The terms “dad bod” and “skinny fat” have been used to refer to a particular kind of physique in men – though skinny fat can also be applied to women.

Both terms describe men who don’t fit into the traditional categories of being either lean and muscular or simply overweight.

Instead, they represent a more nuanced spectrum of physique types, each with its own set of characteristics and health implications.

Dad Bod Features

Dad bod refers to a build that’s relatively average, from non-overweight (though not slim) to slightly overweight, and characterized by a soft and rounded appearance.

The dad bod.

Men with dad bods typically have some muscle mass but also carry extra body fat, particularly around the midsection.

This physique is associated with men in an age range of having elementary age to teen kids.

These men, as suggested by their body, have settled into a lifestyle that includes less physical activity.

The dad bod might be seen as a natural consequence of aging, but a man in his 20s can have a dad bod.

The dad bod is also associated with the responsibilities of parenthood – which is ironic, because when we think of a man who’s very physically active with his high-energy kids, we usually envision a man with a slightly muscular physique and a lean tight waistline.

The dad bod, however, could be renamed the videogame bod.

  • Moderate muscle mass
  • Noticeable body fat, particularly around the abdomen
  • A generally soft and rounded appearance
  • Often associated with men in their 30s and 40s

Skinny Fat Features

On the other hand, “skinny fat” refers to a body type in which one appears thin or slender, to normal weight — but has a high percentage of body fat and low muscle mass.

Skinny fat.

There’s a little overlap, then, when comparing the appearance of a dad bod of normal weight and a skinny fat body of normal weight.

A skinny fat body can be deceptive because the person may look healthy and lean in clothes, but underneath, they lack muscle tone and have more body fat than is ideal.

This condition is often due to a combination of poor diet, lack of exercise and genetics.

But this doesn’t mean a skinny fat body can’t be transformed into a lean toned or lean muscular body.

  • Normal or thin appearance in clothes
  • Low muscle mass
  • High body fat percentage
  • Lack of muscle definition and tone
  • Can occur at any age

Health Implications of the Dad Bod

While the dad bod is often celebrated for its approachability and relatability, it comes with certain health risks.

Carrying extra weight around the midsection can increase the risk of several health issues, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

However, men with dad bods may still engage in some physical activity, which can mitigate some health risks.

In fact, the dad bod does not prevent participation in even rigorous activity such as a fast paced mountain hike, a grueling martial arts class or a kickass gym workout.

  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Potential for metabolic syndrome
  • Possible joint issues due to extra weight

Health Implications of a Skinny Fat Body

The health implications of being skinny fat can be more severe and insidious because the outward appearance of thinness or slimness can mask underlying health problems or their potential.

High body fat percentage, especially visceral fat around the organs, can lead to serious health conditions even if the individual does not appear overweight.

Skinny fat men (and women) may not be as physically active as men with dad bods simply because they don’t have the muscle mass that typically comes with the dad bod.

Just a side note: Don’t let the term “mass” trick you into equating this with high volume muscle such as that of a muscle building enthusiast.

The skinny fat type is associated with poor metabolic health, which can lead to insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and other metabolic disorders.

  • High risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
  • Poor metabolic health
  • Potential for sarcopenia (muscle loss)
  • Increased risk of osteoporosis

Societal Perceptions of the Dad Bod

The dad bod has gained popularity and even a certain level of acceptance in society.

Many people view it as a symbol of a balanced life, where men are seen as approachable, nurturing and relatable.

Where this perception originates is somewhat of a mystery.

That’s because historically, depictions of men who spend too much time watching TV, playing videogames or sitting at a computer usually show classic dad bods.

And historically, depictions of men who are active with their children show a physique that, though not Chippendale-grade muscular, certainly doesn’t qualify for dad bod, either.

Nevertheless, celebrities and public figures who embody the dad bod have contributed to its positive image.

The dad bod is often associated with confidence, maturity and a focus on family and career over physical perfection.

Societal Perceptions of Skinny Fat

In contrast, the skinny fat body is less recognized and often misunderstood.

Because individuals with this body type appear thin or trim, they may not receive the same level of concern or encouragement to improve their health as might those with visible overweight.

This can lead to a lack of awareness about the potential health risks associated with being skinny fat.

There is also a stigma attached to this body type, as it challenges the conventional understanding of what it means to be healthy and fit.

Dad Bod vs. Skinny Fat

So as you can see, there is definitely a difference – externally and internally – between the dad bod and the skinny fat physique – albeit a little overlap if both builds are “straight size,” meaning, not overweight in appearance – at least with clothes on.

Whether you have a dad bod or are skinny fat, or, you can’t tell which one you are based on what you see in the mirror, this doesn’t mean you can’t improve your body composition.

An improved body composition would be more lean muscle mass and less body fat.

If you clearly have a thin appearance but think you might be skinny fat, you can ask a personal trainer at your local gym to measure your body fat percentage.

Make sure the trainer uses a skin-fold device, also known as a skin-fold caliper, and NOT the handheld bioelectrical impedance gadget.

The skin-fold analysis takes a little more time, but is much more accurate than the handheld gadget.

The more sites on your body that skin folds are measured, the more precise the result will be. Five sites should yield a pretty precise result.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness, where she was also a group fitness instructor, she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.