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If you’re wondering if you have a dad bod, then you probably have a dad bod. Are you currently poking yourself in the gut or mentally sizing up the fat under your triceps? Chances are, you have a dad bod. (This chart from The Washington Post will tell you if your weight is in the classic dad bod range.)
We don’t say this to body shame you. A lot of men and women have gained weight over the past year, and a lot of people actually think your dad bod is sexy. And in case you’re wondering, no, you don’t need to have children in order to have a dad bod.
The stereotypical dad bod involves a belly, some extra fat around your waist or arms, and maybe even the beginning of some man boobs. It’s a way of saying that a guy is “skinny fat”, according to Michael Matthews, celebrity fitness trainer, founder of Legion Athletics, and author of Bigger Leaner Stronger. (If you want to see a photo transformation from fit dad bod to “wow” bod, check out Matthews’ bio page.)
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Men with dad bods often lack muscle definition and muscle mass, but they’re not particularly overweight. It’s often poor posture, lack of upper body strength, and being heavy in the middle, says Liz Josefsberg, CPT, weight loss expert and author of Target 100: The World’s Simplest Weight Loss Program In 6 Easy Steps. “When you see someone gaining weight around the middle, the subcutaneous fat you can pinch is one thing — it’s unattractive and we often don’t like the way it looks, but the visceral fat around the organs is the dangerous belly fat that’s been linked to cardiovascular issues and type 2 diabetes. That’s why it’s important to do something about your dad bod — even if your partner is into it.”
Josefsberg is right, as new evidence shows. This April the American Heart Association published a new Scientific Statement in the Circulation journal that said people with excess belly fat face “an increased risk of heart disease even if their body mass index (BMI) measurement is within a healthy weight range.”
If your belly first appeared within the past year, you’re in good company. Approximately two-thirds of Americans say they experienced ‘undesired weight changes’ since the pandemic began, according to a survey published by the American Psychological Association. Of the 42 percent who said they gained more weight than they intended, the average weight gain was somewhere between 15 and 29 pounds. That’s a lot of extra dad bod to love!
But what if you aren’t happy with your dad bod? Some fitness experts don’t even like the name. “I don’t love this term. There’s enough going on with body image; we certainly don’t need this classification,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, and author of Taco! Taco! Taco! While being a parent involves a lot of juggling to help and be with your child, it’s not an excuse to stop taking care of yourself, says Haas. “Life is all about prioritizing, especially when you become a parent.”
The good news is you can do something about COVID-related weight gain. Whether you’ve embraced your dad bod or wish the term had never been invented, there are ways to get your dad bod into shape. We asked some experts how to tone up and lose COVID weight.
How To Kick-Start Weight Loss
Start with baby steps, advises Josefsberg. “Think about reducing your consumption of alcohol, your consumption of sugar and carbohydrates,” she says. “You’ll notice a drop in weight fairly quickly.” Look at your diet and how you can scale back, she advises. Are drinking alcohol six days a week? Drop down to three. If you’re not working out at all, start with two or three days a week.
First, the goal should be about getting “healthy!”, and diet alone can’t do that, says Haas. “I would emphasize the importance of both nutrition and physical exercise for success. In terms of foods, it’s important to look at what and how much you eat. Move towards foods that are more plant-based and choosing whole foods more often. Think about the Mediterranean diet, lots of plants, fish and healthy fats.”
The key to toning up your dad bod? Putting muscle back on and bringing body fat down, says Matthews. “I train everyday people who have maybe three to five hours a week to get into shape.” It’s possible to shed significant body fat and put on about 20 pounds of lean muscle mass within a year without dedicating tons of hours — or money! — to exercise, says Matthews. When it comes to jumpstarting your fitness routine and doing resistance training, you don’t need a ton of fitness equipment. “You can build an essentials home gym for less than $1,000,” says Matthews. “If you’re willing to look for deals and be creative, for even less money — and you don’t need much space to do it, either.”
“I think the ordering in and takeout consumption has gotten out of control during COVID,” Josefsberg says. Look at where you can make healthier decisions when ordering takeout or delivery as one way to kick-start weight loss. “There are plenty of healthy things you can get from most places.” She suggests taking the time before you’re hungry to designate two or three items on a particular menu that are healthy and compatible with your new diet. Highlight those choices for the next time you order in from that restaurant. Then, order double of that healthy dish — or simply the protein — so you have lunch the next day and don’t have to make another food decision, Josefsberg suggests. This will prevent you from making poor food choices when you’re hungry, tired, and stressed around mealtime.
