Why so many men are losing the fight against 'dad bod'

Over avocado toast and coffee, Michael Bailey held up his iPhone to show an image of himself taken 15 years ago, back when he was a fit model for a major clothing line. This was the photo he recently posted on his Facebook wall on his 52nd birthday.

"I named that photo 'Target,'" said Bailey, an interior designer for kitchens. "Because it's still my target. I know I will never have that skin again, and I know that I'll never be as cut and ripped as I was in that photo. But it's a nice goal to have. A nice visual to work toward."

Bailey is dealing with something that many men deal with – not obesity, exactly, but being three to six kilograms heavier than he would like to be. In other words, he has the slightly doughy look known as "dad bod." Although the term is not necessarily meant as an insult, Bailey would like to leave that look behind.

Short of the goal

What frustrates Bailey, like others with this affliction, is that he believes he is so close to getting his body to where he wants it to be. And yet he keeps falling short.

In Bailey's case, the need to drop from his current weight, 86 kilograms, to his ideal weight, 80, has real consequences. As someone with a prediabetic condition, he knows the risk of not losing the weight. And although he survived a bout with colon cancer, diagnosed in 2015, those extra kilos have proved a tough foe indeed.

Bailey said his perhaps quixotic quest may be complicated by the fact that he is gay. Half the photos he showed me from the social media accounts he follows featured friends who look trim, if not cut. When Bailey is around them, he knows he is being judged, just as he once judged other people.

"Having a crazy-hot body is so important in gay culture," he said. "You go on Facebook, especially in the summer, and everyone is just posting shirtless photos. It's a little intimidating.

Battling downtime

When Jamyn Edis, 41, was coming up as a management consultant in London, he watched his older colleagues' stomachs loom large over their Savile Row suits as they smoked cigars in their offices. He told himself he would never be one of those men – and for the most part, he has not been. He has competed in three marathons and one triathlon. But that led to foot and shoulder surgeries and even a spinal fusion procedure. And then there is the weight.

At 6-2 and 88 kilograms, Edis, the chief executive and a founder of the smart-car startup Dash, cuts an impressive figure to other people. But when he takes off his black V-neck T-shirt, he can see the extra kilos (he would like to be down to 83). And he is not fine with it.


"The question is, what am I going to do about it?" Edis said over lunch.

You're not young anymore

As with others, Edis, who said he weighed himself at most four times a year, may not have much say in the outcome. The extreme exercise he endured in his 20s and 30s has limited how far he can physically push himself these days. In 2015, his doctor told him to stop running.

"I think this is where the irritation has less to do with four to six kilos and more to do with knowing I am losing control of my body," Edis said, "through age, not control of choices that I can make anymore."

Something you can't control

Kirk Read, a 58-year-old professor of French and Francophone studies at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, summed up how he felt about being two kilos away from his ideal weight with one word: failure.

"In every other aspect of my life, I know what to do," Read said. "I follow my little plan. I make a list. I check them off. People are happy. And I move forward. This is one where it's just me and my will. And it's embarrassing to me that, in this aspect of my life, I don't have control."

The vanity project

Read said he sees the role played by his own vanity in all this. Unlike many academics, he likes to dress up. And he feels better when he looks thinner and healthier.

Standing on the scale recently, he said he asked himself: "What would it be like to weigh 90 kilos? How would it feel?"

"I know men in my life who stride through the world with confidence, even if they have a little paunch," he said. "You can tell they're not holding in their gut, which I do most of the time. That's a natural pose for me.

"I assume they feel attractive and sexy," he continued. "They exude self-confidence. That's a place I would love to get to. Because I'm not fat. I'm corpulent. In some ways, that feels worse."

The New York Times

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