PARENTING IS A FULL-CONTACT SPORT, START TRAINING NOW
Fellow Dad-Bods and those married to Dad-Bods: We are at war. We’re at war with the concept that dads are expected to be tubby, moronic, unengaged sacks of nacho cheese, deposited into reclining chairs in front of televisions. In “Dad-Bod,” I share my personal experiences battling the bulge and reclaiming the idea of the Dad-Bod as a source of strength and pride as opposed to an excuse for flabby failure. Together, we’ll reforge the concept of the Dad-Bod into a powerful, muscled, strong and dependable vessel from which we will rightfully earn all our “Father Of The Year” coffee mugs. In this edition, I’m going to share my passion for weight lifting and how it’s made me a better husband and father.
I never wanted my kid to grow up with the classic “suburban fat dad.” However, when my wife was pregnant, she was eating for two and I was eating for three. I was already obese before my wife got “baby tubs” and we used to compare belly size during pregnancy (cue the studio audience laughter). I put on more weight during and after the pregnancy and the only thing I gave birth to was a series of unwanted food babies. People came to visit and brought chocolate croissants, pizza, a party tray of turkey wraps that I knew wouldn’t last one day, pies, champagne (my wife is breastfeeding, I should probably get this bottle out of her way). They might as well have just hooked up an iv of macaroni and cheese to my arm. I wasn’t sleeping, because no new parent does, and I was eating nothing but sugar and carbs so I was constantly weak, tired and moody. I barely made it out of that stretch. As soon as my kid started actually sleeping through the night, I had enough energy and brain bandwidth to look at how awful my body had become. We rejoined our gym, which had a daycare area, and I started lifting.
Lifting weights had an immediate impact on my life as a dad. Everything you do as a parent is at least a little bit of a pain in the ass. Bending over to change a diaper, carrying your kid everywhere, hauling the stroller out of the trunk, trying to get up the stairs with a kid in one hand, and every single reusable grocery bag in the other is truly exhausting. It feels like I’ve been cast as the lead in “Mr. Mom” and a Spartan from “300.”
When I started lifting, my day-to-day dad drudgery became much easier to deal with. My daughter is a toddler now and weighs 35 lbs. We go to museums and the zoo all the time. In order for her to see, I have to carry her pretty much the entire time. She loves it and loves being at face level with her dad when she asks about animals or rocket ships or what that homeless dude is yelling about. I feel closer to her and we can talk about what we’re seeing and have a real back and forth. If I wasn’t in the gym five days a week, there’s no way I’d be able to pull that off and stay engaged. I’d be making classic sitcom fat dad comments about my back and taking breaks to slump down on a bench with other fat, exhausted dads. I don’t have to get a broom to snag a toy from under the couch like it’s some kind of awful crane prize machine at an arcade. I can just lift the couch up with one hand and grab it. Also, when I do this, my daughter says, “Whoa.” which makes me feel awesome.
This is what I wanted. I wanted to be a strong dad. I wanted to be the kind of dad that can throw my daughter up in the air and catch her, to carry her around so she can point things out to me and to be someone she feels safe and protected around. There’s a weird, lizard brain instinct that’s being rewarded by the fact that I’m getting visibly stronger and feel as if I’m an adequate family “protector”. Some of this may simply be vanity and that’s ok with me because it keeps me working out and getting in shape. The rest of it makes me a legitimately better father. It’s my firm belief that you can’t truly support another person until you’re the strongest version of yourself.
MY WIFE IS INTO IT
Let’s be frank for a second, people. Sometimes, and I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but sometimes, after ten years of leaving the door open while doing my business, getting less than four hours of sleep a night because you have to keep getting up to change doodie diapers, and popping each other’s zits, sometimes, just sometimes, sexual attraction between couples can wane. A lot of my married friends complain about this, sometimes even before they have had a child. There’s a saying “familiarity breeds contempt.”. Well, that’s about the only thing that breeds in that situation.
For some reason, my wife doesn’t find a grown, chubby man whining for sex attractive. What she does find attractive is my ongoing dedication to my health and fitness. She was proud of me before any of the results were even noticeable. I think it inspires a sense of security knowing that her husband isn’t just a waddling sack of fast food products. Maybe it was that my taking care of my health meant I would be around for my family longer. Whatever the case, she…well…she let me know she approves, if you catch my drift (I think you do).
Now that my body recomposition is noticeable it’s even better. She comments on how strong my arms look and nuzzles up to my chest talking about how buff my pecs look. I’m super into it. I’m not saying that relationships should be built on appearances alone but it feels good to have my wife consider me genuinely attractive. I’m still tubby too, so it’s gonna be off the chain in a few months. Also, I should note, that I’m doing this for myself. I want to be healthier, stronger and more attractive for myself. I’m not trying to change my wife. I’m changing myself and in the process, a very nice side effect is that my wife wants a piece of this now more than ever. That’s amore.
GAINS IN THE BRAINS
Another side effect of lifting weights that I hadn’t anticipated was how much my mood would improve. There was a study at Harvard that showed strength training and exercise has a more significant effect on reducing depression than anti-depressants. I, like a surprising number of people who write fart jokes for a living, have struggled with depression my entire life. I can tell you that, personally, I’ve never felt better than I do now. Working out makes me feel great. I’m happy and respond to stressful situations with poise and confidence rather than whines a nacho burps. Perhaps the outer strength I’m creating is also forging a stronger person on the inside. Maybe, the hormones that are released during and after workouts help snuff out my depression. Whatever the reason, I can honestly say that I feel amazing. That’s important to me as a dad because I don’t want to be “sad dad”. I want my daughter to have fond memories and I can help with that as an energetic, strong, confident and happy father.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that lifting weights is changing my life. It’s the best decision I’ve made to improve my life as a father and husband. It’s made me physically stronger, more attractive to my wife and myself and has vastly improved my mental health. They say being a parent is the toughest job on the planet. Maybe it’s time we trained our bodies for that challenge. I’m not done by a longshot but I’m constantly getting stronger, leaner and more confident. I’ve got a ways to go but I’m relishing the path ahead and I want you to know that this is something you can do too. Dad-Bods unite!