Ready to change your physique over the next few months? Then keep reading for more expert advice, practical tips and useful fitness equipment and apps.
Tips & Tools: How To Get Rid of Dad Bod
According to our experts, you can build out a complete home gym for well under $1,000. If you’re mostly interested in bodyweight exercises, then you can do it for under $100. All you need is a yoga mat, a weighted jump rope and some resistance bands. If you do have the budget to invest in home gym essentials, there are plenty of treadmills, exercise bikes and smart fitness mirrors to choose from.
However, making a lasting commitment to changing your fitness routine and diet is more important than how much you spend or the equipment you buy. Below, you’ll find some of our favorite fitness products for shaping up your dad bod for summer.
1. Get Plenty of Cardio
“I recommend doing some cardiovascular training for one to two hours a week to complement your strength training routine,” suggests Matthews. If you have a home office that will fit cardio equipment, consider a top-rated treadmill like this model from NordicTrack. It features a 10-inch Smart HD Touchscreen and you can stream live workouts hosted by their iFit trainers, so it’s like having a personal trainer working out with you. If you don’t have the space for a treadmill, start a 30-minute walking routine daily and add some weights to a backpack (aka ‘rucking’), or add a weighted vest or ankle weights to increase the difficulty, suggests Matthews.
2. Use a Fitness Tracker
If you’re someone who needs to be told to get up and move around, a fitness-focused smartwatch that has a ‘reminders to move’ option like the Fitbit Versa 3 will help you get up from your desk and get some steps in. “I love using an activity tracker to keeping track of exercise and steps and getting that virtual high-five when I reach a goal,” says Haas. The Versa has a built-in GPS, plays music, helps you learn about your sleeping patterns, a six-day battery life, and workouts to follow if you sign up for Fitbit premium.
“If you haven’t been exercising for a long time, I recommend people take it slow as muscle atrophy is so real right now and I’ve seen people get hurt,” says Josefsberg. “You don’t want to get too sore from doing too much and lose motivation to keep working out.”
3. Start Lifting Weights (But Start Small)
In order to get rid of dad bod, you’ll need to replace some fat with muscle, and a simple set of weights is an easy way to get started. If you want something a little more sophisticated, a set of adjustable dumbbells is a great option. With the Bowflex SlectTech Home Gym Series, each dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds in 2.5-pound increments up to the first 25 pounds. Not only are they space-saving, but they’re economical, too since other members of your home can use the weights and tailor them for their workout.
“If you can get your hands on some modular dumbbells like the Bowflex ones, those are great to have,” says Matthews. “They give you all kinds of possibilities for workouts and you can train whatever muscle group you want effectively if you have some dumbbells that are at least moderately heavy.”
“We love having stackable weights because they don’t take up a lot of room,” says Josefsberg, whose husband is also a personal trainer. Check out the best weight sets of 2021.
If dumbbells aren’t your speed (or if Bowflex’s adjustable SelectTech system looks too complicated, then we recommend investing in kettlebells instead. The good thing about adding a kettlebell to your home fitness routine is that it doesn’t take up much space but it definitely adds a challenging element to your workout routine. They can improve strength and balance while helping you get in some aerobic training, too. Learn proper kettlebell swing technique and exercise moves at the American Council on Exercise’s site.
If you’re just starting out with kettlebells, Matthews suggests getting a 25 to 35-pound kettlebell. We like the Yes4All brand’s easy-grip handle and double-vinyl coated finish so it’s built to last. Since the pandemic started, kettlebells have been hard to find, as they frequently go in and out of stock. The Yes4All vinyl-coated kettlebells are particularly popular, so if you find them for sale, don’t wait too long to place an order for your home gym.
4. Don’t Just Count Calories. Weigh Your Food, Too.
If you work outside the home, you are only around food about 13 hours a day, and you’re sleeping for a lot of that time. Since the quarantine started and many of us are working from home, we’re actually around food most of the day, and it’s often within arm’s reach, says Josefsberg. Whether you’re snacking on an ounce of trail mix or trying to determine what 4 to 6 ounces of chicken, meat or fish truly looks like, a food scale will be an ally when it comes to weight loss. You’ll probably quickly find out that you were overeating a lot of foods and maybe not eating the high enough amounts of others.
