How to Get Fit as a Parent: Diet for Dads

We’d all like to be fit and healthy and/or get the body we want, but life is tiring and food and drink are good.

I went on a fitness plan because I was bored at getting fitter, healthier and trimmer, only to then slip back and store fat again.

So this is a fitness plan for parents, a diet for dads or whatever you want to call it.

My Body Background

I’ve never been fat, but being over 35 means that it is always hinting at staying on my waist. A pizza, a beer, a cookie, noodles or fried food – it sticks there and doesn’t move.

So before I’m around 40 years old and a round 40 year old (sorry, Dad joke) I wanted to learn about my eating habits and body, and make the achievement that I wanted.


The Goal:

It’s difficult to write a plan for everyone, because everyone is at different stages.

But, this fitness plan isn’t about specific exercises that you need to do or special food diets. It’s pretty obvious to do exercise and don’t eat cake, eat salad. But the useful aspects that I have learnt are (1) How to think about food and dieting and (2) How to motivate yourself to exercise.

So the goal for everyone can realistically be (1) Slowly make changes in your diet and (2) Exercise twice a week.



(1) Facing Up to Eating Well and Making Changes

In this section:

  1. Eat as well you can
  2. Control and Manipulation
  3. More ways to change your mindset

If you’ve realised that ‘something is wrong’, then you’ve got to the first stage. If you are fat and happy, then no problem. I’m not saying that people ‘must’ be fit, do whatever you like.

But if you (a) aren’t happy with your appearance, (b) don’t feel good or (c) realise that you’re not 21 and want to prepare now so you stay healthy at 50+, then you are at stage 1 – realising changes are needed.

But, we need to live with these changes. We can’t eat raw veg and salad 7 days a week, unless you’ve attained the status of zen monk or vegan.

With a busy working and parenting life, we usually turn to chemicals to ease our frazzled mind – either alcohol or sugar and fat, to bring us a little up and then ease us back down.

So, I don’t bother to tell other people or myself that I ‘can’t’ have things or that I am a zen monk.

How I looked at it was:

  • I didn’t do the ‘cheat day’ idea. It’s meaningless. The chances are that you will still want to ‘cheat’ on other days, or, over-do it on your ‘cheat day’ and undo the achievements that you’ve made. (also, if you reach your goal you can switch to a more relaxed eating choice, but more on that later)
  • I didn’t bother trying to cut out all ‘bad’ stuff at first. As I went on, I was happy to make the choice to do so (again more on that later). There’s no point telling yourself that you can’t have anything except salad.
  • So, I split it into food that (1) I knew would set me back but was OK if I really wanted it and (2) absolute garbage that is barely even ‘food’ at all.

Here’s how that works in real life:

Eat as well as you can.

What does that mean? It means that you need to make the best choices you can, without blaming yourself.

The problem with most diets is that they are unrealistic. The first point here is that giving yourself tough rules makes you want to break them. Human nature is to want what we can’t have. Restricting things that you love only makes them seem better than they are. The goal here is not a time-limited diet, but a mindset. The mindset that you can to is choosing not to have the cookie. It might seem impossible, but it isn’t.

So, eat as well as you can means: If you are in the supermarket, casually planning dinner, it’s a great opportunity to prepare to have a nice salad (or other healthy choice like roast vegetables). A salad can be packed with lots of interesting ingredients, exotic veggies, herbs that burst with flavour and lean meat like chicken or fish.

But, don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you have to be sad every day by never eating other things. Let’s say you are having lunch with colleagues, or you go out on a weekend dinner with your partner. If they really want Italian, don’t bother making yourself sad by going for the salad in a restaurant! It will probably only backfire as you crave something later on. Get the lasagne or whatever you want. Being healthy and getting to ‘choosing not to have the cookie’ isn’t a fad, it’s a lifestyle that you need to work towards.

And it starts this way. If it isn’t restricted, and it’s your choice, it alters your mindset.

Then, you look at things totally differently. You start to think that you might actually want a healthy option instead of a pizza. Here’s other ways that alter your mindset in this healthy way:

Control and not being manipulated

Take control of your body and mind.

