I feel very much a kindred spirit to both actor David Harbour and the character he plays on Stranger Things, police chief Jim Hopper.
He’s a bit older than I am, but we share a lot in common, including our size and—up until Season 4 of the Netflix hit show—our “dad bods.”
Harbour is 6’3” and in Season 3 of the show he weighed about 270 lbs. I’m also 6’3” and while my weight fluctuates, 270 lbs is where I’m at on average, give or take 10 lbs on either end. I think Harbour looks pretty good in Stranger Things 3 and I know plenty of people who would agree. And that makes me feel a little bit better about my own physique. Love handles are lovable, right?
Some women think so, anyways. And Harbour himself doesn’t seem to mind living in a dad bod.
“I have a funny relationship with this dad bod thing,” Harbour told CNET after the Merriam Webster dictionary Twitter accounted tweeted about the phrase ‘dad bod’ and included a gif of Hopper dancing.
“I sort of love it and the reason why I love it is actually very serious. I do think that in a certain way, I’ve become a bit of a sex symbol of our time,” says Harbour, adding, “There are articles about people digging Hopper. But I’m also like a little big and a little chubby. I love the idea of real bodies on television. And I love the idea of making real people feel beautiful and loved.”
After all, we can’t all look like this all the time:
Here’s a before-and-after of Harbour in Season 3 and 4:
I think I’d rather eat what I wanted and look like the guy on the left than starve myself to look like the guy on the right, but maybe I’m just lazy.
So how did Harbour lose all that weight?
Taking to Instagram, the Stranger Things and Black Widow star explained that a lot of it came down to working out with his trainer and a lot of it just came down to being hungry all the time.
In a post, Harbour explained some of the process. He also spoke to some publications about his weight-loss journey and his newfound appreciation of weight-training and physical fitness, which has simply never been a part of his life.
Harbour explained that for months his diet consisted mostly of salads and greek yogurt and that during the filming of Black Widow he was “just hungry for most of the shoot” though he worked his weight up to 280 lbs before he started to lose the weight.
That’s the thing about weight loss. To really lose weight and keep it off you have to change what your body expects, which means you’re going to feel hungry—a lot.
You can’t just eat healthier and exercise more. You have to reduce calories and/or increase the calories you burn to the point that actual pounds are coming off. If you want to actually lose weight, be prepared for discomfort. If you are anything at all like me, that’s going to be super difficult. Hunger is not a feeling we’re hard-wired to enjoy. Every survival instinct baked into our DNA screams at us to consume food because our bodies don’t want to stare. That deep, primal instinct to survive often outranks our vanity. So we find ourselves in a vicious cycle of motivation, desperation and regret.
Along with daily workouts and a much lighter diet, Harbour also used intermittent fasting to help take off pounds. The actor would consume all his calories within a ten-hour window. He sprinkled in 24 hour fasting periods from time to time to help carve off those last pesky pounds, all so that he could have that really cut look for his shirtless scene with Joyce (Winona Ryder) in Stranger Things 4.
He gained a lot of that weight back for a Christmas movie he’s in called Violent Night but he’s back to losing it for the next season of Stranger Things. “All this up and down is not good for the body,” Harbour admitted on Instagram, “and I’ll have to give it up soon, but it is such a fun part of the job to live in a different version of your skin for a while.”s
This actually reminds me of Henry Cavill’s Witcher diet. Cavill, of course, is already thin and fit but before the infamous bathtub scene in Season 1, the actor went on a truly brutal sounding fast where he actually cut even water from his diet over the course of a few days prior to shooting, dehydrating himself to get the exact look he wanted for that scene.
If that sounds like absolute madness to you, you’re not alone. Honestly, how much different could he possibly look not getting all dehydrated for this scene?
I’m all for more realistic bodies in movies and TV. You can be in good shape, quite strong, have great endurance and still be a little chubbier than the average Hollywood sex symbol.
Also, food is great. As Jack Black says in School Of Rock when a student asks him why he doesn’t go on a diet: “Because I like to eat, is that such a crime?”
No man. That is not such a crime. Live your best life.
But also, you have to admire Harbour’s commitment to shedding the weight for the role and it definitely goes to show that with some grit, some determination, some self-discipline—and a really good trainer and terrific paycheck—anything is possible. It never hurts to work toward something that feels hard to accomplish and to succeed at those goals. On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to get that perfectly ripped, ridiculous body. It’s not a realistic ambition to begin with.
In the end, you have to accept who you are and try to love yourself, love handles and all.
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