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每日跟讀#575: Measuring the Rise of the Doughy, but Desirable, Dad Body

女性新寵 「爸爸肚」話題網路發燒

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每日跟讀#575: Measuring the Rise of the Doughy, but Desirable, Dad Body

The Internet has burned recently with commentary about women’s alleged new interest in the soft, doughy “dad bod.”


How much softer a man’s body gets, on average, when he becomes a father?


Every few years the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the United States herds about 5,000 men and women into medical trailers to be poked, prodded, measured and weighed.


On average, dads are 5 kilos heavier than non-dads; they’re carrying nearly an extra five centimeters on their waist; and their bellies stick out an extra centimeter or so.


Health care workers measure the sagittal abdominal diameter by having the subject lie flat on a table so that they can measure how high the navel sits above the table surface to get an objective, scientific assessment of the gut.


In the latest data from this survey, half the non-dads in the 18-to-45 bracket had a sagittal abdominal diameter of less than 20 centimeters, but only 29 percent of the dads did. But dads seem to wear their extra paunch with some degree of comfort. Despite the extra five kilos, nearly as many dads described themselves as being “about the right weight” as those who are not dads. (The exact proportions are 49 percent and 53 percent.)


Call this fatherly self-satisfaction a result of diminished expectations: When asked their ideal weight, dads volunteered a number that was two kilos heavier than what non-dads did.


And fathers seemed to be making no particular effort to fight the dad bod. They were no more likely than non-dads to say they had tried to lose weight in the last year, with 70 percent saying they hadn’t.


We can’t definitively say that the dad bod is a consequence, rather than a cause, of fatherhood. After all, if the Internet is right that men with an extra layer of cushioning really are more attractive, perhaps they’re more likely to reproduce.


But two pieces of evidence suggest there is something about dads’ lives that causes the dad bod. Although dads weigh five kilos more than non-dads, when those 27 and older in both groups are asked how much they weighed at age 25, the weight difference was much smaller, only a kilo.


And the dad bod is barely evident among recent dads while it is much more prominent among those with older children. Over the years, as these men relax into fatherhood, their waistline seems to relax with them.


That relaxation does not seem to be just about getting older. Of the five-kilo difference found between dads and non-dads, one kilo can be attributed to age: In part, dads tend to be a little heavier than non-dads because they tend to be a little older. And married men tend to be heavier than unmarried ones. But even after adjusting for differences in age and marital status, a noticeable difference between dad and non-dad bods persists.


Some in the news media have called the “dad bod” phenomenon a double standard. Nobody’s talking approvingly about the “mom bod,” even though the same data show approximately equal parenthood gains in weight, waistline and belly size for men and women.


Parents of both sexes adjust their expectations in the same way: Moms in our age bracket were four kilos heavier than the non-moms, but much like the dads, they adjusted their average desired weight targets up (by less than two kilos). Yet both moms and non-moms are much more likely than dads and non-dads to report that they tried to lose weight in the last year, and on average women report they would like to lose about twice as much weight as men.


The “dad bod” fascination seems to be one of the manifestations of the double standard, and perhaps it’s something men have already internalized, by deciding it’s O.K. to let themselves go at least a little.


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