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DADult Life | August 13, 2020

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Fitness fanatic to father: I once questioned the dad bod – I don’t now

Dad bod

You know how each pal in a friendship group usually has a thing? I am was the health nut.

During my single baby-free days, keeping fit was a huge part of my lifestyle.

So huge, I qualified as a gym instructor around seven years ago – although that was largely inspired by my determination not to enter the Metropolitan Police looking like a beanpole, a career path that didn’t come to fruition despite a promising start, but I’ll save the rant for David Cameron’s public services cuts another day.

In my ignorant bliss before fatherhood, the dad bod was a term I’d heard of, but never really understood.

Over the years, some of my general thoughts on people complaining about their fitness and doing nothing about it, were: It’s laziness… how hard is it do get up and train… don’t eat so much shit… Certainly don’t moan about it…

The irony – here I am in the present day, eating shit and moaning about it; drowning myself in snacks from the stash in my desk/bedside drawer.

According to one definition, 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. It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.

Urban Dictionary, meanwhile, describes it in two ways:

(1) “Dad bod” is 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.

Seems legit.

Back in summer 2015 when Jenna and I got together, my fitness zest was supported by the fact that, as a personal trainer herself, she loved fitness even more than me.

A prime example of that was when I lost a game of bowling on our third date. It meant I had to go to her boot camp the following week as punishment. Despite what she says, it was a tactical loss and I’m sticking to it.

But last winter when fatherhood became a destination in my immediate future, coupled with the passing of my granddad, I thought to myself – life is full of the unexpected.

Do I really want to say no to that chocolate-topped Hobnob here or peanut butter-filled doughnut there? I certainly didn’t want to miss out on munching all the mince pies and guzzling mulled wine. Or wake up at 5.30am each day to train – so I didn’t.

It may not sound like a big deal, but for me, rigidly on my low carb, chicken, broccoli and rice combination each day, stuffing myself with sugary goodness was rare.

I was never truly satisfied with my physique. I knew I’d improved from my naturally pencil-thin frame, but I could, and would, be better, I demanded of myself. It was an obsession.

But as the long and frosty evenings rolled in over the pregnancy, I kept Jenna company, bathed in warmth eating my way through snack after snack, because, why not? Life’s short and precious (and delicious), right?

The mornings, the time I would ordinarily train, were equally as dark and full of terror as the night before, so why would I pluck myself away from my missus and unborn child? Back to sleep I went.

Over the years, my training has had inconsistencies caused by various things: work, social events, laziness, injuries. You name it, there’s been an excuse.

And now that excuse is fatherhood.

Except it’s not an excuse. It’s a genuine reason.


“Should I give up chasing the past and let the oh so tasty fats and sugar flow through me?”


Turning 30, becoming a father and packing on the body fat in the space of months has brought about something of a dad-life crisis.

I’ve been so immersed in parenthood and embracing every bit of family life possible, that a piece of me has been buried beneath another and I can’t seem to find the old me as hard as I dig.

And then I face a conundrum. Should I give up chasing the past and let the oh so tasty fats and sugar flow through me? Can I actually be a fitness fanatic as a father? Where the hell can I find some energy from?

The closest I got to my old self was ahead of our first family holiday. I was adamant I wanted to shift some pounds and drop body fat for that, so my diet was cleaned to the extent that Cinderella could have given it a once over, and I hauled myself out of bed at 5.30am most mornings to go get a sweat on. Just like the old days!

Obviously, that routine fell over during the holiday itself as I stuffed myself with paella, pastries (oh god, so many pastries) and cider in the sun, with training largely taking a back seat – unless I was bribed with food.

It was a bit like square one afterwards. And now winter is upon us again, and the mince pies and mulled wine have hit shop shelves once more – and my desk drawer; the pies not the wine… yet.

And now, while I don’t have an unborn child I want to be close to, I have a cuddly little gummy bear that’s developing day in and day out, which makes it even harder to get going.

Related posts:

Fuerteventura 2017: 21 moments of clarity from taking our baby abroad

50 days of fatherhood: 50 fast thoughts from a first-time father

The birth of our daughter – a viewpoint from a first-time dad

Exercise wasn’t just about aspiring to look good, which I did for my benefit, it was something that made me feel good, but now I realise how much of a release from the stress of the daily grind it was too.

I think it’s fair to say, parenthood takes stress up a notch (or several). Whether that’s worrying about wanting to be the best possible dad I can be, worrying about finances, worrying about missing out on being the best dad I can be because I’m trying to secure said finances or dealing with no sleep when our adorable miracle turns into a banshee after dark and refuses to stay in her lovingly constructed cot.

Then there’s juggling free time with family time, and trying not to be an absentee mate (or son/brother/uncle).

But, I’m starting to realise, personal time is really important too. If my head is fried from trying to keep everyone happy, ultimately, I won’t be of use to anyone. Instead, I’ll be a moody mince pie-filled bastard reminiscing over my missing abs, which brings me back to exercise.

Dad bod

Fuerteventura in September 2016, just before finding out about the pregnancy versus August 2017, five weeks from our first family holiday

Of course, exercise releases endorphins, but the ones from chocolate taste better and, man, have I guzzled those endorphins.

But I see that, although fatherhood, parenthood for that matter, means embracing change – which I’ve done wholeheartedly – at the same time, that doesn’t mean some part of me – determined, passionate and, crucially, energetic – has to be locked away in a cage festering away; it should still roam free.

I can’t devote all the time (or energy) to exercise that I once could, and nor would I want to at the expense of being a good dad, but if I can find a regular pattern of activity to keep me ticking over, that will be a step in the right direction. And hopefully, it’ll allow me teach Roma a bit about who her old man was is.

*Sets alarm for 5.30am*

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