The Ridiculous Double Standard Between Dad-Bods and Mom-Bods

July 23rd 2015

Scientists say that 'Dad bod'—the look of padres with pot bellies—is both a real and sexy thing for new papas. So what about the mamas? 

Even though fathers don't give birth (that's a male seahorse-only biological exception), dads do gain their own type of "baby weight," according to a new study published in the American Journal of Men's Health. Scientists followed 10,000 men over a 20-year period, tracking their Body Mass Index (BMI) four times from the early adolescence to their early 30s. They found that men who had children saw a rise in their BMI, regardless of whether or not these dads lived with their children. In fact, men who had children gained an average 3.5 to 4.5 pounds. In contrast, men who remain childless tend to lose weight by an average 1.4 pounds.

According to the study, as obesity continues to be a major public health priority for Americans, researchers are continuing to study fatherhood and its effects on men's health.

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What exactly is 'Dad bod'?

'Dad bod' is defined by Urban Dictionary as "a guy who has kids and was once in shape and still has guns that can crush beer cans but also with a belly that says I drank those beers and I can eat 6 slices of pizza in one seating."

The term for the physique became popularized by a string of stories—more like odes—to the sex appeal behind 'Dad bod' published on the Cut and the Odyssey, among many other publications. And while many people are opining the wonder of the gut, and the men who carry them, women are questioning whether this is another double-standard, particularly, for moms. The phenomenon behind the 'Dad bod' appeal has not only a great health impact for men and the greater struggle in the U.S. against obesity, but it's a strong juxtaposition to the multitude of criticism that mothers face as their bodies change during and after pregnancy.

Could 'Dad bod' pave the way for 'Mom bod' acceptance?

Women face plenty of scrutiny and a host of societal pressures to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight after they give birth. Famous women are often the target of 'post-baby-body' scrutiny in ridiculous before and after critiques, prompting a growing number of celebrity mothers to express the unrealistic pressures they face to "bounce back" after giving birth.

Olivia Wilde told Shape that she was tired of hearing about how moms are pressured to get back to their pre-baby weight, and as a mom, is more reasonable about her weight and body image.

"I am not in perfect shape. In fact, I'm softer than I've ever been, including that unfortunate semester in high school when I simultaneously discovered Krispy Kreme and pot," she said. "The photos of me in this magazine have been generously constructed to show my best angles, and I assure you, good lighting has been warmly embraced. The truth is, I'm a mother, and I look like one."

Wilde wants to change the expectations for moms.

"I believe in a world where mothers are not expected to shed any physical evidence of their child-bearing experience. In that same world I believe there is space for exercise to be as much a gift to your brain as it is your body. I don't want to waste my time striving for some subjective definition of perfection. I'd rather rebuild my strength while dancing my ass off...literally."

Within weeks of her son's birth, Hilary Duff also revealed that she faced pressure on social media to shape up.

"I read comments on my Twitter page about how I'm waddling into pilates and I go, 'wow, that's a really mean thing to say. I just had a baby three weeks ago!' There is a little bit of pressure but most of it comes from me."

Now, there is a growing movement to highlight 'Mom bod'—stretch marks, flab, sags, scars and all—as the powerhouses behind bringing new life into the world. Several moms are leaving empowering messages for women and moms everywhere, including Rachel Solis, whose viral Facebook post gained nearly 500,000 views, encouraged moms everywhere to be grateful and proud of who they are and their bodies.

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