Fatherhood Does NOT Make You Fat


It’s been a few months since Clemson student Mackenzie Pearson wrote a brief essay explaining the dad bod and its so-called appeal. Soon after, social media jumped all over the phrase as it quickly went viral. At the time, I never paid too much attention to the dad bod craze. Everything changed last week however after seeing several media outlets report that it’s been scientifically proven that fatherhood led to fatness. Apparently, science skipped over this father of two children.

Trends vs. Destiny

The first story that I read about fatherhood fatness was hosted by one of the largest news organizations in the world. CNN released an article with a rather blunt headline that proclaimed the following:

Fatherhood Makes You Fat

The article itself was based on research published in the American Journal of Men’s Health (see here). The referenced study concluded that adult males tend to gain weight and increase BMI between adolescence and fatherhood. Unfortunately, most readers of CNN won’t take the time to read the actual study. Instead, they will simply glance over a catchy title that is undoubtedly misleading.

Science has not proved that fatherhood will make you fat. The study simply highlighted a trend that is prevalent in society. Fathers don’t suddenly become fat because of children. Weight is gained due to excess food and drink consumption and/or lack of physical activity. You don’t need to be a father to make this mistake, just as being a father does not condemn you to such a destiny.

Don’t Blame Fatherhood

As a hard working father of two, it truly disgusts me to see fatherhood linked to obesity. My vision of fatherhood is more apt to include descriptive words such strength, character, and leadership. My primary goal in life is to be a hero and role model to my children.

Unfortunately, articles such as that hosted on CNN paint an entirely different picture. For instance, one quote from the above referenced piece states the following:

“I love to cook and eat healthy, but when it comes to compromises on time I will trade a healthy meal for more time with my kids every time.”

Take a moment to digest what this quote actually suggests. If a parent cannot prepare healthy meals for himself, how can we expect him to continually provide healthy meals for his children? Since when did a busy schedule relieve a parent of his responsibility to raise a healthy and active child?

Another troublesome quote from the article states the following:

“When you have your first child, they are your priority. You put everything else on hold, which sometimes means working out and staying active.”

As much as I’m bothered by this quote, I completely agree with the first sentence. Ever since the day my first child was born, my kids have been my priority. My life revolves around my children. I will do anything and everything for them. Apparently, I see things differently than many fathers however as I strongly disagree with the second sentence.

Leading by example is one of the most important things I can do. I can’t expect my children to be healthy and active if I can’t do the same. I will do whatever is necessary to provide an example that my children can imitate. I will never be the type of father who tells my kids one thing, yet goes off and does another. As I’ve said before, prioritizing your health is not selfish. On the contrary, it is something that all parents should do to set a positive example for their children.

We’re All Busy

There’s no doubt that I am busier as a father than I ever was before kids. I still work the same long hours, but I’m also extremely active in the lives of my children. For instance, I spend several hours each week coaching youth sports. That’s hours upon hours of time that was previously free before I had kids. You won’t see me complaining about it however. I consider it an honor to be able to coach my own kids. The time that I spend with them is time that I will forever cherish.


As for what I do in my free time, I don’t even remember what that is. Free time and parenting are polar opposites. There is always something to do. And that’s just another reason why I’m such a big believer in exercising anywhere with anything. For example, you might see a deck as a deck, but I see it as a place to hop up and perform pull-ups. One way or another, I will make time for exercise. It does not matter where I am or what I have. I will always prioritize my health and the health of my children.

Being strong and healthy improves my experience as a father. I can do more with my children. Whether we are walking the dog, throwing the ball, or just running around in the yard, I can always keep up without gasping for air. Seeing my kids laugh and smile as we play outside is all the incentive I need to remain physically fit.

No One Said It Was Easy

Contrary to what some believe, life isn’t supposed to be easy. Life can be extremely difficult and trying. We have all endured tough times at one point or another. Unfortunately, our children will also someday experience just how difficult life can be. No one is immune to the realities of the world. Therefore, it’s extremely important that we prepare our children for what whatever life brings.

One of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from Robert Heinlein. As he once said,

“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.”

On a similar note, don’t handicap your children by demonstrating your own inability to deal with difficult times. Just because it is difficult to make time for exercise doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Do you want your children to grow up making excuses whenever they are forced to deal with adversity? Or would you rather see them work hard to find a solution?

I sure as hell hope for the latter. I won’t just sit around and hope for it though. I’ll be leading by example every step of the way. Fatherhood hasn’t made me fat. It’s certainly made me a better and stronger person however. It’s made me more cognizant of every step I take. I’ve never been more determined to pave a path that my children can someday follow with pride.

