How I Avoid Becoming a Beer Belly Dad


Hi dad, you have a big tummy. 
Your tummy is huge!
You're Daddy pig.
                                          —My [almost] four year old


Yes, he really said that. Thanks to Peppa Pig, he now associates me with the fat daddy in the show. Grrrreeeaaaeat.

Back in January, I would have believed his every word too. I had put on a lot of extra weight and was starting to break a promise I made to my wife years ago. I was starting to "let myself go." 

This is pretty much how it happens too . . .


It wasn't intentional, either. I got busy, stopped caring about some basics, and in time my metabolism slowed and those choices caught up with me. 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away ... I worked out almost every day. Sometimes twice a day.

It was easy then. I had fewer responsibilities. I had a lot of time to spend by myself and had more flexibility with my schedule. Even back in seminary, I still had plenty of time to train 4-6 times a week at the Crossfit box.

Now of course, that's all very different. I have a family to feed and a lot of work to do each day. I work 8 hours in an office M-F, then have family responsibilities when I get home and church responsibilities at random times throughout the week and on the weekends. Good time management is the only way to stay on top of life's demands, and even then sometimes I get swamped.

So how does a busy dad stay fit? I wish I knew how. I think the only thing I'm good at doing is not getting too fat. That's basically where I'm at right now. My greatest goal isn't to stay fit but to avoid getting too fat. 

My goal used to be:
“How can I get ripped?”

Now, my goal is:
“How can I not get fat?”

Sure, I could let working out consume me and probably look better than I did in college. But then, what for? I actually enjoy life. 

So here are some things that I've been doing to keep from having to buy a whole new wardrobe. That's the worst part about gaining weight. There was a time that I had to gorge myself just to put on a few extra pounds. Now by not eating I can still achieve weight gain. If only that could be reversed. 

What Dad Eats

Every morning, I skip breakfast. :O

This is intentional. Since January I've been experimenting with intermittent fasting. You may of heard of it marketed as the 8-hour diet or Wolverine's diet plan. Whatever. My research on this subject comes from Martin Berkhan over at Lean Gains and Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat.

In short, you simply prolong breakfast and eat as you normally do, only later in the day. This increases your fasting window from the typical 12 hours (say, 7pm to 7am) to 18 hours (only 6 hours longer, and most of the time you're sleeping so it's not that hard to accomplish), shortening your eating window. This will decrease the amount of calories your body consumes each day.

From a weight loss perspective, this is genius actually. It's difficult to cut back 500 calories while still eating the recommended 3-7 meals in one day. With intermittent fasting, it's a breeze to cut back 500 calories because you're only eating 2 meals (and maybe a snack in between those two meals or a dessert after dinner). This is probably why I've gravitated towards it. It's simple.

For a working man, it also makes a lot of sense. I don't have to worry about what I'm eating for breakfast. I just grab my coffee and go. Easy morning. I'll drink water (sometimes bubbly water, mmmm) and hold out until 11:30-12:30pm for lunch. 

In general, my diet consists of meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little starch (some potatoes or sweet potatoes maybe 1-2 times a week), and some to no sugar. I'm not a big sweets fan. That said, I do splurge on alcohol (wine, whisky, and beer).

Beer is the big culprit in my diet. If I cut that out entirely, I'd have no trouble at all with keeping weight off. The problem is, I live in San Diego County. (For those of you who aren't aware, SD is one of the nation's top places for breweries and I have a lot of friends who drink beer.) Mama Mia! What's a guy to do?

So a typical day for me is:

Breakfast: Skipped. Coffee with a splash of cream, and maybe a green tea or another cup of coffee throughout the morning.

[on workout days I do take two servings of amino acids; one serving every 2 hours to preserve muscle tissue]


Lunch: Usually I'll eat meat with a salad, or a Chipotle burrito bowl (double meat on workout days). Once or twice a week I might go crazy and eat a burger or some great pizza, like Red Oven. Gotta live a little.

Dinner: Whatever is on the table for the evening. Honestly, I don't count calories anymore. I'll eat what my wife makes and I'm still under 300-600 calories each day simply because I skipped breakfast. If I have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner, then I'll "break even" for the day. Pretty stress free though. 

Dessert: If I worked out and didn't drink any alcohol for the day, sometimes I'll reward myself with a treat. It can be a little bit of ice cream (my favorite is Bryers Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream), or maybe some homemade popcorn with a splash of olive oil and sea salt. Usually though if I do have anything it's going to be protein pudding. Chocolate Casein protein + a cup of milk, refrigerate for 30 minutes then eat. Yum.

Supplements: When I wake up I'll take a multivitamin, vitamin D, fish oil, turmeric, and magnesium. An hour before bed, I'll take another magnesium capsule (500mg). On workout days as I'll mention below I do supplement with BCAA's (and sometimes protein powder).

When Dad Sleeps

I'm thankful for my wife, Gina. (For more reasons than just this, too.) She's a routine girl, so we have some pretty consistent patterns in our household. One of those patterns is a bedtime routine around 10pm. This is awesome! We have young kiddos, so going to bed at a reasonable hour is vital to our health and wellness. The little rascals are going to get up by 6:00am (at the latest!), so we might as well get our recommended 7-8 hours of rest to prepare for the chaos that ensues on an average day at the Davis home. 

