Gut Check: Science Says the ‘Dad Bod’ is a Very Real Thing

This year, we all became familiar with the “dad bod” – and Leonardo DiCaprio only perpetuated its overnight popularity when half-naked pictures of him looking noticeably softer surfaced online.

For those still in the dark, a dad bod involves a physique that’s a fine balance of a well-kept beer gut, pizza weight, and working out – and it’s typically associated with men with children (aside from Leo’s case, that is).

And people either love it or hate it.

Either way, the dad bod is now scientifically proven to be an actual thing.

A new large-scale study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health tracked more than 10,000 men over a 20-year period and found that those who became fathers did indeed develop the “dad bod.” Meaning, they experienced weight gain and an increase in body mass index (BMI), a measurement based on height and weight.

Men who didn’t become dads during the same time period, on the other hand, actually lost weight.

The study – conducted by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine – marks the first of its kind to examine the effects of fatherhood on young men’s BMIs. Beginning in 1994, BMI measurements were taken of 10, 253 men at four different stages of their life, ranging from adolescence to their early 30s.

The irony in the findings is that the weight gain comes at a time when your active young offspring are going to demand more physical activity than you may have had in a long time.

“Fatherhood can affect the health of young men, above from the already known effect of marriage,” said lead author Craig Garfield in a press release. “The more weight the fathers gain and the higher their BMI, the greater risk they have for developing heart disease as well as diabetes and cancer.”

It turns out that not all dads gain weight equally when it comes to their “dad bod” status.

Weight gain differed for those fathers who lived with their kids (“resident dads”) and those who didn’t. If you’re a resident dad, you can expect to pack on more pounds.

The first-rime resident dads experienced an average 2.6 per cent increase in their BMIs over the study period, while non-resident dads experienced a 2 per cent increase. To put it into perspective, this would mean a 4.4 pound weight gain for a 6-foot-tall resident dad, and a 3.3 pound weight gain for a non-resident dad.

As for the same sized man without any kids? He actually lost 1.4 pounds (hey, he has more time to spend at the gym).

Keep in mind that researchers controlled for other factors that may account for weight gain, like age, race, education, income, daily activity, and marital status – all of which can be associated with weight gain.

Not surprisingly, the researchers say the increase in BMI is likely the result of lifestyle changes as your family becomes priority over yourself.

And while it may seem like a small amount to pack on over such a broad length of time, researchers have said the results may be ‘conservative’. So probably better to keep hitting the gym rather than take the risk.