Featured story August 7, 2015
How to keep that 'dad bod' in good health
Soft, doughy and exceedingly huggable, “dad bods” are not just an invented trend. A new Northwestern Medicine study supports the claim that men put on weight after fatherhood.
The typical 6-foot-tall man who lives with his child gained an average of about 4.4 pounds after becoming a first-time dad; the 6-foot-tall dad who does not live with his child gained about 3.3 pounds, the study reports. That’s a 2.6 percent rise in body mass index for resident dads and a 2 percent rise in body mass for non-resident dads after controlling for other variables.
By contrast, the average 6-foot-tall man in this group who was not a father actually lost 1.4 pounds over the same time period.
New fathers’ weight gain may be due to changes in lifestyle and eating habits, said Kolby Boyle, trainer at David Barton Gym in Chicago.
“It’s often an issue of time. New dads don’t have a lot of it,” said Boyle, who recently became a father himself.
It’s also an opportunity “to look at the fat and try and make something positive. As a man gets older, he gains confidence. There’s more of a focus on family. He’s not so vain. There has to be a medium. You don’t have to aim for 5 percent body fat, but you want to be healthy and there is a range of healthy,” Boyle said.
Plenty of people appreciate the dad bod shape that shows a man likes to work out but also enjoys pizza and beer on the weekends. For whatever reasons, “recent studies have suggested that females do find the dad bod preferable, in some circumstances, to the bodybuilding body that is desired typically,” said PJ Celaya, assistant training department head at LifeTime Athletic Old Orchard, a fitness club in the Chicago area.
“Some fathers can feel confident in that they don’t have to have that six-pack, chiseled features and bulging pecs, while maintaining a lifestyle that allows them to take care of themselves, their families and their work,” Celaya said. “Regardless, exercise should be a component to be implemented in their life to prevent excessive weight gain, and all the health risks associated with it. By taking care of themselves, they’ll be more capable of taking care of others.”
Trying to keep your dad bod under control? Check out this advice from the experts:
• “Make your kids’ activities your activities,” Boyle said. If you’re taking them to swim lessons, jump in and do some laps. Taking baby for a walk? Do some lunges, pushups or squats at the intersections.“Find something that works for you and avoid things that don’t,” said Celaya, who disagrees with the “one size fits all” mentality popular in the fitness industry. “I’m a big believer in pushing weight, using the squat, deadlift, bench press, Olympic lifts and free weights; however, these complex movements typically require the use of a coach or trainer to ensure the movements are done properly.”
• Add resistance training to your workout, Boyle said. It helps maintain weight loss, protects bones and muscle mass, makes you stronger and fitter, and helps develop better balance and coordination. “You want to be strong enough to lift and carry your 4- or 5-year-old without having lower-back pain,” Boyle said. “Strength training is great for developing muscle, but not for losing fat,” Celaya said. “If fat loss is essential to your exercise plan, diet and cardio is the route that is essential. However, although diet and cardio can get you to lose the weight, without resistance training, the weight is more prone to come back on.”
• It can be tough to fit in a workout and the time it takes getting back and forth to the gym, so squeeze in exercise when you can, Boyle said. Get some equipment you can use at home such as a jump rope and mat, and give yourself little challenges when you have a few minutes of extra time. If possible, join a gym that offers daycare, Boyle said.