The 'Dad Body'

If the term ‘dad body’ is new to you, don’t worry: I had only come to know this term a few weeks prior to writing this. Before we get into how I came to hear the term and the subsequent explanation complete with pictures and comparisons, I want you to imagine what the dad body would look like. Keep that image in your head; we’ll come back to that.

When I first heard the term my wife was at her computer chatting with some friends on a ‘mom’ forum. There was a poll with pictures of two men generated from various famous peoples’ features; for example one had the arms of So-And-So, the face of What’s-His-Name, the torso of Who’s-His-Face and so on. One was compiled by men who felt that that was how women wanted a man to look, and the other was a mish-mash created by women. The difference was surprising to say the least and portrayed something that tends to be overlooked or unmentioned: the effect that the entertainment and media industries have had on males’ expectations of their bodies versus what females expect a man’s body to look like.

The common remark made about the female-made man was that he seemed more approachable and to be less maintenance. The poll was favouring him by a margin for most of its duration, when suddenly the shift went to the other virtual man and it ended with him in the lead. No matter the end result, a message seemed to emerge clearly from this: muscular men are unapproachable and exhausting to be with. It seemed a fair conclusion to me at the time; as I observed and compared these generated forms one had mildly muscular arms and legs with a chubby but not entirely over-weight torso, and looked like many fathers that I know. The other sported much more muscular arms and legs with chiseled abs, broad shoulders and a strong chest. He looked like the kind of guy you might see roll into the parking lot of the 7-11 in his jeep and bright coloured tank-top, Capri pants and aviators blasting the top 40 radio station at full volume. Then I checked my judgement, of course.

The next time the dad body was brought up with me was from a client. A father in his late 20’s who considers himself to fall into that dad body category. He was a little disgruntled over recent ridicule from his peers with regards to his new eating and exercise habits. This is not uncommon either; for people to fall under scrutiny by friends and family when they decide to make healthy living changes is a story told to many trainers. In fact it is so common that I address it during my intake of any new client.

Having now heard the term quite a few times, I decided to look into it a bit. After reading a few threads on the topic and a couple of articles, and even asking a few peers I came to some conclusions:

  1. People like the dad body because it seems more real and more natural. To this I say, why is it not real or natural to have an athletic body? Should we really want to live in a society of people who are content with being physically incapable of carrying their own weight?

  2. People assume that being fit or eating healthy means no fun and nothing good to eat. Well, a healthy balance is all that’s needed. Take it from a guy who enjoys his beer, burgers, wings, and fries. I just choose to balance them out with vegetables. You know? Those colourful things that decorate the side of your steak and potatoes. Oh, and don’t for a second think that I am above taking a spoon to the peanut butter at eleven o’clock at night.

  3. People assume being fit isn’t something that can be sustained. Because if you live a healthy and active lifestyle now, and form that habit now it is far more difficult to maintain it or get back into it later in life. Seriously. I am confused about the logic on this one. I understand that many peoples’ athleticism lowers as they age, but this is primarily due to the decisions that they make and how they use their time. This too is a topic for another day.

  4. People assume that being fit means you are superficial. Wow. Really? How is that for reverse-judgment? Judging someone under the assumption that they are judging you. Assuming that just because someone has a nice cover, their book must suck. This is a judgment that I feel first-hand on a regular basis, and it doesn’t feel any better than when I was being judged for being ‘chunky’.

  5. People assume that being healthy means that you eat, breathe, and sleep fitness. Again, the prejudice is sickening. As if unhealthy people sit around and talk about potato chips and how many hours they put onto the couch last night. Yes, some people talk about their fitness achievements and goals a lot. But is that a bad thing? To encourage others to get out there and do it, because if I can anyone can.

My final take on what makes the dad body appealing is prejudice and low self-esteem. Which is pretty messed up when you think about it. One article that I read had 15 reasons to love the dad body, and every reason given could be rooted to either prejudice toward healthy living or the low self-esteem of the dad body lovers. The more that I read about it, the more clear that became.

Now let us go back to the image you had in your head at the beginning of this, if you didn’t already know the term. What did it look like? Was it a semi-muscular man who clearly enjoys the patio more than the gym?

What I find so strange about all of this is that when my first son was born I had made the decision to eat healthy and be active whether through exercise or work or whatever, so that I could live long and be physically capable of playing with my children and picking them up. In other words, when I became a father my vision of a dad body was a healthy and fit body. When you think about it, that is exactly what a dad body should be. Why is a dad body not a body that clearly eats well, to set a good example for his children; a body that is clearly active, regularly playing with his children; a body that is strong, to bear the weight of his family even if he doesn’t need to do it alone? Should not the body of a father look capable of doing what is required of a father?  Perhaps we need to rethink the ‘dad body’.

I am not saying that every man out there should have a six pack, or that everyone should be running out to get a gym membership. What I am saying is that we have become complacent with the sedentary lifestyle. We are victims of our own ingenuity; having made our lives less laborious we now live inactive and unhealthy lifestyles. All that is needed is some physical activity and some balance in nutrition. So I say get up, get outside with your kids and play. Lead by example for your children and eat balanced meals. There are thousands of healthy eating options, tips, and recipes on the internet; try surfing the web for your health instead of getting in endless arguments with strangers, or giggling at memes.  Take a moment for your health. Exercising doesn’t require equipment, a lot of room, or any initial investment other than time. If I have been successful in convincing you that an athletic and healthy body is indeed something worth having, you can look forward to more from me on how to live a maintainable, healthy lifestyle.

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