Whatever your routine is, just try to keep it consistent and get at least 6-7 hours of rest every night. I have a Fitbit that tracks my sleep patterns and in general, I get at least 7 hours each night. 


How Dad Exercises

How does a dad workout? Not very easily. Thankfully my wife let's me workout in the mornings. I wish I could say that I'm always up pounding the weights at 6:30am, but in truth I'm a huge failure. These days, I'm lucky to get in just three workouts a week. When I have a workout partner (shoutout to my homie, the other Nick Davis!), I'm much more consistent. 4-5 times a week can happen.

Years ago I went to a globo-gym. That's like 24 Hour Fitness or other typical gyms that people go to. Then I got addicted to Crossfit. Then I started doing some Oly lifting. :) Oh how I miss those days.

Now, in order to get somewhat regular workouts in, I had to invest in a home gym. The house we live in has a three car garage, and in place of one of those car spots is a room that has become Nick's gym. 

Over the years I've accumulated and purchased the following:

-Two barbells; one is an olympic barbell and the other is a beater bar (One can whip though, let me tell you.)



-Squat rack

-Bumper plates (Two pairs of 45lbs, two pairs of 25lbs, and one set of 15lbs.)

-Iron plates (Varied in kg. This is totally unorthodox but when I need added weight I sandwich these between the bumpers...I'm sure someone will have a problem with this but for me, it works.)

-A horse mat (Yup. That's exactly what it is. It sits between my barbell and weights and the garage floor. It was $40 at a tractor supply store. And now my neighbors won't hate me for dropping plates from my face or head at 6 or 7 in the am.)

-A massive, brutal hill in the neighborhood

-A jump rope

-A road bike (Gosh I need to use that thing, sorry pop.)

-Mobility WOD stuff. Thanks, Kelly. 

That pretty much sums up my "home gym." It has enough to keep me busy and if I had the inertia, to get me pretty jacked. Thankfully, it just keeps me from getting fat.


My Minimalist Weekly Workout Schedule 

Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Presses/Split Jerks, Pull-ups, Bench Press, Cleans/power cleans, and occasional Snatches or OH Squats. (Those last two are only when I have the spare time.)

So a weekly routine looks something like this:

Monday - Squat and Press

Wednesday - Deadlift and Pull-ups (power cleans)

Friday - Squat (or Squat cleans if I didn't do cleans on Wednesday) and Press (alternate with bench, close grip bench occasionally)

If I get up early on a Tuesday or Thursday morning, I'll do some uphill sprints or go for a long walk or jog. 

All workouts are generally done in under 30-50 minutes. Actually, this morning I did one in under 20 minutes. I don't like to waste time and try to maximize time/effort. 

Think about how much time guys waste staring at themselves in the mirror at the local gym. Seriously, that's time wasted. It's not a beauty pageant. You're there to workout. If you must, go look in the mirror after you get your pump and swoll on ;).

That's about it. It doesn't seem like much, but if I were really consistent with this outline I'd get some pretty awesome results. Maybe one of you readers can motivate me, I need it.

Exercise for a dad doesn't stop here though. To keep off excessive weight gain, there are a few other tricks that I throw at my beer belly.

  • Walk - On my two 10-minute breaks at work, I go on a walk outside with some of my co-workers. We talk about work or life, and take in beautiful sunny So-Cal. It's stress-reliving, it's free and easy exercise, and it boosts productivity when we're back at the office. Concentration improves, overall this is a great habit to incorporate into your daily routine. 
  • Stand - I have a standing desk. Now I don't stand all day long. Sometimes I need to sit down. Jokingly, when my co-workers take "standing breaks," I'll take a "sit break." It's humorous and well, it's a good break for my legs.
  • Move - While standing, I try to move around as much as I can. Leg swings, a quick deep squat, whatever. Just move. Get some water. Walk to a co-worker and talk to them face-to-face instead of emailing. 
  • Play - Finally, I have two young boys. These guys keep me on my toes. When I get home we wrestle on the floor. And when it's not crazy hot outside, I'll chase them around in the backyard or we'll play with the soccer ball. Sometimes we'll go down to the soccer fields and play as well. And some nights after dinner, we'll go on a family walk where I have to haul that massive stroller up that brutal hill. That burns calories. No doubt.

Well, I hope this is helpful to some current or future dads out there. If you have any suggestions or tips from father to father, please leave a comment for me below. As dads who drink beer, we're in this together.

Cheers! (But not to you, beer belly. You, sir, can get lost.)

P.S. Recommended Reading

The Worst F-Word There Is (On the Elephant in the Room) by David Zahl

Superb quote from this article:

Ultimately, the extent to which we link dignity and love to progress (our own or that of others) will be the extent to which we condemn ourselves. To speak about the Gospel as good news, it simply cannot be tied to human agency or deserving. It has to apply to the addict, the leper, the sinner, yes, even the morbidly obese person–in other words, the person who’s problem is beyond their ability to control it. The person who cannot appeal to deserving for consolation, but needs God to be God (creator and deliverer) if they are to be redeemed.
At the risk of stating the obvious, this is true of all of us. Other problems may be less visible, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They’re just more devious.

And David gives a talk entitled, Shaped By What You Love, here:


Nicholas Davis

Rev. Nicholas Davis is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.

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