There is a new paradigm for the male physique. Goodbye, Adonis, with your chiseled granite pecs. Hello, lovable schlub from a Judd Apatow movie. Think Seth Rogen, Jason Segel. Apatow himself for that matter.
Welcome to the doughy world of dad bod, in which men are celebrated by women for letting themselves go. This is a time for men to rejoice, right? We’ve been given license to give up. The same way that normcore liberated men from having to worry about wearing “cool” clothes, dad bod sends the message to guys that they can stop fretting about their fitness and diet because women will still find them attractive. If there was an infomercial for dad bod, the tag line would be, “Get girls without getting off the couch.”
But dad bod is like all other things that seem too good to be true. For starters, it’s shallow. The idea that men should stop worrying about their appearance because it gives women a better sense of what they’ll look once they’re married is stupid. It’s also sexist. There would be a justifiable uproar if men fetishized less-than-toned “mom bods” with cottage cheese thighs. But worst of all, and potentially the most dangerous long term, dad bod is unhealthy.
The phenomenon of “dad bod” started attracting attention last week following an essay written by Clemson student Mackenzie Pearson on The Odyssey. She defined dad bod as “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’”
The Cut followed up by convening a group of female staffers for a heady roundtable conversation where they asked important questions such as “Is dadbod a laxbro after he gives up lacrosse?” and discussed the sexual benefits of dad bod (his gut pushes against your pubic bone in a pleasing way, he has good post-sex snacks). Other explainer-type stories and interviews with dad bod “experts” followed. Predictably, there is now an Instagram account dedicated to college kids with dad bod.
I realize how “cry me a river” (Justin Timberlake voice) this can sound. A male decrying the objectification of other out-of-shape males who don’t even realize they’re being objectified. (Full disclosure: I am a dad and have a physique that might fit the dad bod criteria.) Yes, far worse things happened and continue to happen to women all too regularly. Still, at the risk of sounding like a kindergarten teacher, two wrongs don’t make a right. And since when do we celebrate giving up. Dad bod advocates for an unhealthy lifestyle for what? Better cuddling? Childhood obesity is a real thing and anything that helps promote that, even indirectly, is misguided. You don’t want a kid who is already having trouble making healthy choices to just say, “Screw it, I’m gonna just grow up and have dad bod anyway, why should I eat smarter now?”
We don’t all need to be like Derek in Step Brothers and not touch a carb for more than decade (or lather up your six-pack abs with Kiehl’s). But if you really are eating eight slices of pizza at a time on the regs, that is not good. Even if women are attracted to your physique, they won’t be when you’re dead at 37.
Pizza and beer are wonderful, wonderful things. I love them both. A lot. But when I overindulge, I don’t think to myself, “I did it! I’m a dad bod.” Instead I think, “Well, that was my cheat day/weekend, time to get back on track.” That’s the thing about living a healthy lifestyle. After you do it, you realize that the main benefit isn’t how you look in the mirror. It’s how you feel when you wake up in the morning, the extra energy you have during the day. That’s why you cling to it so dearly.
You may not ever have the washboard stomach with zero percent body fat. But there is a goal out there that you can achieve. And once you reach that goal, you don’t quit. You set a new one.