Dad Bods Or Beach Bods
Let’s talk about dad bods, beach bods, and neither bods.
Beach Body Ready
I’m going to get you to cast your mind back to the year 2015 March slash April time.
And if you’re in the UK, you may remember the ad campaign from a protein supplement company called Protein World, with the slogan “are you beach body ready?”
This one, to be exact:
The outcry or controversy that the campaign caused was focused on the implication from the ad that only women of a certain size or shape should have their bodies out on the beach so they should be in a bikini. It was called sexist and it was called body shaming.
At the same time and as part of the same campaign an ad featuring a man in swimming shorts was also released, but that didn’t seem to generate anywhere near as much controversy.
You can find some discussion on that part of the ad campaign here.
It might be because men don’t talk about body shaming anywhere near as much, but a lot of people that were outraged by the ad with the woman on it probably did not even have known that there was an equivalent ad with men on it.
Just as a little aside, I can understand the outcry and the controversy from this ad campaign. But it didn’t really have the immediate impact on the company that they probably would have wanted.
It was a small-ish supplement company whose revenue in the year to December 2014 was £5.4 million. This controversy happened in early 2015 and their revenue for 2015 was £6.7 million. So about a 20% increase.
And if anything gives him a lot of free publicity and you can actually find Protein World in both Boots and Superdrug nowadays if you’re in the UK.
All of that anecdote is the long-winded way of me saying it was probably the first time I personally really heard of or came across the concept of body shaming as a widespread idea. You know, I’ve experienced it before, but to find it actually has a name and the label and the extent of it that so many more people can feel like other people are making them ashamed of their bodies. That was completely new to me.
And I had no idea before that, just how many people feel like they’re being judged for their bodies.
I was very naive about that. I thought I was the only person that feels that bad about my body. And that was kind of it. So observing that whole episode was very much an eye-opener for me.
Emergence Of The Dad Bod
The essay went viral and the phrase “dad bod” got etched into modern day vocabulary. The author doesn’t claim to have invented the term dad bod. It is just the essay, which seems to have picked up momentum and made that term popular.
So for me, the beach body campaign, the dad bod, and my understanding of body shaming as a more widespread issue all seemed to happen at around the same time.
Before we take a closer look at these, let’s set some definitions.
What Is A Beach Body?
Choosing my words very carefully but for the purposes of right now, I am talking about the common “beach body” stereotype of what constitutes a beach body and not the fact that everyone can freely go to the beach regardless of body type.
I think it’s important to bear in mind that since that beach body ad campaign controversy, it’s nowhere nearly as common or trendy or marketable to use the term “beach body”.
It does still get used sometimes, and I guess in a male context it doesn’t generate the same kind of controversy still. But as a marketing term, its prominence has dropped off.
It’s also sometimes interchanged with the summer body or holiday body – those kinds of beach/swimming/hot weather kinds of terms/.
And I think if you’re trying to visualise what that physique looks like, the best way to describe it is it’s pretty close to the kind of models and the physiques that you’ll see on the front of like a men’s fitness magazine, like Men’s Health:
- Low body fat percentage
- Visible muscle definition
- Some muscle size but still lean
This guy sums it up pretty well:
For anyone thinking about aiming for that kind of “beach body”, it will often be tempting to go for extremes or super restrictive diets and unsustainable training plans. It might be the kind of thing you put yourself through hell to get to, get some photos taken, then let loose once you’ve had your fill of photos and then ease up until you next will be on a beach and decide you need to go on a crash diet.
Some people are able to maintain that kind of shape (or at least very similar) all year round. It’s usually people from a sports or athletic background. Often people that are in the fitness industry or generally very settled in life. So low stress, good income, stable home family situation.
And I’m not begrudging someone that does have that life. But it does play a part in the time and energy that you can devote to nutrition and training on a day to day basis. So it very definitely does help.
I’ve talked about body image previously.
But I think the worst thing with this culture on beach body or summer body or what it does, whether deliberately or not, is that it starts to make people feel embarrassed or ashamed about their natural body or natural physique if they don’t meet or come close to the ideal.
And in a lot of cases, that ideal is derived from something unsustainable, and maybe even damaging to both mental and physical health.
So that is the beach bod in a nutshell.
Enter the Dad Bod
So what is the definition of a dad bod? I think the best way to put it is someone who looks like they eat and drink pretty freely, but still workout regularly. I think that’s the best way to describe it.
Maybe something like this…
So moderate body fat percentage, maybe a bit of a beer gut, and probably not visible abs.
Here are a few of the things from the article about what would typically constitute a dad bod:
- Someone who will go to the gym occasionally, but can still enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.
- Not necessarily overweight, but no washboard abs either.
- It can seem more “human” and more “natural” than a sculpted physique.
- It can be less intimidating because if you’re with someone that’s super fit, you’re more likely to feel insecure about your own buddy.
They used the term “better cuddling”. I guess there is more of you, so there is more to hold on to and better food because you’re less likely to be doing rigorous meal prep and more likely to be going out and enjoying yourself.
So to sum up the idea of a dad bod, I guess someone who looks like they find a balance between enjoying some food and enjoying some fitness.
It’s not anywhere near as sort of rigidly defined or thought of as what we would think of with the term summer body or beach body. And probably covers more body types, shapes and sizes.
Some Of Us Don’t Look Like Either Of Those
I guess the point I’m trying to make is there is a big range of idealised body shapes or shapes that are thought to be attractive. And there is so much more than just sculpted lean beach bodies, and don’t let anyone tell you that one is better or worse than the other.
But also for what it’s worth, some of us kind of fall straight down the middle.
Like me personally, I don’t have a healthy enough relationship with food and dieting or gaining muscle that I would get to that sort of typical beach body shape. Strict dieting like that absolutely zaps my energy. And I worry about going down the path back to disordered eating.
And I also don’t have enough of a healthy relationship with food to enjoy eating freely. And the idea of gaining weight is something that I would really, really struggle with.
Yes, I’m very high maintenance, especially when it comes to food, but I’m okay with that.
I don’t think I’ll ever meet the stereotype of a beach body or a dead bod, but fine. I’m happy with the body I’m in. My confidence within myself feels like it’s on an upward curve.
I might not be the leanest or the strongest guy, or have the biggest muscles. I might be skinny or scrawny and have slightly visible ribs. But at the moment, I feel comfortable in my own skin.
Dad Bod Or Beach Body
For all of the things that I’ve mentioned and talked about, this is the most important thing to take away.
It’s not anyone else’s place to tell you whether or not you are attractive or you should be allowed to feel attractive. And it’s not your job to make yourself fit someone else’s ideal.
If you want to be lean and muscular and go down the beach body road because it makes you feel good, then go for it.
If you want to enjoy training and eating and drinking freely, and aren’t as bothered about fitting a certain aesthetic and that makes you feel good – great! You do you!
And if like me, you don’t fit into either of those boxes or are already fighting other battles around eating and training and body image, and just want to enjoy being you as you are… Then that’s awesome too.