Ever since Clemson sophomore Mackenzie Pearson wrote a story for the Clemson Odyssey entitled, “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod,” the topic just won’t go away. She describes it as a cross between a beer gut and working out, resulting in a physique resembling recent incarnations of Jason Segel, Seth Rogen and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Now a TIME.com article, “Dad Bod Is Explained by Science in a New Study,” suggests that research proves males get a little heavier and flabbier when they have kids. The so-called reasons? A lack of time to work out and the prevalence of junk food in the house for the kids. As a father of three daughters, I find this “science” appalling. There’s no logical reason for would-be fathers to gain weight alongside their wives during pregnancy, and then remain in poor shape when the children are born. I plan to maintain my current physique for as long as I can so that I can be active alongside my girls as they grow up and, more importantly, remain an intimidating figure when boys come calling in the future. Sorry Leo, but the Dad Bod doesn’t exactly scream, “Get my daughter home by 10 or else.”
Now, fortunately for you, not too many people I know read your little TIME magazine, or whatever it’s called. But honestly, maintaining a fit body is as simple as setting small goals for yourself, hitting those marks and then setting new ones. In order to do so—and look better than Leo—just follow these five steps…
Simply stated, you can’t out-train a bad diet. So put down the cookie and pick up something of the whole food variety. You know, like a baked potato rather than French fries, or a chicken breast instead of nuggets shaped like dinosaurs.
1. Make exercise a priority—and be efficient with it.
When it comes to exercise, “I don’t have the time” is a common excuse. The truth is, you will never have the time to do anything that you do not really want to do. You have to make time, and you should to be healthy for your children. You are of no use to them out of shape, sick or even dead. People believe they need to workout for hours on end, but that’s not the case at all. A little bit of exercise can make a huge difference. As someone who does CrossFit regularly, I have come to realize that effective workouts can be done in an hour or less, and only three to four times a week. These kinds of workouts can be intense and short and way more effective than haphazard slogging on a treadmill. For more insights, check out 5 CrossFit Moves You Can Use.
2. Eat whole foods.
The study referenced by TIME.com talks about how dads are surrounded by more “kid-friendly, high-calorie foods and snacks.” This may be true, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat them. Simply stated, you can’t out-train a bad diet. So put down the cookie and pick up something of the whole food variety. Whole foods are unprocessed and still in their natural state. You know, like a baked potato rather than French fries, or a chicken breast instead of chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs. Not to get all scientific on you, but whole foods have many benefits for the human body. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. Whole foods will provide you with long-lasting sustainable energy to help you stay more active, too.
3. Prepare your meals in advance.
Preparation is the key to eating nutritious meals regularly, so be proactive and make most of your meals in advance. First, make a list of the foods you will be eating during the week. Focus on whole foods as mentioned above, including lots of vegetables, meats, nuts and fruits. Go food shopping on the weekend, preferably a Saturday, then take the time to prepare your food for the week on Sundays. Cook up enough meats and vegetables to last you the week and put them in the fridge in Ziploc bags. Then each day, throw some of what you prepared into a Tupperware container and bring it to work with you along with a ton of water. Yes, water, not soda (See #4 below). By doing so, you can save money and calories that come with restaurant meals or, worse, fast food, which is pretty much a recipe for Dad Bod.
4. Avoid unnecessary sugars.
Sugar has been dubbed the “silent killer” and with good reason. Studies have linked it to specific types of cancers, particularly ones stemming from a prevalence of belly fat. (Sound familiar, Dad Bod fans?) Sugar can actually make people feel hungrier by cutting off hormones that tell the brain they are full. Consequently, people who consume high amounts of sugar may not know when to stop eating and continue to do so beyond their needs. This causes them to gain weight that tends to accumulate in the Dad Bod region. So for the sake of your health and that of your children, cut back on the amount of boxed cereals, cookies and soda in your house. (Looking at you, ucky harms, er, Lucky Charms.)
5. Allow yourself a cheat meal but not a cheat day.
If you’re following steps one through four, you’ve started to exercise regularly and cleaned up your eating habits. Now it is time to splurge. Everyone needs to live a little, so go ahead and enjoy a cheat meal or two on the weekends. Have some pizza and ice cream with your kids. You can even have a beer or six with your friends, but remember, you are only as good as your next meal. Don’t turn a cheat meal into a cheat day or even worse a cheat weekend. Stick to the plan. Get your workout in in the morning, eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast and lunch, then you can enjoy yourself by having a beer and pizza watching the game at night. Then be sure to get right back on track with your next workout or meal. This requires discipline, but you are an adult with children, and it will be worth it down the road. You’ll still be able to run around with them as they grow older, rather than just yelling at them as your bitter, decaying Dad Bod sinks into a La-Z-Boy. Come on, men, you’re better than that.
Join thousands of men and women who are dressing up for a good cause. Go formal with Made Man and Career Gear on Friday, October 9th to help empower men in need with resources, training and suits they can use to rejoin the workforce. Because for every photo posted to Instagram or Twitter and tagged #FormalFriday, we’ll donate a dollar to Career Gear. Learn more at mademan.com/formal-friday.