As men reach middle age, there are physiological and behavioral factors that lead to something called Dad Bod. All sources credit Mackenzie Pearson with publishing the term in 2015 in an online essay entitled, “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod”. By now, most readers know the term, Dad Bod. In short, it describes a male that may be slightly overweight, but it has more to do with body fat percentage…..one that works out, but doesn’t have the muscle tone of a professional athlete.
When breaking down Dad Bod, it is important to note that one does not need to be a dad to sport this body type and one does not need to be middle aged, however, the latter does contribute. Focusing on the age factor, there is a reduction in naturally occurring testosterone as men age. In general testosterone levels peak in the late teens and then start to gradually fall after age 30. One of the results is a reduced ability to build and maintain muscle mass. Of course, a good strength training routine can counteract this, but in general, this affects the male population. Not coincidentally, the beginning of testosterone reduction is when young families are in full swing and Dad Bod becomes more apparent.
Behavioral factors have more to do with the onset of Dad Bod as body composition has more to do with lifestyle than the simple inevitability of increased age. Dad Bod (and beyond) can be apparent at any age regardless of peak testosterone levels depending on diet and a regular exercise program (or lack thereof). There are plenty of 20-year-old “Dad Bods” around. Relating this back to actual dads and young families, life becomes hectic. It becomes more difficult to make extended visits to the gym. It becomes more difficult to meal plan. Priorities are (and rightfully so) re-arranged. It doesn’t help that the typical dad helps avoid leftovers at the dinner table when kids leave a few bites behind. It doesn’t do a dad’s body any good when he rushes home from work to take Billy and/or Suzy to practice, but first stops for a quick gas station dinner. All of these things add up to make it more difficult to overcome the Dad Bod.
So, with age and life priorities working against dads, does this give us dads the excuse we are looking for? Are we off the hook? After all, the online essay title is “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod” not “Why Girls Find the Dad Bod Horrifically Disgusting”. For those of us living the Dad Bod life, the answer is probably no…..no matter how much we want to excuse ourselves. Having a positive body image and striving toward health is different than accepting the inevitable and sitting back with a few cold ones and a large order of wings. Reality is that if the before mentioned meal becomes the norm, Dad Bod soon turns into something more like Jabba The Hutt Bod. Yes, one can be healthy without having a chiseled physique, but caution should be taken so that a few pounds overweight doesn’t turn into a few additional pounds a year for the next 20 years.
Although Dad Bod was coined only a few years ago, these body types have been around forever. All of us should be conscious of our health, which includes a healthy diet and exercise. For dads this may still mean a few extra percentage points of body fat. Healthy male bodies don’t have to look like a comic book hero’s body. Dads that have their priorities straight with family are already heroes to their kids.