Lee Amico is planning a daring raid on the gatekeepers of the English language, and if he can pull it off then millions of Dads will offer a prayer of thanks every time they look in the mirror, or chase a ball around with their children.
Lee wants to break into the offices of dictionary publishers everywhere, find the files marked “D” and rewrite the definition of a certain phrase that is doing untold damage to the lives of today’s fathers.
He is the man for the job. Not only does he have the physique and the fitness needed for a commando raid, he also has the expertise to set things straight. He might not be an expert on the English language, not a lexicographer nor a linguist, but he is the founder and owner of fitness nutritionists Monday Muscle and he knows all there is to know about the phrase he wants to redefine: The Dad Bod.
Dad Bod; noun - a soft, un-athletic, and very unimpressive physique, built out of idleness, doughnuts and excuses.
Worse still, not only is that the going definition, but the Netflix generation have gleefully seized it as excuse to swap the gym for the couch. It is little wonder, when Hollywood stars are snapped on the beach flaunting their soft bodies with an attractive leading lady on their arm (strangely enough, she isn’t flaunting any wobbly bits herself). Search #dadbod if you don’t know what Lee means... But be warned: it is not pretty (unless that is your thing!).
When Lee first came across the phrase it was funny, a bit of a laugh – that is until he became a dad himself, then it really started to annoy him. Tragically, it was becoming the norm to have a so-called Dad Bod. Therefore by definition, anyone who does not have a Dad Bod must be abnormal!
So now you are a dad it is cool not to care about your body anymore... Really?
“Where did this idea come from?” asks Lee. “At a time in your life when you need more energy than ever before, when you need to be leading by example, you are going to settle for a body that says I’ve got no self-discipline and I don’t care about my health? What else are you going to settle for third best in?”
That is when Lee sat down and re-wrote the definition.
Dad Bod, noun – 1. a strong, empowering, inspiring physique that demonstrates self- discipline, commitment and dedication 2. a body perfectly equipped for the demands of fatherhood.
All he had to do now was help people make that a reality -- make this new improved Dad Bod the norm. Ok, he was not going to be abseiling through the windows of publishers, but he was going use his expertise to change the definition one Dad at a time if that is what it took. He knew it would not be easy.
It is not surprising that so many dads are prepared to settle for the existing definition. It is so much easier to live out than Lee’s version. Let’s face it, for most Dads it is far too difficult to get the kind of Dad Bod that Lee has in mind. Isn’t it?
“Of course it’s hard, it’s very hard,” agrees Lee. “And, you know, there really are no quick fixes. That’s why so many people choose not to do it. It’s easier to say you’re a Dad and you just don’t have the time. You have new priorities. The hardest thing is changing your outlook on the situation. There are a chorus of excuses in your head, nagging at you, whispering in your ear. You have to ignore them. The Dad Bod at the moment is one of the loudest excuses of the lot.”
It is hard to ignore that whispering.
Hey, hang on big guy. Now you’re a dad, you need to grow up. Isn’t hankering after a six- pack just a little bit vain? You’ve got a great personality what do you want pecs for? The Dad Bod you’ve got is cool. Women prefer cuddly guys you know? No, really they do. They love beer bellies.
Lee wants to be clear that he is not talking about bodybuilding. The new Dad Bod does not involve fake tan or thongs. “Yes, there’s a small part of vanity in it,” he says. “We’re only human after all. And male humans at that. But it’s also about taking pride in yourself, improving your body in the same way I hope you want to improve your mind and your parenting skills and your children’s lives and so on. There is nothing vain about wanting to feel confident in yourself just like there is nothing vain in wanting to be fit and healthy.”
Lee does not want to look like Mr Olympia either but he sure doesn’t see why that means you need to go to the other extreme and look like Family Guy instead.
But once you become a dad your priorities change you can’t be in the gym all the time or spending half your salary on protein supplements...
The naysayers are certainly onto something there. You aren’t number one anymore, maybe not even number two, but that does not mean you don’t count at all. Lee agrees: “Everyone’s lifestyle is different and finding a way to make the most of the time you have is a game fathers play every day. You don’t realise how much time you had before you become a Dad until after the fact.”
And of course you used your time wisely before you had kids didn’t you?
“Look,” says Lee. “I have friends who tell me they're tired or don’t have enough time for the gym. But they will have a lie-in until 11:30 on a Saturday and happily sit watching TV most evenings.”
If Lee is concerned about his health and your health, he’s even more concerned about the health of the next generation, the health of your children. If you want them to establish good habits for life then you need to set the standard. “Maybe you can call it vanity when you’re young, but it’s something much more important than that when you are a dad.
Don’t be the guy who comes last on sports day or the one who can’t run around in the park because he’s out of breath and doesn’t care what junk he puts in his body -- be an inspiration to your kids instead.”
It is good advice. Take it and you might be around long enough and in good enough shape to set an example for your grandchildren as well.
According to Lee, the easiest way to make a difference is to start tracking what you eat. “I guarantee that you are not eating what you think you are. I see it like this; you have to eat anyway, so whether you are a free spirited 20 something with no commitments, or an overly- busy father who can only train for 3 hours a week while the children are asleep, your food can still be on point.”
I like the idea of an easy way to make a difference. If you’d said it was easy in the first place…
“Ok. It’s definitely not easy, it’s very hard, but it’s far from impossible,” says Lee who works a twelve hour day, has a wife who works full time, a four-year- old daughter and a baby boy on the way.
“There are no shortcuts but training hard and eating well enhance your life. Make it a part of you; integrate it into your lifestyle. There is no end goal other than to be a better you.”
Do not listen to him: the last time you tried this it was a nightmare. You’ve got to count calories, spend a fortune on gluten free, organic, free-range paleo porridge and you still didn’t get a six-pack. Face it: you don't have the genetics for it. You have no chance of getting this new improved Dad Bod…
"You have every chance if you set yourself realistic goals" insists Lee. “And have realistic expectations too. Understand the time available to you, and work your arse off! If you’ve got an hour in the gym on a Wednesday, make it count. If you can’t afford glamorous sounding organic food, go with the essentials. You don’t need grass fed beef or sweet potatoes grown in the Garden of Eden. Good nutritious food can be cheap. Forget about superfoods and super gyms - if you can’t get to a gym, work out at home. The internet is awash with workouts you can do at home with absolutely no equipment“.
Put in the work, track what you eat and you can help to rewrite what it means to have a Dad Bod. Being a father to a young family is the one time in your life when you will need it the most. More energy, better health, less stress, a better sex life… What’s not to like?
“Anyone who’s got into decent shape knows that it’s worth it – knows how good it feels. Trips to the restaurant aren’t uncomfortable because your trousers fit you, you can put on a nice shirt and it not only fits, but it looks damn good too. You can even run for the train in the mornings without having to worry about arriving at the office soaked in sweat. The Dad Bod is a bod that is ready for whatever life – and the kids – throw at you.”
Words by Christopher Hadley