Men have issues with body image too

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Matthew Lu argues that issues of body image do not discriminate by gender - considering the ways in which men can, and do struggle with their relationship with their bodies.

Body image is described by the National Eating Disorders Collaboration as, “the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception… feelings can be positive, negative or both and are influenced by individual and environmental factors”.

it seems as if the topic of body image and men has been brushed under the carpet

Due to media and societal values, much needed attention has been brought to this topic and women. A progressive society has led to the recognition that women face a huge pressure when it comes to their own body image and the pressures placed upon them to look or present themselves in a certain desirable light. But, it seems as if the topic of body image and men has been brushed under the carpet.

People don’t realize that women are not the only people who are conscious of themselves or judged harshly by society. Historically, it was not until Harrison Pope, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, published his seminal work around muscle dysmorphia (an obsession with bulking up also known as “reverse anorexia”) in the late 1990’s that there has been a focus in boys and males with body image issues.

One of the biggest roadblocks surrounding the issues of boys and body image issues stems from the appalling fact that up until 2013 men couldn’t be properly diagnosed with anorexia nervosa (one of the most common eating disorders). The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that came out in 2013 exempted the previous criteria for anorexia nervosa of a loss of menses.

This was so significant and finally brought men into the ray of being affected by anorexia nervosa, as a loss of menses is physically impossible for males, and this is what stopped them from being diagnosed.

Despite these very recent developments, body image and men is still a very taboo topic that remains unaddressed to this day. The problem is that people are unwilling to address this broad issue. Body image affects everyone in different ways but, the one thing that remains constant is that no matter the issue people want to reach a “physical ideal” that is presented to them.

Now, the first step to fixing a problem is first identifying why people are unwilling to address the issue. Recognizing that there are very personal reasons, such as family ideals or views, one of the main reasons that seem to be stopping people from talking about a sensitive issue like this is the idea of toxic masculinity.

Society must be more forthcoming and recognize that men have issues with body image as well

Toxic masculinity can take form in very different ways but, for the sake of this issue it seems that toxic masculinity takes form in the ideology that men shouldn’t be vulnerable. Toxic masculinity effectively is perpetuating harmful stereotypes about what’s deemed “manly” or “masculine”. Body image is an area that opens men up to vulnerability and that’s something that’s not supposed to be discussed in this day and age.

People must realize that it’s okay to be vulnerable and discuss sensitive topics. This holds true not just for the issue of body image but, other topics as well. Men need to come to the conclusion that no matter what society may say or dictate that the most important factors is your own personal health and happiness.

People must realize that the generalized view of society doesn’t represent the same values that everyone shares. Everyone has different ideas of what’s deemed “cute” or “sexy”. Heck, I’d be lying if I said the only thing I look for in a guy is big muscular arms. Society must be more forthcoming and recognize that men have issues with body image as well.

It may be in a different fashion but, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Men need to realize what is healthy and unhealthy. Everyone needs to realize that looks deteriorate, and the most important thing is health. That includes both mental and physical.

Self-acceptance and love is a journey but, one that is surely attainable.

Featured image: Epigram / Leila Mitwally


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