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  • AfroDaddy

The Shame of the Dad Bod

There was a moment a few years ago when having a dad bod was, bizarrely, fashionable.

Now, I say "bizarrely", not because I think people shouldn't find this body type attractive. It was bizarre because it was such a sudden shift away from what was the standard idea of male beauty.

It was a wonderful few months, as more and more people confessed to a preference for the "strong teddy bear type". For me, it was a sweet relief. A brief history of my body-type will explain why:

Growing up, I NEVER had to worry about my body. I could put whatever kind of food in whatever amounts into it, or physically do whatever I wanted to it with little to no consequences. School sports, a general love of activity, and most importantly, a hard working metabolism kept the parts trim.

This kind of went on throughout my twenties - when I occasionally felt the need to drop a few kilograms, it would take about a week or two of focus to get the job done.

But then, a terrible combination of sedentary work, turning 30, having kids, and being overwhelmed by my pre-existing anxiety and depression led to me developing a weird love/hate relationship with food.

It started with a need to use food as quick mood lifter. Feeling anxious? Fried chicken. Can't quite get the grey clouds out of your head? Big bag of chips. Hate yourself? A burger and large chips should do the trick. Then, when everything really started to fall apart with my mental health, I suddenly lost all enjoyment for food. My weight, which was increasing, suddenly plummeted.

Really not joking about the weight loss...

Eventually I got the help and therapy I needed to learn how to cope, and I started to enjoy the food again. But this was yet another over-correction, which gets us to where I am now.

A food addict. The guy who used to be fit and trim and now loses his breath when he ties his shoe laces. I am very, VERY close to being the dad who swims with his t-shirt on.

Your local "Baggy T-Shirt Guy" (pic: Jessica van Rensburg)

Long story short - I'm embarrassed by my body (my looks are a WHOLE other issue which I choose to ignore and not deal with at all, especially not publicly).

I'm not writing this for sympathy, or to get "but you look fine" responses. The point is this: I am not the only man who feels like this. I can pretty much guarantee that you know at least one who is in the same vortex of food addiction/body shame as I am in. And I think the next generation of men are going to suffer with this problem even more intensely than the current one.

Obviously, body and self-image issues are much more intense for women (generations of patriarchal media has ensured that), but don't be fooled for a second that your boy-child will be unaffected. They hear what you say about yourself, about other men, and about people in general. All that gets internalized. The way I feel about myself and my looks right now is a result of many things - but it started when I was a child.


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