The food industry is manipulating you. Restaurants are manipulating you. Society is manipulating you.

The food industry: Junk food is barely even food at all. It literally contains plastic. It is the cheapest, worst kept animals, then animal ‘parts’ that have been through hundreds of factory processes. It has massive loads of the cheapest kinds of salt, sugar and others in it. Your body does not digest it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can eat fast food and then your body will deal with that while the fat magically turns up from elsewhere. Look at the fast food and then look at your waist. That fast food will stick there and never move.

Restaurants aren’t ‘evil’, they are businesses and they need to make a profit. So even the ‘good’ ones need to load their food with salt, butter, fat, oil and sugar. There’s nothing wrong with a restaurant itself, but it’s a realisation that you need to make. In Shanghai, I have discovered that even some ‘healthy’ salad type places put sugar syrup on their salads. They have very expensive costs for licenses, rent, staffing etc. and they need to make a profit! So they are out to make tasty food. It tastes good but it can easily make you fat.

Society is obsessed with food and cooking. There’s nothing wrong with loving to cook. I love to cook. But society can still make you feel like you ‘must’ be preparing some exotic, trendy, cultural and delicious meal every single night of the week. It’s another kind of manipulation that removes your control.

So the conclusion to all of that is it ill actually empower you by simplifying what you eat. This again comes back to vegetables and salads.

A chopped salad is your route to losing fat, and if you want to, building muscle and looking good. A salad is your route to regaining control over your food and your body.

You don’t have to ‘stop’ eating nice things. But I got to where I wanted to go by going for salads, at least 5 days a week.

And I did that through changing my mindset.

Here are more ways to change your mindset, and a simple but important tip:

Squeeze Your Fat

That sounds silly, but it works. At the moment of choice or temptation, squeeze your fat. Look at it. That sounds even weirder – but this isn’t self-hate! Have a squeeze of the fat already on your body and have a look at it. Rather than self-hate, the point of this is to make you realise that junk food sticks there. It goes nowhere. No one is immune to age or fats in food. Yes, ‘a moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips’ is actually accurate. You want the short-term food pleasure, but that same bite of food could give you a heart attack later. (again, if you are OK with this, then do as you like, it’s everyone’s individual choice)

Imagine the food blended

What if you put those fried noodles or that pizza in a blender with some water and blended it? Would you drink that? This is reasonably disgusting, but it works. It helps you realise that you are pouring stodgy fat into your body, and your body will not do anything with that. It will paste into your mid-riff and stay there. Meanwhile, fruits and veg look like a nice blended juice. They will only do good things for and with your body. They will make you feel good, wake up more easily, keep you ‘regular’, get sick less.



This is the simple but crucial tip in dieting or a healthy lifestyle.

In the evening, we crave. A stimulant that turns into a depressant. Drugs like alcohol and sugar. If I have a chocolate, cookie or beer in the house, I will have it. So I don’t buy it.

But, sometimes, if I have nothing, I will feel despairing. So, I always prepare snacks or nibbles that are relatively healthy. These are things like:

  • unsalted nuts – cashew nuts are great
  • dried fruit – dried bananas etc.
  • Muesli – for the big crave. If I’ve had a salad or something but still really feel a hungry urge, then a bowl of good quality muesli is still interesting, tastes good and makes me feel completely full.
  • Dark chocolate. If you love chocolate then it will be harder to just stop. But, chocolate stuff is usually mainly sugar. Dark chocolate will be boring at first but it still gives a cocoa hit. Ditto cocoa powder and milk. It’s not easy to give up milk chocolate, but, dark chocolate is an acquired taste – you will grow to prefer the cocoa hit over the sickly sweet varieties.

This above stuff is still frowned upon by some health buffs. But while it’s not perfect, this stuff is incredibly healthy compared to a doughnut or ice cream etc.

So, this are tried and proven ways to change your mindset about your food choices.

It really won’t be easy at first, but it’s really worth it. Don’t go around with a lump of fat permanently stuck to your waist. Don’t be manipulated by the cheapest salt and sugar. Eat better and you really will feel better. And look better. Which always helps a marriage to stay fresh.

Next up is point (2) Motivating yourself to exercise!


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