The dad-bod, if you’re unfamiliar with it, was coined in 2015 and refers to a man’s middle-aged spread, generally caused by age, beer, the complacency of marriage and parenthood, or a mixture of all three. When it emerged it attracted a predictable avalanche of op-eds celebrating its pudgy form, mostly from men who welcomed the permission to let themselves go (as if that permission hadn’t always been there.)
And now a book, How Men Age, has claimed that the dad-bod is more than just an invitation to men to reach for that fifth slice of pizza. It’s also, according to author Professor Richard Bribiescas from Yale University, an indicator of better health, longevity and attractiveness to the opposite sex.
The basic theory is that fat accumulates on a man when he loses testosterone (something that happens naturally over time). And lowered rates of testosterone, says Professor Bribiescas, create a “hormonal milieu” that might “more effectively promote and support paternal investment.”
What this means, in non-scientist-speak, is that men who are less governed by the horny whims of testosterone are less likely to want to shag every second woman they see. Ergo, they’re more likely to settle down, have babies and hang around long enough to see them grow up. Women, the theory goes, are in turn more likely to be attracted to a natural dad-bod, because it makes them think he’ll stick around.
Women, of course, are allowed no such leeway with their bodies. A woman with a bit of a belly suggests the same thing as the dad-bod – either she’s procreated – so she’s off the market - or she’s let herself go. But unlike the owner of the dad-bod, the woman with a mum-bod gets no accolades.
The dad-bod has only been around for a year and it’s already getting its own fan club, such as the ‘hypotheticals’ in Professor Bribiescas’ book.
The mum-bod has been around forever and has spawned a multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to its refurbishment – via surgical “mummy makeover” tummy tucks and breast lifts performed after childhood or the countless “mummy” diet and exercise programmes aimed solely at restoring women to their pre-childbirth glory.
In reality, civilised humans are beyond being governed by these coarse, primitive instincts. Men with dad bods make great fathers, but so do men without them. Women with hot-post baby bodies might run off with the milkman, but she might also stick around to raise her babies, and both make good partners in the first place. We’re evolved enough to judge each other - whether male or female - by much, much more than the size of our waistlines.
The dad-bod is a wonderful thing, but a mum-bod is spectacular too, particularly considering it’s the one that does the heavy lifting of carrying a baby rather than just reaching for a third Coopers Pale.
By all means celebrate the dad-bod, with all its implications of fun over fitness and real life over restrictions. But let’s even up the ledger – the mum bod deserves high-fives too.