My Empathy Experiment: Why I Gained 30 lbs of Fat

211 million pregnancies occur every year worldwide.

And women put up with a lot during pregnancy. They:

  • Gain between the recommended 25 – 35 pounds (but 47% of women gain more).
  • Suffer constant discomfort (e.g., morning sickness, back pain, tiredness)
  • Pee ALL. The. Time.
  • Brave childbirth (which comes with a 33% cesarean section rate—a major surgery that takes 6+ weeks to heal from).
  • Suffer postpartum depression (at an alarming rate of 1 in 8).

Pregnancy is damn hard.

On top of all that, women's bodies change in ways that are entirely out of their control. And they also have deal with the emotional ups and downs (and there's a lot of those). In the midst of it all they might  hardly even recognize themselves. And did I mention the discomfort, swelling, and pain, they endure?

(Glad us men will never have to [physically] go through that).

But just because men don’t have to go through this to enjoy their new bundles of joy, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t empathize with their female partners.

And to me, empathizing meant actually experiencing some of what Sarah was going through first hand. I wanted (at the time) to have tangible experiences to help me understand what she was experiencing (ask me now and I'm not sure what I'd say).

So that’s why during my girlfriend’s pregnancy, I started the “Empathy Experiment”, where:

  1. I Gained 30 Pounds of Fat
  2. I Gave Up Drinking Alcohol
  3. I Avoided Some of My Favorite Foods
  4. I Stopped Doing Everything Fun Lots of My Hobbies
  5. I Restricted My Sleep
  6. I Peed 17 Times Per Day
  7. I Abstained From Intense Exercise
  8. I Took a Pharmacy’s Worth of Vitamins Every Day
  9. I Took (Unnecessary) Travel Precautions

Want proof?

Yup, these two photos were taken 7 months apart.

#1: I Gained 30 Pounds of Fat

During pregnancy, Sarah gained about 30 pounds. And so did I.

Ok, not quite, but almost—I gained 29 pounds of fat by eating excessively and to the point of discomfort (just like Sarah when she was pregnant).

If you’re thinking: “but that’s not the same as gaining 30 pounds of pregnancy weight?” You’re right. But that’s not the point. The point is, the impact is similar.

I wanted to know what it was like to feel as if I didn’t know my body anymore.

I wanted to know what it was like to struggle to get out of bed in the morning because all of a sudden I was carrying so much extra weight (to the tune of size 32 pants to 36).

And I wanted to know what it was like to get winded walking up a short flight of stairs.

The biggest parallel? I doubted myself constantly, just like my girlfriend doubted herself.

I doubted whether my body would recover. I doubted whether I’d be able to drop the weight afterwards. And I like how I looked or felt the entire time.

#2: I Gave Up Drinking Alcohol

I abstained from drinking alcohol (yes, that included beers with my buddies). It just made sense to also stop drinking as a matter or moral support.

Yes, it was hard and unsatisfying at times, but my transition from drinking freely, to not, was made easier because I had already reduced my consumption as a matter of health and fitness while trying to knock up my baby-mama.

But there’s more to that story, so check it out in my start-to-finish article on how I did the empathy experiment (coming soon!).

#3: I Avoided Some of My Favorite Foods

You know that saying “You are what you eat”? Well it’s never rung more true than when you’re pregnant. Because your baby is what you eat.

Accordingly, it goes without saying that some foods should be avoided. But not because they’re inherently bad themselves. But because they are more likely to get you sick. And that means they could indirectly hurt the fetus, too.

Think: E.coli, salmonella, and listeria.

So I avoided things like certain deli meats, unpasturized cheeses, and modified my sushi orders.

#4: I Stopped Doing Everything Fun Lots of My Hobbies

I gave up some of my hobbies that really shouldn’t be done during pregnancy.

Things like scuba diving and freediving, even though I spent 3 weeks in Portugal and craved getting in the ocean. And I didn’t kite surf on my birthday, target shoot with my buddies, jump in any hot tubs, or go go-carting when invited.

(Ok, I used a hot tub once. Sorry hun!)

That’s because all of these activities could injure a fetus if I had an accident and were a pregnant lady. So, I gave em’ up in solidarity, too.

#5: I Restricted My Sleep

Sarah slept less when she was pregnant because:

  • She had to pee lots (see the next rule).
  • She was uncomfortable and always hot.
  • The baby kicked when she was trying to fall asleep.
  • She often had baby-induced sciatica nerve pains.

So I reluctantly joined her on ‘team insomnia'. 

I asked Sarah to wake me up every time she got up. And while she initially refused, I convinced her it was for the good of the team. So she did.

Bam! Now there were two zombies making life worse (hell?) for each other. Why did I do this again?

All in all, we were lucky if we got 5 – 6 hours of poor, restless, broken-up sleep per night.

#6: I Peed 17 Times Per Day

A common complaint pregnant women tout is having to pee all the time. So, to find out what all the fuss was about, I drank a ton of water so I could relate.

I had Sarah track how many times she peed during the day in the first and third trimesters (the times during which women report the greatest increase in urination) to give me a pee-goal.

After a couple of days of tracking, she reported averaging 15 pees per day.

To achieve those numbers, I downed glass of water, after glass of water. Needless to say, I was well hydrated and way less productive at work.

Zero out of ten—do not recommend.

#7: I Abstained From Intense Exercise

This meant I didn’t do any contact sports or attempt a one-rep max deadlift.

Again, similar to avoiding certain foods during pregnancy, this measure is purely precautionary and preventative against freak injuries or accidents that could hurt the fetus.

It also kind of helped me gain weight since not doing intense exercise actually turned into me hardly exercising at all. But not because I previously went around only doing one-rep max exercises, but because a was a sleep deprived, hyper-hydrated, zombie in an ever lasting food coma.

Of course I didn't want to go the gym!

#8: I Took a Pharmacy’s Worth of Vitamins Every Day

This one isn't obvious.

Taking prenatal vitamins is one of the first things pregnant women are told to do. And doesn't seem like a big deal at first glance.

But let me assure you, my 20 year old self never expected 30 something year old me to be sitting at the table dolling out dozens of pills into little containers for hours a month!

It sucked.

And it was just one more thing that added up and make me hate being pregnant. 

#9: I Took (Unnecessary) Travel Precautions

For a short period I avoided x-ray scanners in the airport (and we were travelling a lot during this time).

This manifested in lots of pat-downs and weird looks from other travellers when, I seemingly for no reason, refused to go through the scanners.

Ok, I might have taken it too far with this one, but I wanted to know first hand as many of the inconveniences pregnant mothers face, as possible. FYI: turns out airport scanners aren’t dangerous for your fetus.

But in all honesty, I learned a lot from doing the Empathy Experiment (find out the biggest lessons here).

Disclaimer: I did this all willingly (albeit a little naively), in an effort to empathize with my pregnant partner. But it wasn’t without struggle:

  • I faced constant disapproval from family, friends, and colleagues.
  • I was less productive at work from peeing so often.
  • I was moody and unmotivated from reduced sleep.
  • I was constantly uncomfortable from over-eating (and not fitting my normal clothes anymore).
  • I worried about failing to gain weight, and then again about losing it.
  • My self confidence declined
  • I had more acne than my 16 year old self ever did
  • And I often lacked motivation to keep going since there was no baby actually relying on me.

The bottom line is: The Empathy Experiment worked. And it sucked.

Know someone crazy enough to try this? Or just know someone who’s pregnant and might get a laugh out of this?

Then quickly SHARE this article to make their day. You won’t regret it.

Click here to read the 2nd Empathy post in this series of 4.

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