Dad bod to Dancing Man: The ethical minefield of body fat

Man in a gym
Image caption Too ripped to be sexy? Dad bod fans might think so

Some women - apparently - find the ultra-fit, super-honed male body a bit off-putting.

Can't think why.

Granite muscles and stomachs of steel are out, they say. What's in is something, well, a bit more cuddly - the dad bod.

Suitably squidgy, bear-like if bulging, it is the kind of body that looks lived in rather than worked on.

With a dad bod, that paunch ceases to be a button-bursting embarrassment and becomes a swelling asset in the dating game.


What the dad bod Twitter storm tells us is that the human body remains a battleground.

Cuddling a rock

What reason did those women give for favouring the ample-bodied over the agile-bodied?

Well, Mackenzie Pearson, a student who arguably coined the phrase dad bod, said it was a "perfect balance between a beer gut and working out".

I'm fine with the first bit.

"We don't want a guy that makes us feel insecure about our bodies. We are insecure enough as it is."

Her argument essentially: "No one wants to cuddle a rock."

Image caption Built for comfort not speed: Is this a dad bod?

But why is it a choice between having a sculpted, muscle-bulging body and a bulging bulging-body?

What's so wrong with normal healthy?

And why has liberating women, and increasingly men, from the pressure to look perfect ended with us embracing the jelly-belly as a positive?


Now don't get me wrong, I am far from stick thin and certainly not rippling with muscle but I - personally - don't want to be told that my spreading waistline is just a perception problem. It's not!

I don't want to man up and love that girth. It's not good for me and I shouldn't accept it.

So, while there is pressure on young men and women to look like models there is another equally pernicious trend emerging - the normalisation of obesity.

Put simply, there is so much of it around these days we have just got used to it.

Stroll down any British beach, peep into any children's playground and the UK health crisis is plain to see.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Is obesity being normalised?

A quarter of children are now overweight or obese and the figures for adults are much, much worse.

Some of those people, unless their lives change, will die younger than they should.

They'll have less agile lives and possibly health complications later, so yes, it is a problem.

Now it's also clear that many large, or should I say fat, people suffer cruel and degrading treatment.

When a video was posted online recently of Liverpudlian Sean O'Brien strutting his stuff on the dance floor he became the butt of a vicious internet bullying campaign.

Sean was quite a dancer. He was also seriously obese and so - as it happens - he had quite a lot of stuff to strut.

Normalising the unhealthy?

But the nastiness backfired. A group of supporters soon joined by entertainers came together to organise a party for the so-called Dancing Man who then flew to Los Angeles to join in.

He even appeared on US TV. So Sean - now buoyed up by public support - enjoyed five minutes of fame.

The cruelty brought people to his side.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nastiness aimed at "Dancing Man" Sean O'Brien over his weight backfired

One of the performers who rallied to the cause was Meghan Trainor.

Her hit single All About That Bass is an anthem in doo-wop style, celebrating the fuller figure.

Again - I'm hiding behind euphemism - some of the people dancing in her video are clearly overweight.

So why has accepting human difference morphed again into normalising the unhealthy?

So how do we pick our way through this ethical minefield?

Clearly some people have medical conditions which lead them to gain weight and human bodies also change with age too.

And some would also say it is for the individual to decide what to do with their own bodies. It's a fair point.

But surely we have to find a way of respecting and accepting people of all shapes and sizes without minimising even eulogising bad health decisions.

Obesity can kill.

We should show solidarity and understanding for its victims but we should not learn to love it.

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