Did you know that approximately one in three people living with an eating disorder is male? Shocking, isn’t it? It’s obvious that we need to talk about body positivity for men.
Most of the time when we’re talking about bodies, conversation centers on women and people assigned female at birth. We judge them, objectify, and criticize them. Frankly, it’s disgusting to be honest. Let women live!
As I’ve gotten older I have noticed there’s been an increase in male body shaming too. It’s incredibly infuriating and likely contributing to body dysmorphia and eating disorders in young men.
It seems like this increase in men being concerned about their bodies is a result of the presence of social media in our lives. While men have long been afforded greater flexibility in being desirable irrespective of how their bodies look (compared to women), many men struggle with feeling good in their bodies.
Challenges to male body positivity
I’ve never been an athletic person, and there have certainly been times when I’ve been considerably unhappy with my body. This was always fueled by comparisons of myself to someone I knew personally, or some celebrity that appeared in those glossy grocery store magazines (yes, I’m old).
Being more muscular and “cut” was something I wanted, but I never felt the actual impulse to create that for myself. In my younger years, this was something that a lot of my peers focused on too, even going to relatively extreme lengths to reach certain goals weights or get their “beach body” ready. As we head into swimsuit season, I sense and feel that pressure swing back around. I personally didn’t (and still don’t) think it’s worth it for me and my life to make looking any specific way a priority. Overall health is more important to me personally. That’s not knocking anyone else’s focus, but it’s not my jam. I can still appreciate the dedication and effort that comes with bodybuilding.
However, as a mental health professional, I can see that for many men their fit inspiration isn’t just about challenging their bodies and minds but it’s also about fitting a mold of being perceived as conventionally attractive or “hot”.
Men are subject to our own physique idols
I’ve grown more conscious of the communication we receive about our bodies over time. And now that we live in a highly digital age, I’m glad that I didn’t grow up in a time where #fitspo and bodybuilding influencers were the norm. Hell, those magazines I came across in my day were enough.
But we now we live in a world full of live-action comic superheroes (I’m talking especially about Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Henry Cavil’s Superman). Both men and boys alike are seeing a hypermasculine ideal put in front of us as the desired body frame. And if you don’t live up to that, you’re somehow failing. You’re not hot enough, which unfortunately means you’re not good enough.
It’s not good for our collective mental health. We need body positivity (and body neutrality!) for boys and men too. It can go a long way in promoting healthier relationships with our bodies.
Body positivity is good for everyone
I also have to be honest and say that the amount of criticism and obsession with bodies (in the mainstream) still largely targets women. But, we do know that eating disorder statistics (and disordered eating behavior) are on the rise for boys and men, almost mimicking the rates in girls and women.
Body positivity isn’t just about honoring the diversity of women’s bodies. It’s also about giving men the license to show and live in their bodies as it exists, without shame. If you’re laughing at someone’s “moobs” on the beach you’re body shaming. If you’re mad at an ex and talking about how small his penis was, you’re body shaming. No one deserves that.
Men deserve to feel comfortable and at home in their bodies too.
Let’s all try harder at being more conscious of our language and the words we use in reaction to men’s bodies. Muscular, sculpted bodies aren’t the only sexy ones. Fluffy, fleshy bodies on men can be sexy too.
Moreover, a body is just a body. After all, it’s what’s inside that’s most important.
If you’d like to work on developing a healthier relationship to your body, please reach out to us via our New Client page and a therapist will get back to you as soon as possible.