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How Men Can Overcome Body Image Issues

How Men Can Overcome Body Image Issues

What the what? Guys can be uncomfortable in their own skin, too? Is the world coming to an end?

It’s crazy, I know. We have been under the impression that only women suffer through body image issues, given the current state of mainstream media playing to women’s fears and insecurities. But also, women are more vocal in this realm.

While it may seem we’re in the self shaming spotlight and the men are sitting comfortably back stage, they’re not. One study, for example, found that the percentage of men dissatisfied with their overall appearance (43%) has tripled in the past 25 years and that nearly as many men as women are unhappy with how they look (Pope et al 2000).

Sure, the media highlights the unsatisfied woman more than the man, but the man suffers issues so incredibly complex. And even worse…is forced to fight them alone. He doesn’t want to be seen as weak, insecure, or powerless. Arguably, the males take the harder hit suppressing this inner battle.

When I started this blog, I made it exclusive to women. I thought women naturally had the most issues, constantly using themselves as a punching bag. But now, there is a need to speak to both genders. So being the bold woman that I am, I posted this on my Facebook to reach out to the dudes:

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 8.58.17 AM

 

Several commented and sent me private messages. My heart sank when I received a myriad of insecurities:

1) Man boobs
2) Stomach fat
3) Not enough muscle
4) Severe body dysmorphia
5) Not as strong as friends
6) No six pack like the bodybuilding magazine covers
7) Small penis

As much as I want to LOL at #7, I understand why this would make a guy so incredibly insecure. Yes, this. Is. Awkward. BUT. A friend once told me, “It’s all about the motion of the ocean.” Anddddddd…I’ll leave it at that.

The Elephant In The Room: Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is the preoccupation with one’s physical flaws. For guys, these can include chest, bicep, or back size, or things such as stomach fat and man boobs. But much more prevalent in the bodybuilding community, looking like the Incredible Hulk, but believing you look like Woody from Toy Story.

This mindset has permeated to non-bodybuilder males, who take on the unending pursuit of MORE MUSCLES and getting BIGGER.

I’ve already voiced my views on the bodybuilding industry here. To the dudes, if you haven’t read my article What A Fit Body Really Means I suggest you do. It’s awesome and will steer you in the right direction.

I’m not totally against bodybuilding. Well, maybe 99.99999%. A tiny part of me certainly commends anyone who can dial in their diet that much and remain disciplined enough to be okay with chicken, asparagus, and 5AM fasted cardio. However, it becomes problematic when bodybuilding “inspires” the Average Joe Blow and puts our bodies in jeopardy.

I speak about the narcissism that drives the culture and the obsessive behavior that leads to tupperware packing maniacs, Instagram shirtless selfie superstars, and back day bros. Oh, and testicle shrinking tools.

The Solution

For this population, my best recommendation would be to GET THE EFF OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. When you are inundated with pictures of ripped dudes with 2% body fat, you are more likely to operate under comparison. Just like women, every male’s body is different in how it stores fat, builds muscles, and produces testosterone. We are so physiologically unique that comparison becomes fruitful and unproductive.

For the steroid using peeps, it is possible to build muscle without putting your heart at risk, breaking out in acne, and shrinking your dick. Brad Schoenfeld and Nick Tumminello are GREAT resources for hypertrophy training, all based on science. These are just a few resources to safely get started and to live a balanced life.

And for the average peeps who follow bodybuilders, STOP FOLLOWING BODYBUILDERS. These men should not set the standard for your fitness goals. After all, their lives revolve around meal prep, macro counting, painful hypertrophy workouts, and sometimes, questionable supplementation. These are all things that normal human beings can’t get away with.

So.

Remember who you are – whether that is a loving father, doctor saving lives, accountant running shit, football coach winning games, or a professional photographer making people smile – and focus on THAT. Because most of the time, your own authenticity is better than chasing someone else’s leanness.

One more thing to ask yourself: are you living for the perfect, ripped selfie? Or are you living for YOURSELF?

 

Man Boobs, Stomach Flab, And…Penises

Now this is where things get awkward. Weeeeee! A lot of you have been there – boobs bigger than your girlfriends, stomach flab that awkwardly slaps against your girlfriend’s tummy as you fuck her missionary, or revealing your tiny penis for the first time to your new partner. YIKES. I thought being female was a shit show, so slow clap for you gentlemen.

For this group, I have a few suggestions. First, focus on what you HAVE. Sure, it’s totally normal to envy to your peers for what they have – bigger biceps, more defined six pack, or no man boobs. But I promise you, your peers are admiring you for what you have as well. So pick one thing and tune into the power of gratitude.

Second, find new ways to measure your health. Leanness is something we should strive for in the most balanced way possible – a way that supports optimal cardiovascular function, hormonal function, blood pressure level, muscle and bone strength, and energy level. If you’re healthy and still rocking some man boobs, at least you’re internally well. Or if your energy is groovy and you have a little tummy flab, at least you’re living life with zest.

And lastly, realize women opt for personality, NOT looks. And if the root of your body image issues revolves around what women think, allow me to comfort you: we don’t give a damn. I’ve written about my views on the Dad Bod and all types of bods here. READ IT!!!!!!

Alas, there is no “right kind of body” for the male population. As an example, I’ve dated Dutch soccer players, football 250 pound offensive linemen, non-athletes, doctors, Brazilian models, skinny white dudes, hipsters, and lacrosse bros. Every single woman has explored a diverse collection of male body types, and some even have a third nipple and back hair attraction. It’s cool. People like what they like. It’s all based on what resonates most at a finite moment in time.