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  1. Ross, most people are sheep – news outlets are just sheep herders. You’re a wolf who has been destroying stereotypes, myths and trends since as long as I’ve known about you. I’ve been a fitness professional for about 10 years and I see these trends and fads come and go; you know this as well as anybody. I just want to say that guys like me in the industry really appreciate when guys like you who walk the walk and have a huge following speak the truth and keep it real.

    You’re a huge inspiration – don’t ever forget that brother.

  2. Keep it up, Ross. Just continue to be a good role model for your kids ans the rest of us. Here’s the thing: We ALL have more time than we say/think. I don’t know about you, but for me, (when I am really strapped for time) some intense mini sets of compound Cals throughout the day get the job done in a pinch. You can get 100 push ups in pretty easy that way. I used to do that at work all the time.

  3. That reminds me, I should really make more of an effort to fit in some squats while waiting for that next round of whatever it is I’m playing online these days. It might not be my main focus but I can end up with some tired legs by the end of the night during then in this way!

  4. Those people who say they are too busy (with kids, work, whatever) to exercise and live well never seem to have trouble finding a couple of hours a day to sit on their asses watching TV.

  5. Hello Ross,
    I agree with everything you wrote; great philosophy to live by. However, since I don’t have kids of my own as of yet, I can only speculate on how I’ll react to the “lack of free time” thing. I suppose part of the fat trend can be explained by people choosing free time over exercise. While I disagree, I can still understand the reasons of such a decision, seeing how much I value my free time right now.



  6. Had to laugh Manny (I fully agree with you). I had a friend once complain she had no time for exercise. I noted she managed to keep up to date with a few tv shows and said (probably a little bluntly) that she seemed to be prioritising tv over training. It did not go down well…

  7. Getting older and having more responsibilities make the challenge of staying in shape a little harder in some ways, but the wisdom and experience make it easier in others. Like many things, for the majority of people it’s about the choices they make and nothing else. I hope people don’t read articles like the one referenced and think they will get out of shape just from age…

  8. You are spot on here, brotha.

    You summed up my thoughts as a new-ish parent to a 9-month-old: “One way or another, I will MAKE time for exercise.”

    I come across people every single week making excuse after excuse about how busy they are (including my friends without kids) and yet they somehow find time to check Facebook 20 times a day and sit on the couch and watch TV for 3 hours after work.

    You either make the time or you don’t.

  9. I’m a father of 1-year old twin girls and I feel fitter and stronger than ever in my life! Thank you for being such an inspiration. I agree with the article wholeheartedly.

    If someone says he doesn’t have time to work out because of children, he actually means he doesn’t have time for his children. Being a role model and an inspiration is our key responsibility as fathers.

  10. Ross,
    You have great posts on a regular basis, but this may be my all time favorite….I study holistic medicine, which requires analysis of cultural trends and shifts, and your post illustrates this perfectly.

    True physical culturists should be disgusted by an environment that downplays health, and then uses the gift of fatherhood as the excuse for doing so. Health is fundamental for achieving greatness in any area…if you’re sick or dead, really, how much can you do for yourself or others??

    I am not a father, but I train and coach, and will be passing this along to all I believe can benefit from it.


  11. When my boy was born I was working and still am 2 jobs plus coaching in a local boxing club one night a week plus doing my duty as a father and still made time to work out! I stayed in great shape thanks to never gymless (as working out late at night with no noisy equipment was the only option with help from Ross on the subject via emails cheers Ross!)
    It’s just a lazy mans excuse! And as for it being cool, well I’m just clearly not in the loop anymore and I don’t think I want to be either.
    Death to the dad bod and its supporters!

  12. I remember one time pushing my 2 year old daughter in her stroller, and carrying my baby in a bjorn on my chest, jogging slowly up a 1.5 km steep uphill road near my old home in Canada. All the people in cars driving by were looking at me like I was crazy! One old guy walking down the hill passed me and said “You are a good dad!”. I’ll never forget that. Totally agree with your post, Ross.

  13. The linked studies don’t seem to mention the effect of testosterone and fatherhood. I only skimmed the studies, but I didn’t see that as part of the focus of the studies. And testosterone certainly does decrease for fathers–at least during and after childbirth and during periods of nurturing and caring for the children. Now, does decreased testosterone make an impact on the male body and fitness? Probably. I’ve even read that estrogen tends to increase in males during particular periods of fatherhood.


    I think the difference here is that men who worked out vigorously prior to fatherhood, and continued as parents won’t see a significant change. Heck, exercise in itself may keep the testosterone from plummeting during this time as well–among other things.

