When I ran the Warrior Dash last weekend, I was talking to a friend of mine who had recently started working out again. He was looking a lot fitter but felt he had a way to go. He laughed and told me that at least the “dad bod” is in.
For the uninitiated, a dad bod is a man’s body that has excess fat, lacks muscle tone, and might even have a decent sized gut. The concept is that, after a guy becomes a father, he stops caring about his looks and body to a (large) degree. The celebration of the dad bod became trendy thanks to a college essay written by a female Clemson University student. Her arguments more or less boil down to “it makes us (i.e. women) look and feel better.” More on that later.
So, do women really love that dad bod? My guess is they don’t really like a man having a dad bod so much as they are less focused on a guy’s looks overall. Men value a woman’s looks when determining initial attraction. So, they will see a woman with a great body and be very physically attracted. So, they think that women want them to have a perfect body too and spend hours in the gym working towards it. Then, they wonder why they are single.
Women, however, value personality factors above and beyond physical looks. So, while looks are important, other traits are significantly more valued. Confidence, dominance, charm, intelligence, and power are just a few. In addition, women are more attracted to guys who make them feel a certain way. Notice how the dad bod essay isn’t really about the man being attractive, not even a little bit. It’s about the woman’s feelings and perception of what his body entails for them. It’s not “belly fat is sexy” but “I can totally see him buying me Taco Bell when I’m hungry.”
So, I firmly believe most women don’t find the dad bod attractive, so much as they can accept the dad bod if it brings with it what they value (security, feeling protected, looking prettier than their guy, etc.). Most women will take a guy who offers them that over a boring, passive, weak guy with perfect ab definition.
We also shouldn’t take the opinion of one woman or the viral nature of her essay as an indication that women love the “dad bod.” Does this fad negate the love women have for guys with fit bodies? Hardly, but it does illustrate a point about female attraction.
This is why I ultimately believe a guy should continue to look his best and be healthy and fit. Having a kid is no reason to give up on self improvement and excellence and that includes physical challenges. Still, the dad bod fad is a reminder that, in terms of attraction, men and women think very differently.