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Does Having a Dad Bod Put Your Health at Risk?

Dad bods may have captured the ladies’ attention, but experts warn about the side effects of having a big belly.

By All Things Health Malaysia

Jon Hamm (pictured here with Jessica Paré) is the star of Mad Men and the resident of a Dad Bod. (Credit: Michael Yarish, AMC)

Charisma is not always related to sporting six-pack abs. For almost a decade, many women have agreed that a man with a “dad bod” is more attractive. It sounds too good to be true, but Hollywood’s fittest men like Jason Momoa and Leonardo DiCaprio have sported this look while off-duty. So, what is a dad bod, exactly?

Often described as a male body that packs a few extra kilos in the midsection, the dad bod is most often associated with men during their fertile age – in their late twenties through their fifties. Even so, this body type doesn’t solely belong to fathers. 

There’s nothing wrong with having a rounder belly – it has its own appeal. However, losing some inches off your waist might be a good idea to increase your confidence and energy levels. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Brandon Yew – a featured expert at All Things Health Malaysia – shares his views on the dad bod trend and how we can embrace all body types without compromising on health.

The Link Between the Dad Bod and Cardiovascular Health

As a man’s body begins to age and their metabolism slows, life stresses, excess calories, and a more sedentary lifestyle can all lead to gaining more visceral fat – a type of fat that wraps around the vital organs. Unfortunately, excess visceral fat is also associated with higher health risks. Fat cells tend to secrete more harmful and inflammatory proteins and hormones into the bloodstream. As a result, you may feel sluggish and experience shortness of breath.

A study published in Obesity Reviews shows evidence that visceral fat accumulation can increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers, such as colorectal and pancreatic cancers. 

The dad bod is a harmful side effect of an inactive lifestyle. What you need to do is change up your routine, not for the sake of getting more chiselled, but for your longevity.

How to Have a Healthy Dad Bod 

While it’s nice to know that you don’t need washboard abs to be seen as attractive, it’s more important to focus on improving your health. Even when you’re busy with work or personal life, you can follow these tips to maintain a healthy weight.

Stop eating before you’re full

Love handles and a dad bod often have a lot to do with excessive calorie intake. If there are leftovers on the dinner table, store them in airtight containers for lunch the next day. In TCM, a healthy diet starts with how you eat.

Don’t skip meals, and take the time to chew properly. When you no longer feel hungry, stop eating and let your body digest the food you’ve just consumed. This will prevent a bloated stomach. If you have a harder time watching what you eat, try making it a family affair by eating healthily together.

Get moving

Another habit that has affected nearly all urbanised societies is a lack of physical activity. Add more movement and exercise to your routine. A 30-minute afternoon walk several times a week is good enough to get started. Once you start seeing changes in your body and energy, you’ll be more motivated to set up a time for working out.

Improving diet and exercise goes hand in hand with stress management, too. When stressed, your body releases cortisol, which triggers more fat storage. Regular exercise may help regulate cortisol levels and in turn, help you shape up.

Bring balance to your body

The dad bod is associated with Spleen Qi Deficiency and Liver QiStagnation. Physician Yew explains that these imbalances cause the formation and accumulation of stagnant fluids, Dampness, and phlegm in the body. “With the addition of adopting a predominantly sedentary lifestyle, these pathogenic factors will tend to build up around the abdomen, giving rise to love handles.”

TCM modalities such as acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion, gua sha (scraping), tuina (Chinese manual therapy), and herbal medicine can support a sluggish dad bod in achieving better shape and health. 

When performing acupressure massage for fat-burning effect, a TCM physician would stimulate he gu (LI4, 合谷), zu san li (ST36, 足三里), yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉), feng long (ST40, 丰隆), tai chong (LR3, 太沖), zhong wan (RN12, 中脘), tian shu (ST25, 天枢), da heng (SP15, 大横), jing men (GB25, 京门), and dai mai (GB26, 带脉) acupoints. 

You can also work with a licensed TCM practitioner to try herbal formulas that help strengthen Spleen qi and dispel Dampness and phlegm, such as Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi (香砂六君子) and Xing Sha Ping Wei San (香砂平胃散). Single-herb formulations like Cordyceps sinensis mycelia (zhong guo chong cao, 中国虫草) are also great for energy and metabolism.

If you feel comfortable in your dad bod, then more power to you! Lead a healthy lifestyle to heighten your self-confidence. One last thing: always listen to your body. Whenever you need answers for your health and wellness woes, do visit All Things Health Malaysia to restore vitality the natural way. 



1. StudyFinds.org. 2022. Summer of love handles! 6 in 10 Americans are more attracted to men with a dad bod! [online] Available at: <https://www.studyfinds.org/americans-attracted-to-dad-bod/> [Accessed 2 July 2022].

2. Urology of Virginia. 16 Reasons You Can't Get Rid of Your Love Handles. [online] Available at: <https://www.urologyofva.net/articles/category/healthy-living/26293/10/02/2018/16-reasons-you-can-t-get-rid-of-your-love-handles-eat-this-not-that> [Accessed 2 July 2022].

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7. Health Direct, Department of Health, Australian Government. 2021. How to reduce visceral body fat (hidden fat). [online] Available at: <https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-to-reduce-visceral-body-fat-hidden-fat> [Accessed 2 July 2022].

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9. Science Direct. 2021. The effects of exercise intensity on the cortisol response to a subsequent acute psychosocial stressor. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453021002109> [Accessed 23 November 2022]

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