Overcoming Dad Bod: My Journey Back to Fitness and Health

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By Michael

Well, here we are again. A return to Dad Bod Confessions after over a year and a half since the last. The last time I wrote one of these check-ins, I was distraught about where I was. I was reaching negative milestones. Nothing I was proud of, nor really wanted to acknowledge. That post then, was me forcing myself to draw a line in the sand. This time? Well, this time around, where I’m at right now, I wish I was where I was then.

Before I get to where I am now, a return to looking back. To know where I was, and where I’ve come from.

The Before Times

A little over five years ago, I was, without question, in the best shape of my life. I was going to the gym every day for at least a couple of hours. I watched what I ate like a hawk. I was looking good and feeling good. With that came a confidence that led to me dating who would become my wife. (It took me a bit to build up the courage to ask her out!) Once we were together, I had other focuses and I wasn’t alone. Before her, I was omni-focused on myself. That’s all I had to worry about 12 out of every 14 days. Typically, the only resting days I’d take were the weekends I’d have my kids. Even then, I didn’t always take a break from the gym.

Once we started dating, and my focus changed, I didn’t fall out of shape horribly. I just wasn’t as strict as I had become. I’d skip the gym to go out. I did not worry as much about what I was eating. I wasn’t in peak condition, but I was still a far cry from where I started years earlier.

Once COVID hit and the gym closed, I slacked off for a few months but eventually found and started DDP Yoga. Finding and enjoying yoga came about at a perfect time for myself, working from home, and finding that my back pain was creeping back in. It’s also worth noting that while I wasn’t as big as I had been muscular-wise, my wife says that I was in my best shape.

We had a pandemic wedding a few months into COVID, then a few months after that, found out we were expecting. With expecting a son just a few months after turning 40, I started finding that omni-focus again, to get into the best shape of my life. I wanted to be in top condition to help welcome my new son into the world.

This was also around the time I launched this website, intending to document my workouts and progress, and having to relearn being a new father over a decade since my last baby.

Intentions are all well and good but don’t amount to squat if you don’t follow through with them. Spoilers: I didn’t follow through.

In fact, I have a whole Health & Fitness section here at the site, which most probably don’t even realize. I’ve rarely posted in this category outside some reviews, which has as much to do with my own self-inflicted frustration as anything else.

Anyway, I failed to get into the shape that I wanted to because, as life likes to do, it throws wrenches into your plans. The first was, despite doing yoga (and getting pretty good at it) my back still wouldn’t let up. I had days where I struggled to move in the morning.

We were moving into another house, and I had to work on it and get it ready. Remodeling the kitchen, painting all the walls, pulling carpet, etc. I was determined to get us moved in before the holidays, so I was spending countless hours and the bulk of my free time away from work, working to get this house ready. Which meant no time for yoga or really anything else. I had turned my focus to things more important than just myself. It just was what it was.

Once we moved in and the holidays passed, I could find a bit of time to get back to the gym, joining a new gym that had just opened. So while I wasn’t where I wanted to be when my son was born, I was slowly getting back into the groove of things. Then, our son was born, and our world was turned upside down!

I won’t go into it here, as this post is already going to be wordy enough. Feel free to check out the blog and read about our journey over the past two-plus years. The short version, however, is that our son was born with multiple medical conditions that threw me into emotional and physical shock. (I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered.)

So focus went entirely to him. Countless hours stressing or driving to and from doctor’s appointments. I wasn’t important, only my son.

And I know, some of you reading this will think the same thing many have said to me in the past “You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of your kids”. While I don’t disagree, at this point, it just wasn’t happening.

I found time to go to the gym occasionally. I would go late in the evening, once he was in bed and asleep, and that worked for a while. However, a gym session could get cut short if his camera notified me and he was crying and woke up. Sure, my wife was at home, but she stays at home with him every day while I’m at work. I couldn’t get past, and still can’t get past, feeling selfish if I go to the gym after being gone to work all day. Not giving her a break.

Honestly, I’ve tried, and I’m just not mentally into working out like that. So unless our little guy is asleep, I’m not going to the gym. If he stays up late because of being sore or taking a long nap after therapy, the gym takes a break.

So for the past few years, I’ve had moments where I get back into the routine and start feeling good. Really just 3-4 times a week for a week or two and I start feeling that motivation and that addiction to the gym creep back in. But then something happens. Another trip to Greenville or I’m too exhausted after work, and the days between gym visits pile up.

That’s just part of what’s going on, however.

