2015 was the year of the “dad bod”. For anyone unfamiliar with the term a “dad bod” describes the physique of a man that may or may not work out on occasion but has a certain softness around the middle and looks as though they are pretty blasé about eating a healthy diet and staying fit. It became especially popular this year after a college student, Mackenzie Pearson, wrote an article that described why women love this particular body type. The problem with the proliferation of “dad bod” is that it doesn’t address the issue of “mom bod”. Since the beginning of time women have been experiencing pregnancy and giving birth to babies. This process has left them with many physical changes to their bodies including stretch marks, loose stomach skin, breast changes of all sorts, torn perineums, weight gain, and more. None of these things get touted as comfortable or beautiful or are celebrated in our cultural media in the way that the “dad bod” is.
Taking a look into Pearson’s article she describes the reasons that women love dad bod. She lists things such as “it doesn’t intimidate us”, “we like to be the pretty ones”, and “we know what we’re getting”. All of these reasons for why this physique is pleasing to women are based on insecurities held by women. It implies that as women we can feel good about our bodies so long as we’re with someone who looks worse than we do. It’s unfortunate that in 2015 our society is celebrating a male physique that is a result of laziness and careless eating habits while women, who actually physically have the babies, are still subjected to questions such as “when are you going to lose the baby weight?” when their baby is born. While fitness is important at all stages of life women should not be faced with so much pressure to lose weight and get rid of all evidence that they were once pregnant so soon after being pregnant.
If you google image search “celebrity dad bod” you see an abundance of pictures of high profile male actors letting it all hang out. Search “celebrity mom bod” and what do you get? Images of celebrities who are moms but still appear to have the media’s idealized version of the female body. Where are the stretch marks? Where are the bellies with loose skin that no matter how much you diet and exercise will just never be flat and tight again? I’m convinced that no one knows what the female body looks like after having a child until you’ve actually had a child. Of course there are campaigns on popular social media sites where women post pictures of the reality of pregnancy and childbirth but these pictures often receive a backlash of comments stating how gross and ugly they look. Just take a look at the Sherwood Park mother who made a Facebook post that was talked about in national news after she was insulted for wearing a bikini while visiting Alberta Beach last summer. The post was liked over 14000 times and share almost 2000 times and while most of the comments were supportive there were comments implying that she needs to get surgery to fix herself. That idea right there might be the biggest problem with “dad bod” versus “mom bod”. This juxtaposition of men being allowed and encouraged to relax on the fitness and healthy eating front when kids come along while women are inundated with strategies on how to “fix” the so-called damage that pregnancy and childbirth has caused their body. Women are told to diet and get back to exercising to lose their baby weight while their male counterparts are putting on the pounds.
As a fitness trainer I believe in and encourage regular physical activity, structured exercise and healthy eating and in a society where as much as 20% of women self-report experiencing postpartum depression the approach to health and fitness after baby needs to be done with some caution. What our society should focus on is encouraging women to regain functionality and strength after baby. Why should we care if a woman has lost her baby weight if to do so she ends up being stressed out and suffering depression because she is struggling to find time and energy to do the exercise and when she does her body just won’t go back to the way it was before. More fitness programs should encourage women simply to get out of the house and take some personal time. It should be done slowly and carefully because pregnancy and childbirth is incredibly taxing on the body. Claire Lundberg talks about a program in France in her online article for Slate called “The French Government Wants To Tone My Vagina” that focuses on retraining the pelvic floor muscles to reduce the incidences of incontinence and help the body recover so that subsequent pregnancies and childbirth won’t be so difficult on the body. While I can’t agree with Lundberg’s justification of the program in that she states it helps you repair that area of your body so that your husband won’t go out and cheat on you, the program itself addresses an area of fitness that our western culture does not. Just as you would rehabilitate a sports injury, the pelvic floor after childbirth needs to be strengthened again before you can really get back into a fitness program. Last time I checked the pelvic floor muscles of the men sporting the “dad bod” were unaffected by the arrival of baby.
In a perfect world bodies of all shapes and sizes would be accepted as simply bodies – a vessel for us humans to do human things. We could talk about our attractive “Human Bods” are. Unfortunately for now, our culture is one that still supports double standards for male physique versus female physique. Hopefully more and more women will take a stand to show off what their bodies look like in all stages of life and maybe even some celebrity mom out there will be brave enough to make looking like a mom be a normal and beautiful thing.
By: Tracy Blattler