Why stars like Simon Cowell are going vegan, plant-based: Death of the dad bod

The plant-based market is valued at $4.5 billion

Plant-based diets are killing the dad bod.

Having a beer belly and a lax approach to fitness spawned the dad bod trend in recent years. Now, more men are committed to trimming down by cutting back on red meat and investing in plant-based diets and veganism instead.

“X Factor” host Simon Cowell lost a reported 20 pounds after adopting a vegan diet to help give him more energy to keep up with his son Eric. The 60-year-old talent show judge looked noticeably slim in recent photos, a stark transformation in comparison to four years ago when he made headlines for having one of “Hollywood’s hottest dad bods” in 2015, alongside the likes of Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio also rocking a little extra gut around the middle at the time.

U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods have grown 11 percent in the past year, bringing the total market value for the category to $4.5 billion, according to the Plant-Based Foods Association. The total U.S. retail food market has grown just 2 percent during the same time period, showing that there’s increased demand for meatless food products. And, nutritionists say more men are inquiring about plant-based diets, with some seeing dramatic weight loss results fast.

Sharon Zarabi, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, says she's noticed more male clients inquiring about plant-based diets lately.

"It's resurfacing for men in their middle age when they’ve lost that identify maybe to being a father and being a husband and they just want to revamp their body," Zarabi said.

Just ask Dr. Russell Kateman, 67, an optometrist from New York who used to eat fried chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A almost three times a week. He was inspired to cut back on meat-eating after his son, Brian Kateman, started the Reducetarian movement, an effort to reduce meat consumption to protect animal welfare, the environment and improve overall health.

“I never watched what I ate,” Russell, who weighed 240 pounds, told FOX Business. “I tried here and there to eat more vegetables and less meat.”

And he’s saved nearly $30 a week doing it. Now he makes salads and sautéed vegetables and will splurge on the occasional protein shake packed with kale, spinach and ginger. He said he shed 20 pounds in three months.

“The weight is coming off like crazy,” Russell said, adding that his clothes fit better and he feels "like a new man.”

“The weight is coming off like crazy.”

- Russell Kateman

Men are more likely to shed their dad bods as they near middle age. A study by international health care group Bupa Health Clinics surveyed 3,000 participants in the U.K. and found as adults reach milestone birthdays in their 40s and 50s, they tend to adopt healthier diets. Almost half (47 percent) of men surveyed made a “positively lifestyle change,” the research said. And of those, 24 percent went vegan and made healthier changes like reducing alcohol consumption, quitting smoking and working out.

A study by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that following a plant-based diet is more effective at lowering the risk of heart disease. Red meat, like cold cuts, sausage, bacon and hot dogs, meanwhile, can have a negative impact on men’s health. A study from the American Heart Association from 2014 surveyed men ages 45 to 79 who ate 75 grams or more per day of pressed red meat and found that they had a 28 percent higher risk of heart failure compared with men who ate less than 25 grams. 


Despite the myriad health benefits, not everyone is happy to see the dad bod go. The Daily Mail wrote a headline questioning: “Is Simon overdoing the diet?” after photos emerged of the star’s slim new physique, seemingly skinny-shaming him for losing the weight.