Also, not all girls are shallow. And the ones that are, aren’t worth your time anyway. So say no to basic bitches.

So own who you are and realize your body doesn’t define your self worth. So many other factors come into play here such as generosity, humor, creativity, and authenticity. And internal health factors such as bone mineral density, cholesterol levels, cortisol levels, blood pressure, and lean muscle mass. To achieve all these things, you don’t need to beat yourself up and hate life in the gym.

If you need training advice or simply want to talk about your feelings, feel free to message me. It’s okay to talk about feelings ;-0

References:

Pope HG, Phillips KA, Olivardia R. The Adonis complex: the secret crisis of male body obsession. New York: Free Press; 2000.

7 Comments
  • Sayyeed Mohammed
    Posted at 15:58h, 08 April Reply

    Very well written Erica, great job and keep up the outstanding work!

    • erica
      Posted at 22:15h, 08 April Reply

      Appreciate it! 🙂

  • Gage Bailey
    Posted at 04:17h, 03 July Reply

    I’m a 19 year old guy who has been concerned about my body for a while, and I’m so happy to know that you care about how men may feel about themselves. I remember countless times when other guys in school, particularly jocks, made fun of how big I was and how I wasn’t fit like them. Two even poked at my stomach and laughed cruelly about my weight. It took me years to take my shirt off at the beach/pool, but I’m still self conscious about my size. I’ve lost a lot of weight since I was little, but I’m still very ashamed of how I look. I’m 6’0″ and weigh at least 240 Ibs, and I’ve thought about taking drastic measures to lose even more. I’ve never been in a relationship before in my life and have just now built a sliver of confidence to ask a girl out. Maybe my autism has made me feel this way. Everyone in my life has complemented me on my above average intelligence and my personality, calling me a “sweet and caring person.” I’m not like other guys since I show my feelings a lot more and express my concerns. I listen to everyone and value them for who they are. I don’t want to feel terrible about myself anymore and I want to be loved by a girl for who I am alone. I’ll love a girl unconditionally and will never judge her. I’ll do anything to make her happy and special. I only hope she will love me for who I am and won’t care so much about what I look like because I would never judge her about the way she looks. I’ll love her for who she is and will be the best boyfriend I can be for her.

    • erica
      Posted at 15:42h, 04 July Reply

      Hi Gage, I’m happy to hear this article resonated with you. I’ve had a ton of men reach out to me about insecurities and it seems they all shared some common themes. However, the girls that matter the most will be the ones who love you for who you are. End of story.

  • Peter
    Posted at 19:42h, 07 September Reply

    Hi Erica, new to your work really enjoyed the blog, definitely gained a new follower!

    As someone who has always had some reason to dislike my physical appearance my new ‘discovery’ is my below average sized fingers. Imagine a 3.125 (ya I measured; middle finger for reference) inch lollipop sticks on average sized palms. I know I’m ridiculous fretting on something that will never change but the level of consumption this has given me recently is really upsetting both to me and the lady in my life (mom, same size fingers btw).

    I have really struggled with my masculine inadequicies my whole life wishing to be at least ‘average’, whatever that is? This is the latest revelation that sees my dragged further from this dream. While I was better when I believed this to be something perhaps only I had noticed, others have commented on it, never in malice but the mere mention of a flaw like this really stuck with me! I know feel everyone notices and is judging me on this basis (after all small hands…) and am ashamed of the man that types this message, as well as being further ashamed for feeling like this in the first place.

    I now feel consumed by this and wish I was like my friends and peers with their proportioned hands….What can I do to make this pain a little more tolerable? Any advice would be immensely appreciated! 🙂 26, male!!!

    • erica
      Posted at 21:26h, 07 September Reply

      Peter, thank you for reading.

      I’m sorry you feel these masculine shortcomings, but honestly, look at the bigger picture in your life and focus on things that you do that make you feel “manly.” This could be your job, how good of a friend you are, how respectful you are to women, etc. You can’t change much about the size of your hands…it’s a lost cause at this point. I suggest you focus on what is going right, and as for others making comments, FUCK THEM! Just joke back, accept what you don’t like about yourself, and move on. Certainly, easier said than done, but the more we can laugh at ourselves and the unimportance of our flaws, the better. Hope this helped. Also, it’s been a while since I’ve done a body image article for men. Looks like I need to do another one soon! 🙂

  • Tom
    Posted at 13:47h, 21 September Reply

    Hi Erica.
    Thank you for this encouraging and entertaining article. It’s nice to see a female perspective on this issue. As a kid, I was overweight so I made an effort to exercise more and eat healthier. Eventually, I actually became underweight with some leftover belly fat, but now as a 21 year old senior at uni, I’ve learned not to concern myself with that sort of thing. However, a different issue has been plaguing me and I know I’m not the only one: my height.

    I’m 5’4” which, depending who you ask, is about 3-6 inches below average for American males and about the same as females. Taller people are generally considered more charismatic and successful as workplace leaders. Nearly every female acquaintance I talk to or see in online dating says they like guys who are taller than them. Unlike my body shape, no amount of vitamins or exercise will get me the extra inches I want. I also feel that no personality shift will ever change a girl’s perception of me. I’m starting to think I’ll have to accept that my inferior genes were just never meant to be passed on.

    I’m sorry to be a downer but if you read this, do you have any advice for me and anyone dealing with a similar issue?
    Thanks a bunch!

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