After lurking on the internet for years, the phrase ‘dadbod’ has hit the mainstream thanks to a uni student, potentially boosting male self-esteem.
A splice of the words “dad” and “body”, it celebrates a balanced man who exercises and cares about his health and appearance, but who also enjoys a beer and the occasional burger and wears his flab with pride.
He’s the kind of guy whose body says: “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.”
That’s how American psychology student Mackenzie Pearson described her ideal man in her article published by The Odyssey.
“While we all love a sculpted guy, there is just something about the dadbod that makes boys seem more human, natural, and attractive.”
Her perfect example? Her own father, of course.
“My dad is super into CrossFit,” Ms Pearson told Slate.
“He’s super, super fit and really healthy.
“But like any guy who’s in his late 40s, early 50s, he’s got that little bit of flab you just can’t get rid of,” she said.
And thus, a sensible paragon of male-hood was born, and quickly swept the web, spawning dozens of articles.
“It’s almost as if I started a movement for positive male body image, which is something I don’t think our culture realised we need,” Ms Pearson told BuzzFeed.
The University of Sydney psychologist Dr Scott Griffiths, a male body image expert, said increased pressure for male bodies to be ‘perfect’ may explain the online popularity of the term.
“I think increasingly men are judged on their appearance and that’s probably why the ‘dadbod’ has touched a nerve for so many guys,” Dr Griffiths told The New Daily.
“Any time a body type that’s closer to what most people can obtain gets attention in the media, it will make people feel more comfortable about their appearance.
“To the extent that young men, fathers-to-be or new fathers are seeing images of big guys with broad shoulders, beefy torsos and six-packs, if they can also see the ‘dadbod’ alongside it and see how people are responding positively to that, then it will give them better body esteem.”
It’s not an excuse to give up
It is important to note that Ms Pearson’s ideal ‘dadbod’ still exercised and was health conscious – just not too much.
“The ‘dadbod’ is not just a semi out-of-shape, semi-overweight guy. It’s someone who does some measure of fitness, probably for health, but who isn’t starving himself or going out of his way to adhere to a really strict diet,” Dr Griffiths said.
“He’s happy to have a few beers on the weekend or stop over for some fast food with his kids.
“It’s really what good health and psychology is all about – a balance of a whole lot of priorities.
“You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to be on a diet for every single meal, in order to be seen as healthy, desirable or attractive.”
Sadly, nobody is praising the ‘mumbod’
The problem with this new body role model for men is that women have few such balanced ideals.
“Women are still judged more heavily on appearance than men overall,” Dr Griffiths said.
“For women, even though there is more awareness, it doesn’t change the fact that there is decades of institutionalised appearance pressure,” he said.
“It’s everywhere. Finding a female analogue for ‘dadbod’ will be difficult because of that.”