We all remember a few years ago when the term Dad Bod sauntered its way onto the scene in order to label a very specific type of physique that guys have been flaunting for a very long time. But what exactly is a Dad Bod? And where did the label come from and why did it suddenly gain popularity in recent years?
It seemed in the 2000s that the focus on a ripped physique, as well as health and fitness in general, became far more mainstream and became more "the norm" than is was perhaps just a decade earlier. The era of the comic book movie and the six packed protagonist of most Hollywood films brought on an urge for many of us to hit the gym and bench press and bicep curl until our arms fell off. The gym industry exploded and numerous gym chains began opening up around the world, capitalising on this necessity for all of us to shed the thin 90s bods, adorned with weird, baggy clothes in favour of the form fitting outfits that are so popular these days.
Back in the 90s and earlier, a ripped body was more of a treat, confined to the occasional actor, singers like Peter Andre, and of course bodybuilders and Olympic athletes. These people stood out from the crowd and they definitely weren’t looked at as the general standard of where society’s fitness level should be.
So what changed?
One thing that changed was simply the progression of science and our understanding of how the human body works. Scientists and curious minds alike managed to do deeper research into the short and long term effects of our modern lifestyles. Trends like gluten free and low carb came onto our screens and into our ears, and we learned about the dangers of alcohol, trans fats and sedentary lifestyles. The proof was in the pudding, and it was loaded with cholesterol. This greater knowledge opened our eyes to the long term effects that some of our decisions and lifestyle choices were having, and it shocked us.
With this broader knowledge, society shifted its focus to healthy eating, exercise, yoga, living stress free, reducing toxins, the list goes on. None of this was a bad thing either, we only have one body and it’s good that we now know how to take care of it and why we should.
And then came Social Media.
The invention of the internet… changed… EVERYTHING… daily life went from mundane to public domain. By 2008, most of the people in the world who had an internet connection were on Facebook and sharing every aspect of our lives with each other - but this was mostly friends, family and acquaintances. Hot on its heels came Facebook’s younger cousin, Instagram, and this is where society shifted drastically. No longer were we sharing our lives with friends and family, we were sharing them with the world, and we were trying to share with more and more people every day. Initially, those few exceptional folk flaunted their wares online with their booties, barrel chests and shimmering abs, and the rest of us looked on with envious, green eyes and decided to hit the gym and make a few changes ourselves.
Validation went from inward to outward and we endlessly pursued these images of ourselves showing perfection and power. The muscular and healthy physique was just one aspect of it, but it was a big one.
So where amongst all of these strives for perfection did the Dad Bod emerge from?
Well, alongside the gym rats, body pumpers, smoothie makers and clean eaters, stood the rest of society who didn’t care quite so much. And it was ok that they didn’t care because they just continued to be themselves and didn’t spend their time hitting the gym or going on runs or eating salads at McDonalds. They focused on other ventures that interested them and pursued other hobbies, and these were men and women alike. And among those men, were the ones with the Dad Bods.
How do we define a Dad Bod?
Classic traits of a Dad Bod include:
A bit of a belly, but nothing overly protruding
The slightly larger or less in shape man, but not considered classically “fat”
Likely to still have his chest and belly hair and not having shaved it off to show off his pecs and abs
Maybe a beard?
At some point in his recent life may have been in pretty good shape, but let himself go just a little bit, but not too much
Might still workout and exercise, but doesn’t take is as seriously as the calorie counters
And why “dad”? Well, think about the classic image of a dad, what do you usually picture? Probably not a guy who’s gym toned and tanned, but rather a bearded guy with a smile and a bit of a belly, because he’s too busy being a responsible dad than taking gym selfies and mixing up chia seed smoothies.
Celebrities like Chris Pratt, James Corden and even Leonardo DiCaprio became pinups for the Dad Bod, and people actually like it. In fact, some people much prefer it, and for numerous reasons. Women found it less “threatening” than a man with ripped abs as the men seemed more approachable. They gave the appearance that they weren’t extremely unhealthy but at the same time they weren’t obsessing over the gym and their protein intake. They came across as fun to be around. Happy, jolly people who lived their lives the way they wanted to, not the way the media depicted they should (similar to the size zero issue that women previously faced, and the unrealistic and frankly unhealthy goals it made some women strive for).
People preferred to spend their time with a Dad Bod because it was an indicator that the guy probably wouldn’t care as much about their partner’s body tone either, and this was an attractive prospect. Dating a man with 21 inch biceps and washboard abs might seem stressful, having to keep up with it or to feel insecure about your own body. The list goes on; in the gay community they even have their bears and cubs too, which would certainly fall under the category of Dad Bod.
