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