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Fit for families: Christian Vazquez talks about how the 'dad bod' has evolved

By MAAN D'ASIS PAMARAN Published Jun 15, 2024 6:11 pm

Dads thought that they could relax and let loose from their fitness routine when middle-aged Hollywood celebs started gaining weight and showing off their beer bellies in beach photos. While the accepting society has become more welcoming of bigger bods, actor and dad of four Christian Vasquez says that it's still important to stay healthy and fit. Now in his forties, he gives a very good argument about how staying in shape helps in building a family.

He shares his own fitness journey with PhilSTAR L!fe. “During the pandemic, I stopped working out, because I focused on other things like building our house, which was stressful. I thought this was fine, because I did not gain weight. I did get thinner though, but since I was getting older, I thought, ito na 'yun, I didn’t have to have a six-pack to get roles anymore,” he says. He, however, noticed how this affected his performance as an actor. “'Yung scenes namin sa Iron Heart, hard action. Napansin ko, sobrang pagod ko, sobrang tulog ako. I realized it was sort of unhealthy, na hindi ako physically fit. That’s when I started working out again.”

His fitness goal is now different from having six-pack abs and it has a lot to do with fatherhood. “We need to be fit, we need to be strong, we have to exercise. We need to be flexible, and our mobility has to be okay. When you are a dad, age starts to hit differently, and you are more prone to injury. It’s not even about having six-pack abs, it has to do with a belly that holds muscles instead of beer.”

Christian Vasquez during one of his gym breaks

Christian adds that being a fit dad also encourages children to look after their health. “You need to be a role model. Instead of just telling them to be healthy, kailangan nakikita ka nila na active ka din.” His three older children—Matthew, Jason, and stepdaughter Iza—have been following in his footsteps and are active in sports, he shares proudly. “My eldest son, Matthew, who is in the US, has gotten into Muay Thai. He got that from me, because I also did martial arts before.” 

Christian with his sons Jason and Matthew

Jason, his second son, goes to the gym with him in the early mornings. “We leave the house at 3 a.m., we work out, and we are home before my wife Ara and daughter Brie wake up. I prefer working out at that time so I can spend time with them when I come home, it also gives me energy for the rest of the day,” he says. On days when he has no work, he uses that time to memorize his scripts, when the world is still asleep and quiet.

His lifestyle is quite healthy, he says, foregoing nights out in favor of being in bed by 8 p.m. “When my friends want to come over, sinasabi ko sa kanila, ‘Pwede bang mga 3 p.m., para 7 p.m., pack up na tayo?” he grins. 

Christian and his son Jason at the gym

As for his diet, Christian says he eats everything, but enjoys them in moderation. “Now that I am older, I eat less salt and sugar. Before, even if I eat in moderation and put in a little exercise, my muscles are defined. Ngayon iba na ang metabolism ko,” he admits. He is looking to partner with a diet food company but is shelving it for when he is less busy. “On the set, it's easy to be tempted to order pizza. So, I feel like I want to wait until I have more control over what I eat.”

Hands-on dad

Christian admits that he wasn’t as hands-on with his older kids. “I was 19 when I became a dad, and it was my parents who helped raise them in Bacolod,” he says. “When you are a young dad, you are not equipped to make the big decisions on parenting, especially if you are not financially prepared. That is why I am feeling like a first-timer with Brie. Now I am the one making decisions with raising Brie.” 

He bonds with her the way most girl-dads do—shopping. “My wife and I also help her with her homework, because she is homeschooled. It's funny because I had to learn everything again, too, things like long division. Minsan nag-aaway kami ng anak ko over homework, but it is fun.”

Christian and his wife Ara help their daughter Brie with her homework

Christian is now shooting for a teleserye titled Prinsesa ng Padyak for TV5 and Buko Channel. Brie takes her dad’s fame in stride most of the time, he laughs. “We entered her in the Flores de Mayo in our community, and she wanted me to stay in the car. Naguguluhan siya minsan kapag marami ang nagpapapicture sa akin. Other times, she would boast to her friends, saying, ‘My dad is an actor.’”

With Brie only nine years old, Christian says he needs to stay in shape for their long journey ahead and encourages other dads to do the same. “As we get older, our muscles shrink, our mobility becomes stiff. Hindi maganda kung prone ka sa injury. We have to exercise. Our children are at the stage when they have a lot of energy. We have to be physically fit para makasabay tayo sakanila. Think of your children, think of your family, and they will be your motivation,” he explains.

Christian takes a mirror selfie at the gym

Self-care for dads

Many dads who are working hard to provide for their families say it's a challenge to fit in time for fitness, but personal trainer Anjo Resureccion says there are other ways to get moving. "I recommend exploring Calisthenics or bodyweight exercises such as push-ups and squats. This is also scalable to any fitness level as there are harder variations for every movement. You can also do it anywhere with minimal to 0 equipment needed. Another way to increase movement daily is to make use of the stairs instead of riding the escalators and elevators. The simplest and basic movement that we do every day is walking, try to find ways to increase your steps and incorporate it in your everyday routine."

Jasper Tanhueco, who is also a fitness trainer, advises making it a group activity. “Playing active games with their colleagues or kids, such as sports, running, or biking, could help. Additionally, they can also do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions at home which can be effective and time-saving.

When it comes to eating, Resureccion reminds dads to make healthy choices. “good diet is one that you can easily sustain and keep on doing for a long period of time. Keep it balanced by having good sources of protein, complex carbs, and the good kinds of fat from whole and unprocessed foods. Try to stay away from empty calories such as junk food/processed food as it has little to zero nutritional value and would just make you feel sluggish. Also, if your diet is high in fats, salt, and sugar and you are not receiving essential nutrients, your risk of obesity and other chronic long-term diseases may increase.

Tanhueco adds more notes. “Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is also important. It is better to consult professionals or a nutritionist, as this can help dads find the best diet that suits them the most and ensures their safety.Resureccion likewise advocates for rest. “I think before looking into your diet, prioritize having a good amount of sleep every day, from seven to eight hours, as it will give you the right amount of energy to sustain you all throughout the day.”

The two fitness professionals stress the importance of practicing self-care. “Dads are usually the providers of the family. They should also take care of their health for them to keep on providing for their loved ones. Dads should have a good understanding of fatigue management and should really be more conscious and aware of their health and daily activities,” says Resureccion.

Tanhueco also talks about having a holistic approach. “Practicing self-care is essential for dads to maintain their physical, mental, and emotional health. It helps manage stress, prevent burnout, and improve their well-being, making them more present and engaged with their families. Self-care activities include hobbies, exercise, adequate sleep, relaxation, and socializing.”

“Prioritizing their health and happiness sets a positive example for their children and fosters a balanced family dynamic,” he adds.