Back to More Problems

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been dealing with some of the worst back pain and back problems I’ve ever dealt with. And that’s coming from someone who has dealt with back pain since his early 20s. Hell, if we’re being honest, I was sleeping on the floor my senior year of high school trying to combat back pain. My back has hurt and been a source of constant awareness for more of my life than it hasn’t. I have multiple degenerated discs along with bulging and herniated ones. My lower back isn’t the best. Like I said, though, that’s nothing new for me. I’ve always combated it. However, over the summer, I finally had to give in and go to a pain specialist because my back was just not getting better. I ended up having an epidural. While not completely pain-free, my back has been substantially better than it was. Then, a few weeks after that, because I like to lump all doctor visits and procedures into a nice small window, I had a vasectomy. So I was on the shelf from doing pretty much anything for a better part of 2-plus weeks. Since all that, we’ve also been dealing with our son’s latest adventures in casts, plus my oldest’s senior year of soccer matches, which we would not miss, and I’ve probably averaged a gym visit every three weeks for the better part of 3-4 months.

So life has been a lot, and while I hate making excuses and saying “life got in the way”, in a lot of ways, it did.

I would say, for the bulk of the summer, the most exercise I got in a week was when I push-mowed the yard. Which, by my Apple Watch, equated to walking around 3 miles in the 1.5 hours I take to mow.

So that’s where we’re at now. I’ve barely been to the gym at all since the spring. I have lost substantial muscle and a decent amount of strength and gained an extra bit of fluff.

The Now Times

My weight is causing mental obstacles, making it difficult for me to feel motivated or enthusiastic about exercising.

I saw someone post on X (formerly Twitter) the other day, asking people what their “oh shit” weight was. Meaning, the weight that makes them open their eyes and realize that they need to get back to the grind. I thought mine was 240lbs, then 250lbs. Currently, I am the heaviest I have been since 2015, at 261lbs. I’m way past my “oh shit” weight.

I’m 42, 6 feet tall, and weigh 261 pounds. Far from optimal, and truly a mental struggle, because I can still remember weight 225lbs 5.5 years ago.

My back hurts, my knees hurt. I’m back to having constant heartburn. I sleep awful, and I’m always tired. Not surprising by what the scale reads.

So why the drawn-out, long-winded post? Another line in the sand? No. Less a line in the sand, and more of a call to arms and wake-up call. I know my weaknesses. I know the changes I need to make, and these words are me calling out myself.

I know my diet is my biggest problem. It seems I’ve become an emotional eater, and since my son was born, well, I’ve eaten my emotions. I’m sure if I had kept a daily record of my weight these past few years, you’d be able to pinpoint stressful moments, be it trips to Greenville, the latest surgery, or the newest worry. My second issue, which loops back around to the first, is that I’m a shit sleeper. I average 5.5 hours a night during the work week. Take those two things, plus add the time I’m in the car (anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 a month) and that equation equals 260 plus pounds.

I don’t take the time to meal prep like I should. There are many days I’m just exhausted and will just grab something in a drive-thru while I’m on the road, simply because it is quick and easy. It is a bad habit I know, and one I’m being more conscious and self-aware of. Beyond my poor diet, I still lack any desire or interest to go to the gym. I’ve managed to once in the past week, and that was because of my oldest wanting to go. I know my faults and my issues. I know my weaknesses and where I need to make changes. It is the mental factor that is truly my biggest hurdle, and it is one I’m working on getting over.

So what’s the plan?

On to the Future

Well, I know I need to get back to the gym and work out. Even if it is for 30 minutes, doing a couple of sets of curls and listening to a podcast or music. I need to get back to that. I was mentally in a better place when I did that, and even baby steps are steps forward. I know this, and my wife has said it to me many times. I want to get back to a point where lifting, especially lifting heavily, is fun. Reaching new PRs and milestones just a few years ago was such a rush. Even though I was told by several people recently that I have no reason to avoid certain activities, I’ve still been avoiding things like squatting and deadlifting for nearly two decades, thinking it would spare me from unnecessary pain. The doctors told me there was no reason to avoid those exercises and I want to start doing those again. I’m still working on rewiring that thinking though, but I am working on it.

I’m also turning up the cardio, something that I’ve always hated. I’m back to using the Marvel Move fitness app, which is phenomenal, and is something I’ve been genuinely enjoying.

My diet is another focus that I’m already working on, and continue to work on. I’m not the best at meal prepping, but now I carry protein shakes and bars in my car. This way, I can avoid getting the latest gimmick sandwich from a drive-thru.

I’ve even gone as far as I am now, a Brand Ambassador for Built.com to help give me extra incentive to keep the diet in check. (This means you’ll be seeing posts regarding Built and using my code RELOADED to get a 10% discount at Built.com)

I recognize my problems and the need for change. Writing this down and sharing it publicly is my way of taking a step towards my goals. I understand what needs fixing—I just need to overcome my mental barriers and regain my motivation to push forward. This marks my starting point, the farthest back I’ve been on my fitness journey in nearly a decade. Here’s to hoping this confession serves as a catalyst for the change I need. This no longer needs to be dad bod confessions, but simply dad bod no more.

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