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Rants & Raves Men, Eating and the Dad Bod

Dad Bods are a hot topic of conversation from social media to Hollywood. Why is it that our society celebrates this example of male mediocrity, while women still feel the need to strive for unrealistic images of perfection?

What is a Dad Bod?

In case you’ve been living under a rock, UrbanDictionary.com defines ‘Dad Bod’ as 1) a male body type that is best described as “softly round.” It’s built upon the theory that once a man has found a mate and fathered a child, he doesn’t need to worry about maintaining a sculpted physique. 2) Having a “dad bod” is a nice balance between working out and keeping a beer gut.

However, Dad Bods aren’t just for men who have children! The term is used for a large population of men from the boy-next-door to celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio. Heck, my brother-in-law has been told that he has a Dad Bod (and no, he doesn’t have children yet either).

Let’s be honest, the Dad Bod has been around forever, but why is it now socially acceptable and maybe, even…(gasp!)…sexy?? The phenomenon is certainly a culture shift. Hollywood is usually full of lean, fit actors with six packs. Are they about to be replaced by slightly chubby blokes with six packs…of beer!?

The Rise of the Dad Bod

In addition to increased alcohol consumption, our society’s eating habits have definitely changed. Portion sizes have doubled, even tripled in some cases and everyone considers themselves a foodie. Life is more hectic and jobs are more hectic. There are more pre-packaged foods and drive-thru windows than ever before.

Time constraints of the daily grind also compromise time at the gym. In order to fit it all in, exercise has become more of a social activity than a health concern. All over the world men and women are joining Baseball and Softball Beer Leagues and signing up for the latest craze, Beer Yoga! While these activities may not get you rock-hard abs, the social connections built through team activities are hugely beneficial to our health, especially we get older.

Perhaps a greater regard for family time is also part of this shift. It’s quite evident that men are playing a stronger role in child rearing. Not to say that there weren’t men who did so ‘back in the day’, but it’s much more commonplace now for men to be getting up in the middle of the night to change nappies, running their children to practice, sharing the household duties and even being stay-at-home Dads.

Sexy is no longer necesarily the handsome, distinguished James Bond-type (ok, ok they’re still fun to look at) but also your everyday Dad contributing to everyday things (not to mention telling Dad jokes). I’ll be the first to admit that I find my husband even more attractive when he’s doing the dishes!

Double Standards

There is still enormous pressure on women and men to look a certain way. It shapes the way we feel about our appearance and the things we do to ‘improve’ it – often with harmful consequences like low self-esteem, anxiety or even eating disorders.

However if you Google, “Average size of men” your search results focus on height. If you Google, “Average size of women” your search results focus on weight. Clearly, our society’s standards are distorted.

For example, most men will watch movies with cut, male celebrities, but do they really ever think to themselves, “I need to be more like him?”. Doubtful! However, when they watch leading ladies, without an ounce of fat on them, do they think, “My partner needs to be more like her?”…sometimes.

Sure, women enjoy watching muscular male celebrities, but when it comes their partner, women want security and someone who makes them laugh (see ‘Dad Bod’). Unless she herself is ripped, that little extra squish in her partner’s tummy area reassures her that the little extra squish in her tummy area is OK. Whereas, all too often women see the media’s portrayal of female beauty as a benchmark, and completely, undeniably, obsess over it.

The average UK dress size is now a 16. Celebrities like Meghan Trainor, Adele, Rebel Wilson, Kelly Clarkson and Amy Schumer are paving the way on stage and the big screen. Does this mean that the media will start criticising women less for their curves?

What About the Mum Bod?

We may finally be (slowly) leaning towards a more level playing field. I, for one, think that we should be celebrating the Mum Bod! Seriously, the tabloids and photoshop make us Mums feel like we should bounce right back after giving birth.

It’s cool for a man to gain a few pounds because he’s more concerned with playing an active role in his children’s lives than working out 24/7. So why is it not socially acceptable for women’s hips to widen and their breasts to sag a bit because they’ve carried and fed their children?!

The Next Generation of Bods

All snarkiness aside, what does this mean for our children?

Any parent would agree that healthy and happy is their number one concern for their children’s futures. Obesity is a problem in our society, but so are eating disorders, bullying and skewed body image. Finding balance is key. An increased focus by the media on real, average bodies could be a very positive change.

However, we as a society, also need to be mindful of our standards of ‘average’. We need to teach our children about nutrition, exercise, and learning how to judge what is best for each individual’s body, rather than comparing themselves to the ‘average’. If our entire society is becoming borderline obese, average is not necessarily any more healthy than the underweight celebrities we see on TV.

Is the Dad Bod here to stay? I hope so. Personally, I find it endearing and encouraging. It shows all of us that we don’t have to be perfect – we can just be ourselves.

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