  14. Thanks Ross. I’m a 50 year old, fit father of four girls and couldn’t agree with you more. There was a time when the virtues of strength and self discipline were part of the positive archetype of fatherhood. Self discipline has given way to appetite gratification generally and the very need for children to have fathers at all has become passe to many. That being said it sounds as though your children are blessed by the relationship they have with you now and will likely bare the fruit of that blessing for years to come. Thanks for the great article.

  15. Great article, gave pause for thought about live, not just workingout, love the picture of the kids at the top as well, endearing.

  16. I’m not a father, but am a mother, and I completely agree with all of this as it relates to both parents. My husband and I have a 4 month old son and we both continue to stay in shape with biking and running. I have a half marathon coming up next month and he has a century ride. Baby and fitness are both a priority, and there’s no reason to abandon a healthy lifestyle along the way. We just make sure that the other has ample training time, which also means that we are an egalitarian household with equal parenting responsibilities. Both mothers and fathers really don’t have excuses to get fat and out of shape–even during pregnancy.

  17. Great article, Ross. I have gained weight since becoming a father. Fortunately, I have gained significant muscle, as I have kept fitness a priority. My son is now 7, and he loves to be active. Instead of watching him on the playground, I play with him, and get in pullups, pushups, dips, etc. while having fun with my son. Thanks for the constant motivation!!!

  18. I view it as sort of analogous to money. Sure, I could blow every single cent I have on my kids right now. But, maybe instead I should invest it, because we are probably going to need that in the future. Similarly, by training I give up a little time now in to increase the odds I will be an active adult for a long time in the future.

  19. Hey Ross, this is unrelated to this post but I was wondering whether you have any simple advice for fighters who tired during rounds; guys who are extremely fit (when it comes it comes to sprinting, skipping, swimming, hiking, etc.) but tire when in the middle of a fight. Perhaps they exhale too much when punching or moving around the ring. Perhaps they punch too hard and too often while also exhaling too much air with each exertion.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

      1. Thanks for that Ross!

        If I may ask a follow-up question: There seem to be different schools of thought in terms of how to breathe when fighting. Some say inhale and exhale with your nose, others say inhale with your nose and exhale using your mouth. While others say use your mouth to inhale when really tired.

        It’s easy to breathe when performing moderate cardio. But during a match, when punching and defending, breathing becomes difficult. I have this problem as do many teammates. Learning to relax more would certainly help, as you suggested.

        What is your opinion on proper breathing for fighting?

        1. The best breathing is the breathing that you do without thinking about it. I suggest training with your mouthpiece to get more comfortable breathing through your nose. The last thing you want to do is get caught with your mouth open. Skipping rope and running with the mouthpiece are two simple ways to practice. Bag work is another.

          1. Thanks for that Ross! I took your advice today and just breathed without thinking about and I was able to last much better during sparring. I inhaled mostly with my nose and exhaled with both my nose and mouth. I think this also relates to your previous comment (and your article you suggested reading) about remaining loose and not too tense; when i wasn’t thinking about breathing i remained more relaxed and just performed better; i didn’t overthink, instead I moved and reacted).

  20. The internet is really full of stupid people that is why people like you and like us here (we are all like-minded people that is why we are here) stand out.

    There are all sorts of myths some even blames lifting for sucking at playing musical instruments, to downright excuses like fatherhood makes one fat.

    But it is indeed true that it has been observed that raising an “infant” reduces testosterone levels slightly:
    Longitudinal evidence that fatherhood decreases testosterone in human males
    .> vol. 108 no. 39 > Lee T. Gettler, 16194–16199, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1105403108

    But off course that is a story for another day.

    Obviously being a father is a “RISK” factor in getting fat all things being equal but to praise that DAD BOD ? I agree that its quite stupid


  21. The funny thing is the CNN article said BMI increased. That could include all the guys that got jacked since having their first kid.

    I personally started barbell training after my wife had our first child. I am 20 pounds heavier, but lift heavier and swim faster than I ever have in my life.

    In other words, these articles are just a symptom of the media trying to cut the testosterone out of the American male.

  22. Amen to what Manny said. I refuse to believe people can’t find an hour or two out of their day to move around a little. It is always interesting to me when I hear anyone say, “I don’t have time.”
    It matters not what anyone says or thinks, we make our own time with what we do. Whether you want to make that time for Television, Facebooking, Gaming OR Exercising, Reading or cleaning…you make your own time. You might have responsibilities you have to fulfill, but ultimately you decide how each minute of your day is spent.

    More accurately put, it should be: “I haven’t prioritized my time for exercising.”

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