Stop using the phrase “Dad Bod”

Stop giving different body types nicknames. Illustration: Mazie Neill · The Sentry

Stop giving different body types nicknames.
Stop giving different body types nicknames. Illustration: Mazie Neill · The Sentry

Oh, the dad bod. What comes to mind when reading these words? In American popular culture, the phrase “dad body,” or shortened to “dad bod,” refers to a body shape common in middle-aged men. Think no more six-pack and inhumanly chiseled features, but rather a soft, semi-muscular to semi-overweight physique.

While this trend of reclaiming the phrase stemmed out of the goal of celebrating this physique, it instead now creates a sense of body shame for the men who are so ascribed. It is no longer a term of lighthearted fun, but one that shames men for living at a healthy weight. 

It needs to stop. 

When thinking of an ideal male body, the typical image is one with and approximately zero percent body fat, over six feet tall, and muscles that only steroids can provide. This body type—the “ideal” body type that society is flooded with—only occurs in 10% of the world’s male population. The other 90% then are told to strive to this (typically) unattainable goal, feeling ashamed for the way that their body naturally looks.

According to Harvard Health, genetics are responsible for up to 70% of a person’s weight. One man may have the ideal body shape because he is predisposed to it, and another may strive unhealthily for and attain it because he has been so conditioned from society. 10 million American men live with eating disorders at some point in their lives according to NEDA. 

So, when a person does not have this rare body type, they are forced into a different category: the dad bod category. This stereotypical physique stems out of the reality that most middle-aged men no longer are able to put the hours and hours into daily workouts and protein shake pounding work to finally look sexy. 

And what’s so bad about that? What’s so bad about living a life not focused on how bodies look?  

Having a not-quite-ideal to not-quite-overweight body does not mean that someone is letting themselves go, or that they need to hop back on the treadmill. It means that they are comfortable enough in their identity and masculinity to show up as they are. 

People need to be good stewards of their bodies, no matter their weight. For most men, a healthy diet and regular exercise won’t lead to a Captain America-like body (ahem, that man was shot full of steroids for that, don’t forget it). Bodies will settle at a weight where diet, exercise, and mostly genetics combine. For most men, that’s somewhere in between the extremes of the spectrum.  

Telling men that it’s a bad thing to prioritize other aspects of their lives over their physiques is supporting eating disorder culture. Stop calling it a dad bod and just call it what it is. 

A body.

This is a selection from the September 02 issue. To view the full issue, visit:

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