“When you want to dramatically improve your body composition, like you do in the case of the dad bod, then a high-protein diet beats a low-protein diet in every way,” says Matthews. What is a high protein diet? It’s between 0.8 and 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. That would be 168 to 210 grams of protein for a 210-pound guy. We like that the GreaterGoods food scale’s four sensors are accurate within 1 gram or 0.1 ounces
5. Keep Track of Your Weight and Body Fat
When trying to get rid of a dad bod, you need to know whether you’re making progress. Get a body fat composition scale and stand on it to find out what you weigh. This should give you a baseline for your new fitness journey. “I think people are going to be shocked after a year in quarantine,” she says. “I like the RENPHO scale that syncs with an app, is easy to understand and it tells you your subcutaneous fat, visceral fat, lean muscle mass, and bone mass. It’s effective for weight loss as well as motivation because it shows you information like losing a percentage of body fat even when you didn’t lose weight.”
Getting your body into a leaner fitter shape is a matter of body composition, says Matthews. “Bodyweight isn’t nearly as important, as far as health goes, as body composition meaning what that weight is comprised of, and particularly muscle weight versus fat weight.” Both men and women might be surprised that their weight only changes by 5 or 10 pounds when they start a healthy diet and fitness routine, but by the end of their transformation, they look completely different if they lost fat and gained muscle mass, he says.
6. Try Bodyweight Exercises
Bodyweight exercises are some of the best ways to get in shape, especially when you’re working on your abs and upper body. At the most basic, this could involve regular reps of pushups or crunches. However, you can also invest in fitness equipment like pull-up bars. A versatile bar like Iron Gym’s model allows you to do pull-ups and chin-ups while it’s hanging from the door, as well as push-ups and dips when you have it on the floor. It’s easy to install and should fit most doorways.
Bodyweight exercises are a great place for beginners to start doing at home, says Matthews. “Once you’re doing three sets of 20 reps of all of the most difficult bodyweight exercises you can find, then add a resistance element, like bands, weights and other fitness tools.”
7. Hydrate Properly
Chances are that you could probably stand to drink more water, especially once you start a healthy new food and fitness routine. Staying hydrated helps with bloat that’s adding to your dad gut and is super important for replenishing fluids lost during your workout. We like the Hidrate Spark 3 Smart Water Bottle because it syncs with their free hydration tracker app and the bottle glows when you need to drink more water. The flip-top also makes it super easy to drink one-handed while doing a bunch of other dad-related activities with the other hand.
Fitness and Food Apps To Help Get Rid of Dad Bod in 2021
Following a program or certified fitness professional through videos and audio cues is going to help you reach your goals faster and get ideas on exercises you can safely do from the comfort of home. Josefsberg recommends Beachbody, Peloton, Couch to 5K, or finds that her clients like Tom Brady’s fitness app. “ I think a lot of people don’t realize that the Peloton app has bodyweight workouts and resistance workouts that don’t require equipment,” Josefsberg says. While we’re big fans of the Peloton spin bike, you don’t actually need any expensive Peloton gear to use the app. That’s one of the many reasons we selected it as the ‘best overall’ option on our list of top fitness apps for 2021. The app costs $13 a month but Peloton offers a 30-day free trial.
Matthews has a free fitness app, Stacked, to help users create and track workouts, and he recommends MyFitnessPal to clients for tracking calories and macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat). This app makes it easy to keep track of your calories whether you’re making healthy smoothies at home or dining out at your favorite restaurants. You can even scan QR codes to automatically add snacks and other food and beverages to your daily calorie count.
Go Easy on Yourself
Finally, we have one last piece of advice, and it might seem counterintuitive: go easy on yourself!
We know what you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t I push myself if I’m trying to lose weight?” And the answer is yes, absolutely. Let us explain.
When you’re working out, you should absolutely go hard. Push yourself to finish that last rep, get your heart racing and set new personal records at the gym. Likewise, when you’re standing in front of an open refrigerator wondering what to eat, remind yourself to reach for the healthy option instead of processed and fatty foods.
However, when you’re standing in front of a mirror, don’t be too hard on yourself. There’s nothing wrong with having a dad bod so long as you’re happy with the way you look, and it’s normal for your body to change as you age. Learn to appreciate your body even as you’re whipping it into shape, and you’ll be happier (and healthier!) for it. And, remember, dad bod really is sexy.