The Day I Realized I Had A “Dad Bod”

My love/hate relationship with exercise

by Jason Isaacs

Back in 2011 I stepped on the scale in my bathroom and saw the number 215. I was 28 years old, 5’9 and already 215 pounds. I was destined for 300 pounds; it was only a matter of time. I officially had a “Dad Bod.”

Up until that point in my life I never exercised, but I was very active in sports. Although I had slowly been gaining a few pounds each year, I never had to worry about my weight much, but now after seven years of marriage, a desk job, fewer sports, and a lifetime of eating whatever I wanted it had finally caught up to me. I was as big as I had ever been, I felt terrible, and was embarrassed.

I decided to do something about it, so I went down to my local gym and hired a trainer for $80/month. I know me well enough to know I would not push myself to the maximum effort in the gym, so I needed a trainer to keep me focused. The first week with my trainer we sat down and developed a strategy to lose 40 pounds, but he told me something very important. He said,

“losing weight is 80% diet and 20% sweat. You can exercise all you want, but if you don’t change your eating habits you’re never going to lose the weight you want to lose.”

Considering that up until that point my eating habits consisted of fast food at least five times a week, I believed him. So we started together on the journey to lose 40 pounds.

What I appreciated about my trainer was he was very practical with his help. He didn’t have me drinking protein shakes or taking supplements; his advice was simple.

  • Exercise for an hour 3 times a week
  • Drink only water
  • Don’t eat anything after 6:00 pm
  • And no fast food (that was emphasized for me)

That was basically it. I’m not saying it was easy, but it was simple. Over the next six months, we worked out without ever lifting a weight. We used kettlebells, ropes, medicine balls, planks, and treadmills to get me into shape. The first four weeks I was feeling better but couldn’t tell much difference in my appearance, but around week 5 when I looked in the mirror I could tell the weight was coming off around my neck and gut, and that gave me the confidence and drive to keep working hard. Over the next eight months I lost 40 pounds and weighed in at 175. It was the lowest I had weighed since my wedding day.

I would love to tell you that I kept the weight off, but I didn’t. I stayed active for a little while, but the following January I didn’t renew my gym membership, and old eating habits started to creep back in. Over the next three years, I slowly crept back up into the 190’s. My back started hurting again; the heartburn was back, and I felt terrible. I couldn’t run up and down the basketball court without almost passing out. In December of 2014, with the encouragement of my friend Daniel, who himself had lost 100 pounds, I began running. No gym memberships or exercise routines just running at least four days a week. It started out slow and painful but during the month of December I ran 50 miles. I had always heard runners talk about falling in love with running, but that had never been true for me. I found out why, I was trying to run too fast. After learning to set a comfortable pace for me (9:00-minute mile), I enjoyed running and looked forward to it each day. After several months of running and better eating again, I got back down to 175 pounds. This year I completed my goal of running a 5k and a 10k without stopping.

The Day I realized I had a "dad bod"

The truth is my weight fluctuates. When I’m lazy, I balloon up pretty quickly, and when I run I lose or maintain my weight. At 32 years old, feeling like a man with a 50-year-old body, I know now what it will take to keep off my “dad bod” and be in good physical shape to enjoy life. My goal is to stay in the 170’s, and I accomplished that for the majority of 2015, but as I type this, I’m creeping up again. Time to get the running shoes back out. I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. I hate exercising, but I love “having exercised.”

What about you? What have been your experiences trying to lose or keep weight off?