Six week challenge: Dave Robbins says goodbye to his dad bod with plans to shed a stone
Like many men I've let things slip - but as the scales tip 15st it's time to call in the experts, writes Dave Robbins
Hold out your arm. I want to measure your wrist."
The speaker is Pat Henry, fitness instructor and personal trainer to the stars, who has been running his gym in Dublin's Pembroke Street for over 30 years.
Pat is a big man, burly with a gym-built upper body. He has an old-school way about him; you sense he has seen men broken and rebuilt down here in his basement lair.
When Pat tells you to do something, you don't mess around. Although I was a little surprised by the request - the wrist was not among the body parts I thought he would measure - I held out my arm.
"Hmm," says Pat. "Seven and a half inches. Quite big for a man."
Pat is assessing me for a six-week fitness and weight-loss programme aimed at losing my "dad bod", a phrase coined by blogger Mackensie Pearson last year to describe the kind of squidgy, non-threatening body men get when they hit their 40s.
"Girls," said Pearson in a post last March which has since gone viral, "are all about the dad bod", which she defined as "not an over weight guy" but not one "with washboard abs either".
The dad bod apparently says: "I go to the gym occasionally but I also drink heavily on the weekends and eat eight slices of pizza at a time".
The trend was picked up by New York magazine, which anointed Sex Tape star Jason Segel as the owner of the ultimate dad bod.
Personally, I'm more along the Danny de Vito lines.
Pearson went on to point out that women "don't want a guy that makes us feel insecure about our body. We are insecure enough as it is. We don't need a perfectly sculpted guy standing next to us to make us feel worse."
As the owner of a dad bod - or possibly two - I was quite pleased by its sudden and unexpected attraction to the opposite sex.
However, my dad bod has passed the tipping point and crossed over into flab.
Which is why I am standing before Pat Henry with a measuring tape around my wrist.
The concept of the dad bod would, I suspect, be lost on Pat. He's seen these fads come and go. As far as he's concerned, fat is fat no matter what you call it. He doesn't deal in viral blog posts or tweets; he deals in muscle and pain.
"In our first session, you might feel nauseous," he says. "It's just that your body will secrete growth hormone and that can make you feel sick. If that happens, we will stop immediately."
He gets me to stand on a fancy weighing machine. It has dials and displays and looks very high-tech. I half-expect it to say "Get off!" in a robot voice.
After a few seconds, it spits out a print-out. Pat tears it off and looks at it gravely. He glances at my paunch. Perhaps he will smile and say: "Congratulations! It's a boy."
"Not bad," he says. "Fifteen stone, three pounds. The weight's not bad. But the visceral fat is not great." He tells me that a doctor would call me obese because my BMI (body mass index) would be high, but that doesn't take into account my build.
Immediately, I dislike that word "visceral". Ordinary fat I can handle, but visceral? "That's the fat around your organs. It's at 38 and should be about 12. But we can work on that."
He measures my waist, biceps and neck. The measurements sound like they belong to another, much larger man.
My neck is 18 inches, yet I buy size 16 shirts. My waist is 40 inches, yet I get 34 or 36-inch jeans.
I must be retaining fluid, I decide.
Next comes a session with holistic therapist Michael Cantwell, who gives me an eating plan. It's not really a diet regime, but more of a general guide to eating healthily. It's based on low-GI foods, which release their sugars into the bloodstream more gradually.
There is very little wheat, sugar, rice or potatoes in there, I notice, and lots of vegetables, fish and lean meat.
It's low-carb, high-protein, but it looks doable.
"I want it to be practical," says Michael.
"If it's too hardcore, you start to resent it and it doesn't work. Plus, diets that lose a lot of weight quickly just don't work. The weight doesn't stay off."
My hour with Michael is quite reassuring.
"The weight loss is 70pc the diet and 30pc the exercise plan," he says. I am filled with a kind of New Year can-do attitude, a nervous excitement that makes my visceral fat wobble a little.
Back in the gym with Pat, I ask about the wrist measurement.
"It's the most important measurement I take," he says. "It tells me what body type you are."
"What type am I?"
"You're a classic mesomorph," he says. I discover later that mesomorphs are "hard, rugged, triangular, athletically built with well-developed muscles", while ectomorphs are tall and thin and endomorphs are soft and round.
"I worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger," says Pat, "and he was a classic mesomorph too." Forget about the visceral fat and the enormous waistline. These are the words I cling to afterwards. Arnie and me. Me and Arnie. Fellow mesomorphs. Brothers. I pause at the desk on the way out. "I'll be back," I say.
Analyis of Dave for him to get himself fit again
On Dave's initial assessment, we see that his frame is mesomorphic - large frame, broad shoulders, strong build.
But in order to reduce body fat, I will be recommending using light weights combined with cardio walk - three days weights plus two cardio and possibly a good long walk on weekends.
His diet will be devised by our nutritionist Michael Cantwell. Dave has also decided to give up smoking. We have taken a complete readout of his body composition, showing the problem areas - high body fat and visceral fat.
We have also suggested to Dave to get a complete medical check-up, including blood samples for cholesterol and hormone levels.
Our target will be to lose 12-14lbs in six weeks. This way the weight will stay off.
Dave's first readouts:
Height: 5ft 10in
Weight: 15st 3lbs (96.6kg)
Metabolic age: 67
What you can do
● Weigh yourself.
● Be realistic about your goals.
● Start gently this week by doing a half an hour cardio each day.
● Brisk walking or cycling is fine. This is to get you out and thinking about starting your regime proper next week.
● Start thinking about how to improve your diet.