I spend an inordinate amount of my life strategizing about how not to be fat. I grew up fat, and through genetics or conditioning or both, it is and always has been my natural state of being. My current size, while not thin, is nevertheless a triumph for me. The result of daily workouts and a near hourly consideration of diet (Anyone else stare at popcorn last night until a tear streamed down their cheek?). I work out like a gay 24-year-old and measure out unsalted almond butter with a tablespoon. It’s an annoying, occasionally prohibitive way to live a life. But I don’t have a choice. Like many other genetically-destroyed men, there are only two options: a full commitment to health, or a Leaving Las Vegas-style death-binge of corn dogs and waffle fries. There is no in-between. I have gained and lost a whole person in my short lifetime.
I see these thin guys at bars and restaurants who drink and eat whatever they want. And I’m friends with these thin guys that talk about how they haven’t worked out in a month. And I think, “Motherfucker, you’re a failure.” If I could take even 40 percent of the energy and anxiety I expend on not being fat and reapportion it to productivity, I’d be the first U.S. President to throw a mid-getting-blown-no-hitter. I mean, fuck those guys. Honestly. And I’m not alone — hence, the phenomenon of the Dad Body.
Here’s how I see it: I think we all kind of have this inherent understanding that some dude with sub seven percent body fat is either a lucky idiot or a problematic obsessive. Either he’s genetically gifted or he has two hours a day to spend at the gym (likely meaning he’s either unsuccessful, anti-social, or both). At some point, as a society, we all just kind of got that and started to rebel against it. This is where the Dad Body concept came to fruition. I think there’s a kind of “normal” that people respond to. You want a well-balanced human to interact with, someone who can enjoy a few cold ones but won’t die of congestive heart failure during a friendly whiffle ball game. A little paunch is the sign of a guy who has interests and life goals, a man with a sense of casual purpose. You want to be around people who know that a life of effort is rewarding, but keeps a keen sense that death is inevitable. The Dad Body is the physical manifestation of “well-adjusted,” at least in theory. Except there’s a problem. I can’t have a Dad Body. And chances are, neither can you.
I recently got a non-tit, non-shit Snapchat where a college guy asked me — knowing I had lost a lot of weight in the past — how he could lose some weight as well, but also “keep that Dad Bod.” He wanted to attain the peak of physical mediocrity. Okay great, makes sense. As I mentioned above, there are only two options for me: fit or dead. If I “strive” for Dad Body, I will casually slip into obesity like a warm robe. The closest I get will exist for perhaps a week on my way to bed sores, slip-on shoes, and a guest role as “boyfriend” on My 600 Pound Life. For most of us, a Dad Body is a transitionary reality. You can’t go to the gym and try to get it. You can’t walk in and look at 20 pictures of male bodies — like haircuts at a Latino barbershop — and ask the trainer to give you “The Dad.” The reality is, if you’re out there telling people you have a Dad Body, or thinking about joining an old man pick-up basketball league in pursuit of a Dad Body, it has not and will not happen. The Dad Body ideal is such a small window within which to exist, tall enough for the fat to casually drape, naturally thin enough so that the waist doesn’t swell with the belly, so as to make it even more unattainable than actual fitness. Ninety-nine percent of the dudes out there claiming to have dad bodies are, in fact, just fat. To attempt a Dad Body is to disregard its causal truth. Working towards a Dad Body is tantamount to screaming yourself to sleep; the action is inherently at odds with the result.
Recently I’ve been taking these boot camp classes. Those are the type of workouts you do when you graduate college. Having an aspiring Broadway dancer say to you, “This workout works, now get running you fat ass,” is a lot easier than blaming yourself when it doesn’t work. Yesterday, I was next to a guy who looked at me as he turned on his treadmill and said, “It’s my first time here, haven’t worked out in a year.” I immediately checked him out in the way your uncle checks out a girl you brought to a holiday dinner to see if he’d bang her, too. His body was “dad perfect.” There was no reason for him to have a gym membership. By the time he was tapping me on the shoulder wondering if I had just had a seizure, I’d already decided he was perfectly fuckable. I envied him. I knew he’d do the class, go to Five Guys, and be back in a year, looking exactly the same.
Know this: You have one life. Someday, you’re going to want to be fit enough to pick up a child you helped bring into this world, and that child isn’t going to want to hug a dad with abs. Right now, there’s a frosty beer on the table, and your buddies are ear to ear, slapping backs in the mid-afternoon. You’ll hit the gym tomorrow because right now you’ve got some living to do. The heart’s terrain is not a prairie, and somewhere in that valley between puritanical health and languorous joy. You may end up with a Dad Body or you may not. To strive for one is patently ridiculous. In the end, all dead men are skinny..