Is the dad-bod something to be ashamed of? No, it’s a matter of manly pride, says Tom Fordy.
I’ve had enough of headlines, articles, and social media posts that say things like, “How to get rid of your dad-bod”, “From fat dad to fit dad”, and “Being a big fat bastard makes you less of a proper man”.
Alright, the last one is an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
I’ve already got enough on my plate (literally – that’s the problem) to worry about my weight. Well, not so much “worry” about my weight – in fact, I worry about it everyday – but more “be arsed to do anything about it”. And I’ve begun to enjoy the sight of my protruding dad-gut – admire it, even. I’m winning at life; the dad-bod proves it.
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Though born a man, and thus cruelly robbed of the ability to bear children myself, I will occasionally find myself stood in front of my full length mirror (upstairs on the landing, in prime position to catch the absolute state of myself emerging from the shower), holding my own stomach with the love and affection an expectant mother might give the unborn baby nestled inside her. I stand there admiring my own reflection, a grin of misplaced, ill-deserved pride spread across my face.
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Whereas my younger self panicked and fretted about piling on the pounds (as he did frequently), the shape of my stomach – the unmistakable frontal swell that’s specific to overdoing it on the beer – is somehow comforting, cozy in fact, because my otherwise unremarkable body has taken on a classic dad look. It’s strangely pleasing.
I’m not the only one who takes at least some pleasure from it. The book How Men Age by Richard Bribiescas (I wrote about it here) describes how, because of the drop in testosterone, men put on weight after they become fathers, and that it actually makes them happier and healthier (we’ll see if that’s still the case when the surgeons are scraping lumps of Sainsbury’s own-brand double pepperoni stuffed crust out of my arteries aged 45). It also claims that portly, low-on-testosterone dads are more attractive to women. Not that I’ve got the energy to do anything about that these days.
Of course, I’m not stupid. As I find myself enjoying the sight of my own dad-bod, I know full well what’s happening. It’s my brain tricking me into thinking, “Fuck it, I will open the Kettle Chips.”
Because that’s how it works for me. Every morning I start with the best of intentions, slip up with a small snack mid-afternoon, then by the evening I’ve conned myself into thinking, “Well, if I’ve come this far the day’s a write-off, I might as well stuff my face and start again tomorrow.”
It’s a weakness, a vice – and one of the few I’ve been able to cling onto since having children. Without adequate time to exercise (either because of general family/work life, or because the spare hours I do have I prefer to spend on my backside in front of the TV), and lacking the willpower to improve my diet, I’m rolling down the slow-but-steady road from fat-lad to fat-dad. I’m in my mid-thirties and I sit down for a living. It’s inevitable.
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The last thing I need are ludicrous standards of masculinity bearing down on me. The idea of the man-with-dad-bod as a flabby figure of fun is just a jelly-bellied extension of this stereotype that dads are buffoons, incapable of doing anything right (a notion that’s just as damaging for mums, who are by default pigeon-holed as the sensible, tightly-wound, joyless ones).
The further idea that “nobody likes a dad-bod” – that the dad-bod is something to be press-upped and crunched into oblivion, so we reach peak masculinity – is just another example of that particularly 21st century faux pas: shaming.
It’s already hard enough for us porky blokes: no remotely stylish clothes fit or look good on us; we’re rubbish at sport; no one takes our body image insecurities seriously; and it’s reached the point where my paunch sometimes hangs over onto my laptop and interferes with the track pad.
Still, it’s not all bad news: last Christmas I discovered that if I slouched back if the right position, I can use my gut as a shelf for my glass of Baileys and Ferrero Rocher.
We constantly hear about “toxic masculinity”. But one of the most toxic things about masculinity is how it’s seen as this rigid, unchangeable thing – the way men think, act, and look. The masculine image was defined decades ago: Adonis-like specimens with muscles, strength, and athletic prowess; for the average bloke, the reality of masculinity is an ever-expanding gut, man-tits, and saggy arse. That’s what being a real man is all about.
By that measure, the dad-bod isn’t something to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it’s the average bloke in peak physical condition.