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Being the Ideal Man : How body positivity and image is not just a female issue

Being the Ideal Man : How body positivity and image is not just a female issue

The media pressure that women face around body image is well known, but what about men? Research has shown that the media can actually cause male body dissatisfaction and the masculine stereotypes that appear throughout TV, film, magazine and social platforms, need to be challenged.  

The body-positive movement has grown in visibility and aims to promote respect for all body types, no matter what body shape, weight, age, ethnicitysexual orientation, physical ability, or gender.

Although the body-positive movement is for every-body, women like Megan Crabbe ( bodyposipanda) have become a big voice of the movement. There’s no doubt that negative body image is more common amongst women, who face greater pressure on their appearance than men, however, a growing number of men are also unhappy with their bodies. Think of all of those media images that portray the “ideal man” as lean and muscular. These all create appearance pressures and mental health issues for many men, who do not seek help or talk about it, as much as women. Therefore, it’s valuable to create more visibility and promote positive body image for men (and to see more research on the issue).

Some of the research has identified that millions of men in the UK have struggled with body image issues. Findings published by the Mental Health Foundation saw that 1 in 5 men respondents had negatively compared themselves to others, because of body image,  in the last year. More worryingly 1 in 10 men surveyed had experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings.

So, let’s talk about body image and the negative issues related to it :

What is body image? Body image is how we think, feel and act towards our body and these are some of the key body image issues:

  • Body dissatisfaction:refers to a person’s subjective negative appraisal of their body
  • Overvaluation of weight/shape:judgements of self-worth based on weight or shape, and their ability to control them. 
  • Body preoccupation:refers to the tendency to obsessively think about body weight or shape.
  • Body checking:the tendency to repeatedly check your weight and shape by self-weighing, staring in the mirror, comparing yourself with others, or pinching your body parts to assess for fat and muscle.
  • Body image avoidance: avoidance of situations that make you feel worried about body weight or shape, like a refusal to be weighed, wearing baggy clothes or covering up mirrors.
  • Feeling fat:a sensation that your carrying excess body weight or fat, irrespective of actual body weight
  • Fear of weight gain:an irrational fear about gaining weight in the short- to medium-term.
  • Thin-ideal internalization: thinking that being thin will bring happiness, success, and worth. 
  • Body dysmorphia: having an obsessive idea that a part of your body is flawed and you need to do something about it (restricting eating).
  • Muscle dysmorphia:a fear around not having enough muscle

Do any of these resonate with you?

Dr William Rhys Jones, a Consultant Psychiatrist suggests that "Many men want to be leaner, bigger, more muscular. It’s different to women but the concept underlying is similar – the sense that if I look a certain way I’ll be happy or fit in. When you scratch the surface, it’s about the pursuit of happiness and control, which gives you a sense of achievement. But equally it’s superficial and does it really make you happy?’

For more information visit here

 Jack Eyers personal trainer body image disability campaigner male model

Jack Eyers, a model, personal trainer and disability campaigner says that  “Male body image has become more about the groomed man – neat beard, waxed chest, abs etc”. YouTube and social media have played a massive part in that and he adds that “We’re creating so much anxiety and worry that men are getting too self-conscious”. Jack has been working to change the perception of disability, from weak and vulnerable to current and beautiful. He was part of a campaign called Models of Diversity, looking for diverse models in the fashion industry but more is needed within the beauty industry too.

For more information on Jack visit here

When does body image get self-destructive?

A negative body image is a risk factor for a range of self-destructive behaviours, such as:

  • fad dieting that are not always nutritionally sound
  • disordered eating - around one third of people with an eating disorder are male
  • exercise dependence or 'exercise addiction'
  • steroid abuse - young men, gay men, elite athletes, competitive bodybuilders, men who train with weights, and security guards are some of the male groups most at risk of using performance and image enhancing drugs to promote muscle growth or reduce body fat.

 What causes negative body image in men?

Some of the factors that may contribute to a negative body image in men include:

  • teasing in childhood and adolescence (being called too thin, too weak or too fat)
  • peer pressure among teenage boys to be physically 'tough' and 'strong'
  • a cultural tendency to judge people on their appearance
  • the emphasis on male sports players as role models for boys
  • advertising campaigns and media coverage featuring idealised male images
  • promotion by society of the 'ideal' man as always being strong, lean and muscular
  • well-meaning public health campaigns that urge people to lose weight.

.male grooming male model mental health and men body image love men

How can body image be improved?

A negative body image may have developed over the course of your life, so changing it can take time and effort. Suggestions on improving your body image include:

  • Reflect on your experiences and try to identify the influences on your body image from childhood.
  • Seek out body positivity on social media and unfollow any pages that trigger negative feelings
  • Try weighing or 'body-checking' (pinching, measuring, mirror-checking) yourself less often. Focus on health and vitality, not weight, size and shape. 
  • Make a pact with yourself to treat your body with respect, which includes eating well and not embarking on punishing exercise routines, fad diets or taking drugs.
  • Try to shift to a healthier focus of how your body functions and consider all your body helps you do in life, rather than just focusing on how your body looks.
  • Get informed by reading up on body image issues.
  • Develop reasons for exercising that are not focused on your body's appearance (such as stress release, vitality, or improved concentration), rather than concentrating only on changing your body shape.

 Help for body image issues?

If your mood is being affected by how you feel about your body or if you are developing destructive behaviours (like crash dieting, binge eating or compulsive exercising), then professional help is a good idea.  There are counsellors and psychologists, trained in the areas of body image, who can help you to change negative beliefs and behaviours see here

Organisations like The Movember Foundation and projects like M.bodiment promote and develop content to help undress body image stigmas and it’s health implications, especially in certain communities within the LGBT communities. You can access M.bodiment content series by clicking here.

So, there is a positive light to body image. It seems that being informed, developing healthy behaviours and talking can go a long way. Connect with us and tell us what you think.


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