Move over beefcake, it’s time for the dad bod, and the news couldn’t come at a better time for Matt Villano.
The Healdsburg father of three is the the new face (and belly) of middle-aged dads, baring his baby weight in a national campaign to support men’s health issues.
He and two Healdsburg friends are behind the online #DadBod Challenge, which encourages other dads to post their selfies as a way to raise money for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
“Before kids, I used to be about 15 pounds lighter,” said Villano, 41. “But three kids and seven years later, this is my truth. I’m slower and rounder, and I struggle to fit into my size 34s. Maybe I don’t have all this time for running anymore.”
Writer Mackenzie Pearson coined the phrase “dad bod” in an article called “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod,” which went viral after it was published in 2015 on the Odyssey social media platform. Pearson defined the phenomenon as “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. ... It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.”
With his third child, Villano said, he surrendered to the reality that his time was no longer his own and began to accept the body that came with balancing family and work life. Then he and friends Kim Carroll, a photographer, and Josie Gay, a marketing consultant, hatched the idea of creating a travel selfie spoof, a series of tongue-in-cheek portraits in which Villano wears nothing but an American flag Speedo and hiking boots or Teva sandals.
He posed at the Golden Gate Bridge as well as Sonoma County locations such as Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Jordan Winery, Healdsburg Hotel and the Healdsburg Plaza.
The portraits were well received, and what started as a pet project soon became a call to action. Finding inspiration in the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS and hashtag movements such as Alicia Key’s #NoMakeUp, Gay suggested teaming up with the Movember Foundation, the only global charity focused on raising funds and awareness for men’s health.
Villano pitched the idea in his car, in the Santa Rosa Kaiser Permanente parking lot, and within 30 minutes he had locked down the partnership, all while his baby daughter was sleeping in the backseat.
Movember is known for eccentric fundraising tactics like challenging men to grow moustaches and post photos each November. The #DadBod Challenge taps into that momentum, encouraging men to snap photos of themselves, post them on social media using the #dadbod hashtag, and donate to Movember.
Villano said stepping in front the camera and baring almost everything has been easy. He was involved in theater in high school and has done on-camera work in his career as a freelancer.
“I’m definitely aware that others aren’t as comfortable,” he said, sharing a story about hikers at Armstrong Woods who were shocked to see a man in a Speedo hugging a redwood tree.
Villano said he hopes “the dad bod could serve as an alternative for guys who maybe didn’t want to go full-on ‘stache,” with a goal of raising at least $10,000 from men willing to post selfies, family photos and group “dad bod” shots.