The “Dad Bod” Fad, Metabolic Syndrome, and Living A Healthier Life
The attractiveness surrounding the dad bod has brought with it all too many men eagerly jumping on board to claim their “hard-earned“ physique. What has once been considered unhealthy, lazy, or the result of settling down, is now being strutted around as a worthy prize. This is all fine, and everyone should be comfortable in their own skin, but there is a point in which health has to take precedence over comfort, vanity (“I do this for the ladies”), or laziness, lest we increase our risk of preventable diseases.
That tipping point, when symptoms and ailments become more prevalent (usually associated with ”getting old”) will vary for the individual, in both time and weight, but one thing is certain: excess body weight will lead to both physical and metabolic changes over time. Let’s look at some of the changes that can take place due to excessive weight, determine what our tipping point is (how much weight is too much, along with other valuable measurements) and, more importantly, what we can do about it.
The physical changes:
Some noticeable changes we may start to see include: increased abdominal fat (especially in males; females tend to deposit more fat into their buttocks, hips, and thigh region), decreased muscle mass (if we cease exercising), increased load on our joint and tissues (see figure 15 below), and decreased cardiorespiratory efficiency (chronically higher: blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate; as well as decreased stroke volume, vessel elasticity and so on).
The Metabolic Changes: What occurs at the cellular level?
There are 5 key metabolic changes that can occur from excess body weight, collectively referred to as “Metabolic Syndrome.” The more abnormal values present (see figure below) the greater one‘s risk for developing preventable disease.
Metabolic syndrome is considered a state of chronic inflammation, meaning our tissues have increased swelling, heat, proliferation, pain-sensing chemicals, etc., similar to an ankle sprain only on a non-detectable (unconscious) level, throughout various cells and organs. This leads to poorer functioning overall. If liver cells are chronically inflammed, they will perform tasks less efficiently and allow the progression of disease to occur more easily. The cells are bogged down so to speak, constantly working and maintaining the inflammation rather than experiencing normalcy (not much activity until required).
The prevalence of developing chronic inflammation increases as we age. According to Dr. Seaman, nutritional researcher and author of The Deflame Diet, “approximately 25% of individuals age 40 –49, 35% of those age 50–59, and 45% of those over 60 years of age may have the pro-inflammatory metabolic syndrome“ (1). So as we age, our risk for developing this syndrome increases, most likely due to an inefficiency of metabolic processes and pathways. This means we have to be ever more fervent and disciplined with our health choices the longer we live.
Some additional things we can measure, also indicators of increased inflammation in the body and potential health problems, include the markers listed in the table below. Two of which, BMI and Waist/hip ratio, can easily be measured from home or online. So how much weight is too much? For most people, if BMI exceeds 25, and there is noticeable fat deposition around the stomach or hips (as well as additional factors such as stress, lack of sleep, depression, etc), this generally increases the risk of preventable disease.
What Can Be Done?
The first step is gaining information about ourselves that we can understand. “Why are my vitamin D levels low?” ”What does this mean?” “Why do I have a high levels of triglycerides or sugar in my blood? “What does this do to my health?” Blood work may be required, especially if one has tendencies of being inflammed: elevated BMI, high waist/hip ratio, increased abdominal fat (sorry dad bod fans), high blood pressure, etc. Most of these can be measured at home or relatively easily. Once we’ve determined our level of inflammation, as indicated from the previous two charts and understand our own unique results, we can take the necessary action steps.
Action steps will include changing or adding to our daily habits, namely, the foods we eat, the amount we move or exercise, are ability to have positive thoughts and manage stress, and the amount or frequency of body-harming vices we indulge in. Most choices are either health-promoting or health-deteriorating. When we tip the scales in favor of healthy choices, we experience healthier, longer lives (generally speaking; absent any unforeseeable tragedy).
