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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit and Physician Brandon Yew on September 20, 2022

How Does Having A Dad Bod Affect Your Health?

Your dad bod might mean that you're a selfless father, but excessive belly fat and a sedentary lifestyle could put you at risk of heart disease. Here's how to improve your health while still being a great dad.

Man with visceral fat min scaled

The “dad bod” has become the new measure of a good father. It shows that you put yourself last and your family first.

And apparently, the ladies like it, too. A recent survey showed that 60% of Americans are fans of the dad bod.

We don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but you may want to think twice about putting your health on the back burner.

Nothing is wrong with being selfless enough to put your kid’s needs first. However, a dad bad often leads to underlying health issues, such as obesity and diabetes.

Read on to hear from other dads like you who have embraced the dad bod and tips for making your new physique healthier while still being a great father.

What Is A Dad Bod?

Dad bods usually refer to men with larger amounts of belly fat that occurs due to the demands of balancing work and family life.

Often described as a male body that packs on a few pounds in the midsection, the dad bod is most often associated with men in their late twenties through their fifties, coinciding with the age that some men become fathers.

For many men, the dad bod starts showing when life’s responsibilities begin to pick up and there’s less time for keeping up with regular exercise.

“I started noticing that I had a dad bod in my early thirties when my wife pointed out my big tummy, and my pants didn’t fit as well. This was about five or six years after we had our two young sons who are still in primary school,” says Mike, a 38-year-old construction worker.

Health Risks Of A Dad Bod

As a man’s body begins to age and their metabolism slows, things like life’s stressors, excess calories, and a more sedentary lifestyle can all lead to gaining more visceral fat, which is fat that wraps around the vital organs, including the liver and intestines.

Visceral fat tends to make your stomach stick out. It’s what may give you an ‘apple’ shaped body. This type of fat also produces hormones and chemicals that can be toxic.

The larger midsection among men entering their middle life is a sign of excess visceral fat. It is also known as “love handles.”

Unfortunately, excess visceral fat is also associated with higher health risks as these fat cells tend to secrete more harmful and inflammatory proteins and hormones into the bloodstream.

A study published in Obesity Reviews shows evidence that the accumulation of visceral fat can increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers, such as colorectal and pancreatic cancers. 

Although called a dad bod, this body type is not just reserved for fathers. Jay, a managing director of a business development company, is 34 and has no children. He too noticed that he started developing a dad bod in his early thirties.

“I started noticing my body changing a couple of years ago when I turned 32. The fat distribution is different – I have more excess fat around my stomach,” he shares.

Dad Bod, According To TCM

The dad bod, especially the characteristic love handles, is contributed by chronic work stress and unhealthy dietary habits according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

“This causes Spleen Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation, resulting in the formation and accumulation of stagnant fluids, Dampness, and Phlegm in the body. With the addition of adopting a predominantly sedentary lifestyle, these pathogenic factors will tend to build up around the abdomen, giving rise to love handles,” Real Medical Senior Physician Brandon Yew explains.

Tips For Making Your Dad Bod Healthier

Body aesthetics and vanity aside, it is not selfish to focus on improving your health. Doing so ensures that you’ll be a better father.

Among the signs that your dad bod is posing some health risks is a lack of physical stamina and mobility. “I get tired very easily, and I don’t feel as fit as before,” Mike shares.

Jay also complains that he now has less mobility and is starting to develop food sensitivities owing to his less-than-optimal health.

For Dan, he wants to keep up with his daughter. “My wife and I have a young toddler and I want to be able to play with her without getting tired so quickly,” he says.

Here are some tips you can use to upgrade your dad bod:

Eat healthily as a family

Not surprisingly, love handles and a dad bod often have a lot to do with excessive calorie intake. “We eat as a family, and sometimes when my wife and children don’t finish their food, I eat the leftovers too,” Mike admits.

This often leads to the body storing excess energy in the form of fat. You may have a hard time trying to watch what you eat by yourself, so try making it a family affair by eating healthily together. 

Prioritize exercise

Building a healthy diet and exercise program into family time can help improve your physique.

Another habit that has affected nearly all urbanized societies is a lack of physical activity. Build in more movement and exercise into your regular routine with your family.

“My wife and I both have very demanding jobs that involve a lot of computer use, so often we forget to go outside and get some sun. Now that we’re both starting to see these changes in our bodies, we make a more conscious effort to be more active. We even set up a gym at home where we can lift weights,” Dan says.

Improving diet and exercise goes hand in hand with stress management. “Fortunately, I’ve always loved being sporty because it’s a stress reliever for me. Every other weekend, as a family we go to the park and do different activities together. In addition to it being exercise time, it’s also great family time,” Mike happily recalls.

TCM remedies

Physician Yew shares that many TCM modalities, such as acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion, gua sha (scraping) and tuina (Chinese manual therapy), and herbal medicine can support a sluggish dad bod in achieving better shape and health.

These are the acupressure points that you can work on that can help with love handles: 

  • He Gu (LI4) 
  • Zu San Li (ST36) 
  • Yin Ling Quan (SP9) 
  • Feng Long (ST40) 
  • Tai Chong (LR3) 
  • Zhong Wan (RN12) 
  • Tian Shu (ST25) 
  • Da Deng (SP15) 
  • Jing Men (GB25) 
  • Dai Mai (GB26)

Apply pressure to these points using your fingers or a blunt object until tenderness is felt and massage them in a circular motion, 20 times each. Repeat for at least three minutes per point. 

However, it is recommended to check with a TCM professional regarding the proper acupressure technique to perform and the suitability of these points based on your unique body constitution.

This is to avoid unwanted side effects and potential injuries. In addition, do take note that the effects of acupressure are limited. Getting acupuncture treatment instead will derive much better outcomes.

Work With A TCM Physician To Improve Your Dad Bod

You can work with a licensed TCM practitioner to try herbal formulas that help strengthen Spleen Qi and dispel Dampness and Phlegm, such as Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi and Xing Sha Ping Wei San. Single-herb formulations like Cordyceps sinensis mycelia are great for energy and metabolism.

Remember, the phenomenon of the beloved dad bod may be popular, but there are health risks associated with excess abdominal fat or love handles. Fortunately, having a healthy version of the dad bod is completely attainable by living an active lifestyle and consuming a well-balanced diet.

References

  1. StudyFinds.org. 2022. Summer of love handles! 6 in 10 Americans are more attracted to men with a dad bod!  
  2. Urology of Virginia. 16 Reasons You Can’t Get Rid of Your Love Handles. 
  3. National Academy of Sports Medicine. No Love for Those Love Handles: Dispelling Myths About Body Fat Reduction.  
  4. Cleveland Clinic. 2019. Ditch the Dreaded ‘Dad Bod’.  
  5. Pacific College of Health and Science. 2019. Acupuncture Can Help with Weight Loss. 
  6. International Journal of Microbiology. 2015. Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life 
  7. Health Direct, Department of Health, Australian Government. 2021. How to reduce visceral body fat (hidden fat) 
  8. Obesity Reviews. 2020. Visceral obesity and incident cancer and cardiovascular disease: An integrative review of the epidemiological evidence 
  9. HealthDirect. How to reduce visceral body fat (hidden fat)

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