So now that we’re in 2021 and the world is slowly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, where do the Dad Bods stand?
The love for the bod will really depend on the person, however the look has been around for a long time and was only recently given a name, so it’s likely to stick around for a while longer too. The fact is that even in our healthy modern world, a lot of people just don’t have the motivation in what little time they have to hit the gym or go for a run, and their body will reflect that - and that’s ok. Having a bit of a Dad Bod is absolutely fine and there’s not really anything unhealthy about it.
The dangers of the Dad Bod will come from things such as visceral fat. If you’re not sure what visceral fat is, it works like this…
The abdominal area will typically carry two types of fat:
Subcutaneous fat - this is the fat that you find around most of your body and sits just under your skin and on top of your muscles. In the belly for example, this will be the layer of fat that covers up your abs when you’re trying to shred at the gym. A little subcutaneous fat is not unhealthy and, believe it or not, is actually beneficial for the body. Fat actually protects the body, so people with extremely low body fat percentages will lower their body's defence system against certain diseases, particularly heart problems, and run the risk of being vitamin deficient from fat soluble vitamins as well as having very low energy.
Visceral fat - this is a different story. This is the fat that collects within the abdomen and builds up around your organs. Visceral fat is extremely bad for you and can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes and organ failure. Eating processed foods, lots of sugar, and saturated fats will all contribute to the storage of visceral fat so it’s important to be aware of what you’re eating. On top of this, lack of exercise will mean that you create a calorie surplus in your body, and excess calories will lead to fat storage over time, and the body loves to store fat in the belly amongst other places. Genetics will also play a part and some people are more susceptible to visceral fat than others.
So the takeaway from this is that it’s ok and actually beneficial to have a little fat on the body, so it’s not fundamental that we’re all out running and doing HIIT workouts and shredding down to 6% body fat. However, if we start to pile on the dreaded mid-section fat, it’s probably a good idea to start changing your habits a little. In the modern world we are highly aware of all aspects of health and fitness, and in particular the extreme benefits of exercise (both cardiovascular and resistance) and the dangers of living a sedentary lifestyle paired with a poor diet, so there isn’t really much of an excuse to be ultra out of shape.
The suggestion is that we should all be doing some regular exercise, even if that just means going for a brisk walk a few times a week or working out with some resistance bands at home if you can’t afford a gym membership or don’t have the time to go. Try to cut down on some of the unhealthier foods and drinks and be more sensible with your diet - you don’t have to cut everything out completely, just be aware.
So is it OK to have a Dad Bod?
In a word, yes, it’s ok to have a Dad Bod, as long as isn’t at an unhealthy level where it’s affecting your body negatively. There have been multiple surveys done in recent years where many women in particular were asked about their preferred body type on a man, and they quite often chose a Dad Bod over a ripped, muscular physique. The two main reasons that were cited were that a man with a Dad Bod tended to appear more cuddly and also far less vain.
The problem with a gym bod is that it often takes a lot of effort and dedication in its upkeep, so vanity can creep in and take over. A body full of muscles might also be less “cuddly” than a bit of jiggle as they tend to be a lot firmer. That’s not to say that people who have a ripped gym bod aren’t good looking or they shouldn’t deserve a tip of the hat for their efforts, but it’s not necessarily the only physical standard that everyone is being held to.
What about for the bald man?
One of the tips we give at Bald World is that it’s important to try as much as possible to stay in reasonable shape if you can. For bald men this isn’t only about health but also about your image. This doesn’t mean you need to be bodybuilder huge, it just means that someone who takes care of themselves is far more attractive than a slob. Having a bit of shape on your body and a little lower fat content will compliment your shaved head look, so it’s a good idea to hit the gym every now and then, go for a walk or a jog, and cut down on some of the unhealthiest of foods.
Being in good shape will not only make you feel healthier, but you will feel more confident and, as bald men, confidence is something we want to project as it goes hand in hand with the look. Not only will your body look better, but your clothes will fit better, and that is going to help level up your style game as well, which is something that we also encourage at Bald World. This isn't taking a jab at Vin Diesel at all, there's nothing wrong with his Dad Bod here - but most of us aren't Vin Diesel, we aren't Hollywood superstars. So it's a good idea for us to maybe take a little more care of our look if we want to stand out amongst others.
In summary, it is ok to have a bit of a Dad Bod, and many people are physically attracted to it, so it doesn’t make you unattractive in the eyes of every beholder. The advice would be this: don’t go too far. Having a little jiggle is ok, just be conscious of your weight and health overall. Exercise as much as you can in line with your lifestyle, dress appropriately, be confident and kind, and enjoy life.