List of Foods That Promote Health:
If we have metabolic syndrome or several abnormal values (see previous table), the number one greatest thing we can do for ourselves is change / control our diet and start eating more anti-inflammatory (or neutral) foods that help manage inflammation. In brief, an anti-inflammatory diet might include: dark leafy greens (romaine lettuce, green lettuce, arugula, spinach leaves), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, red cabbage), other vegetables (red onions, bell peppers, spicy peppers, spaghetti/yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, cucumbers), complex carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, beans, lentils or rice - pressure cooked**, green bananas), fruits (avocados, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, apples, lemons, limes, oranges), roots/tubers/spices (ginger, turmeric, cilantro, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon, cocoa, mint, sea or pink salt), nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, chia, flax, macadamia, cashews) meats in moderation (salmon, eggs, chicken, beef, pork, sardines, tuna, lamb - organic and grass fed meats if possible), condiments/oils (mustard, vinegars, sriracha, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee butter, grass-fed butter, avocado oil, honey, stevia), flour alternatives (coconut flour, almond flour, flax meal, tapioca), and certain dairy sparingly (almond milk*, whole fat organic cheeses, yogurt).
Incorporating these types of food on a regular basis, and avoiding processed ones (usually anything with a long list of ingredients in a package or box), can make a huge difference on our health. Get creative with cooking and preparing to make it easier and more enjoyable to eat healthy foods. Additionally, controlling how much we eat makes a big difference as well. Making sure not to exceed the recommended daily caloric intake, tailored for each person and their respective goals (a body builder will have a much higher recommended number of calories than someone trying to lose weight). The great thing about vegetables and other fibrous, raw foods is we are able to eat large amounts (filling our stomach), while only slightly raising our total caloric intake. Compare a pound of romaine lettuce to a pound of doughnuts and this is easy to understand.
Movement: Nutrition for our joints
Movement is the next major influencer on our body and health. Exercising 3 to 4 times per week will help maintain muscle and improve other bodily functions - from blood flow and heart health to metabolism and digestion. Exercise does not require going to a gym. It can be performed anywhere in countless ways. It can be done in 20 minutes or 2 hours. The key is to increase your heart rate and perform high quality movements that improve joint and muscle function. Load your tissues so they can respond appropriately and become more useful (resilient, strong, flexible, etc.) Pain is usually a good indicator to stop, but oftentimes exercise hurts if it hasn’t been done for several years or decades. This is a good time to seek professional care, such as a chiropractor to help with joint health or a personal trainer to teach basic exercises.
Positive Mindset: Thoughts control our habits and the quality of our lives
Thought patterns are our “normal,” learned way of thinking about things. They develop over time, especially in our early, formative years, and are largely due to past experiences, parenting, influences, early habits, as well as daily content exposure and outlook on life. They are oftentimes automatic reactions to things that happen around us. For instance, imagine driving and being suddenly cut off or simply just annoyed by poor driving. Many people’s reaction is to get angry, flustered, or even throw up an inappropriate gesture (sometimes unavoidable and at times rightly so - if safety is threatened). But that is a reaction. All this does is lead to the reactor being affected. The bad driver is none the wiser by this angry outburst. Getting curious about why we react, and deciding whether it is helpful or not, is a good way to become less reactive.
Adopting a positive mindset takes time and, once again, as with all good habits, discipline. If we do react in a negative manner, recognize it and think of better ways to respond in the future. Recognition is the first step. Only by becoming aware of what causes us to react and what our reactions are, can we make a change.
Health is largely something achieved from within, heavily influenced by better choices over time. Consistently choosing a decision favorable to our health, whether eating vegetables more often than pasta or moving more often than idle days on the couch, requires a majority. If majority of the time we make the right decision, we will experience greater health. Talk is cheap and much easier, the proof is in the pudding. How healthy do you feel? How long do you want to live pain- and disease- free? Learn to challenge yourself if the long-term benefit outweighs the short-term discomfort.
1. Seaman, David. “Body mass index and musculoskeletal pain: is there a connection?” Chiropractic and Manual Therapies 2013.