around simply to say what we are thankful for. Many feel a little embarrassed to share- but everyone is smiling when done. This year for sure - we will think of my mom and how we will miss not only her, but her cole slaw!”  Ave, program support consultant

“The girls give the turkey a name and then break the wish bone together. Grandfather plays the piano and we sing hymns before sitting down to eat.” Kayla, project specialist

“Each family member has a wooden acorn at their place setting and we pass around a little basket for everyone to put in their acorn as say what they are thankful for. Mom often makes cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then we enjoy the traditional American thanksgiving dinner. Every year my family watches the Dallas Cowboys play football… another American tradition!” Renae, outreach manager

“Watching football. Roasting chestnuts.” Vince, vice president

“Sharing around the table what you are thankful for. Going to see a movie (Bond, this year) then dessert afterward.” Melissa, vice president 

“We like to watch ET after the dinner is finished and everything is put away. Its a good family movie that everyone enjoys.” Connie, senior graphic designer

“Each family member has three kernels of corn at their seat and shares three things he or she is thankful for, putting them into a basket as they share.” Michael, programming director 

“We have dinner, go bowling, come back for dessert, and then play a family game of Pictionary so that members of all ages can play.” Lisa, programming director

You can see by reading our staff traditions that creating memories means a lot of different things to different people! Whether it's the classic American festivities of food, football and movies, or something unique and special to your family, establishing traditions and creating memories are a great way to make the Thanksgiving holiday meaningful for you and your children. The most important part of the holidays is that you spend time together as a family. That's what will make the holidays memorable and special for your kids - time with you!

What traditions make Thanksgiving memorable for your family?  

Thanks DadVisit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why the dad in your life deserves thanks!

photo credit: rustiqueart

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