Why Men Need To Start Speaking Up About Body Image Issues

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Body image issues are not gender specific. They affect both men and women alike, its just that for a long time the focus on women and how we are affected has been more prominent than anything else. But the statistics today show startling evidence that men need to start speaking up about this issue too.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) here in the states says men are less likely to speak up or seek help.

“Higher levels of gender role conflict and traditional masculine ideals are associated with negative attitudes toward seeking psychological help,” they state.

“Large scale surveys concluded that male body image concerns have dramatically increased over the past three decades from 15% to 43% of men being dissatisfied with their bodies; rates that are comparable to those found in women.”

That is a HUGE increase! And it needs to be addressed more in the media. Wherever women look, we have plenty of allies in terms of female role models who speak up about their eating disorders and struggles with weight gain and loss. The internet is flooded with websites, blogs and videos about women who have overcome and are now huge advocates of inspiring other women to live a healthy life.

Women are well accustomed to sharing feelings, experiences and developing a sense of community in order to strengthen one another. With men it is very different. Sharing any sort of vulnerability is seen as a feminine trait only, and that if they do choose to be open about struggles, it is seen as a sign of weakness. First off we gotta say that the cultural norm of associating feelings, communication and vulnerabilities as weakness because they are “feminine” is horrendously wrong.

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It is not just a feminine trait to want to share your feelings, it is a human thing. And with the statistics shown above, it seems men now need the same sort of public allies to speak for them also.

Just a quick scan of the media today show’s you how awesome, strong and inspiring the messages are coming from female celebs. Hilary Duff, in a recent interview with Health.com spoke about her baby weight and her “screw you”‘ attitude to the way the media reported on her baby weight.

“The second I had Luca, I went to go get my hair blown out at the salon, and I hadn’t stepped outside in, like, 15 days. I was learning how to be a new mom, and I needed to go get my hair done. Then they’re like, “Hilary Debuts Her Post-Baby Body!” I was like, I’m not debuting sh-t right now. I’m just going on an errand run! There is way too much pressure on women these days. It took me a whole 10 months to build a baby,” she said.

“Everyone was so hard on me because it took me a year and a half to get my body back! When I was 17, I weighed, like, 98 pounds. I was totally obsessed with everything I put in my mouth. I was way too skinny. Not cute. And my body wasn’t that healthy—my hands would cramp up a lot because I wasn’t getting the nutrition I needed,” she admits.

“That constant pressure of wanting something different than I had? I regret that. I feel like there was way too much time spent thinking about that. This is the body that I have. I have a very athletic build, and I am so proud of what my body has done for me. I had the best, healthiest, strongest pregnancy. And I feel good about myself.”

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Similarly, Dutch model Lara Stone stripped down for a shoot with System magazine a whole year after having a baby with her husband, British comedian David Walliams, talking about how her body changed after having a baby.

“”Everyone’s got arm flab or saggy boobs. It’s the way it is. I’m just trying to accept it right now. And it’s OK, because the things women can do with their bodies are amazing,” she said, admitting she has struggled to regain her pre-baby body after having her son.

“You have to sit there and really think about it: ‘Oh, I grew this little person’s fingernails in my tummy.’ After that, do you really give a s*** about arm flab? Because I don’t.” The photos of Lara are mostly un-retouched, you can see the normal amount of rolls on her skin when she is posing, and her makeup and hair is also very minimal. For once you see a very realistic image of this normally-glam supermodel.

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Those messages of not giving a crap are very empowering. Many women can empathize with them, especially those that have babies. Demi Lovato is another celebrity who has been very vocal about struggle with substance abuse, self-harm and eating disorders. It’s not hard to find women in the media and in real life who are able to share their struggles and gain huge amounts of respect and responses because of it.

But when it comes to men, it’s as if body image is not an issue for them. It is easy to think it strange that they suffer too, because the facts aren’t reported as widely, and we don’t necessarily hear about Justin Timberlake, Brad Pitt and other major A-list celebs being open and honest about their struggles with their appearance. Let’s be real here, sure some men like David Beckham and Channing Tatum look chiseled and “perfect” on the cover of magazines and in underwear campaigns, but let’s not forget that men also get the photoshop and airbrush treatment.

Go to the gym and see how many men are working out, alongside women. Go to a supermarket or bookstore and count how many magazines are marketed to men teaching them about how they should look, dress and act to get better abs etc. They are not immune, yet there is a whole section of society missing the type of advocacy and community women benefit from greatly.

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Ron Perlman, star of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ told the press at New York Comic Con recently that he suffered from body image and low self-esteem issues and they weren’t resolved until he was in his 40s! ‘Parks and Rec’ star Chris Pratt had also touched on the fact that body image issues affected him when he was beefing up for his role in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. But you’d be hard pressed to find other men spilling their guts, which is sad.

We need more men to speak up and stand in the gap for each other. This is an issue that women are well-versed in, and for once we have the upper hand (sadly) in suffering with low self-esteem and finding ways to encourage each other. We can be the ones to use our voices and platforms to urge more men not to stay silent any longer. We as a website dedicated to empowerment and feminism also believe in using our voices for equality, and this is the message we want to say to all the men out there: we got your back!

In an interview with Huffpost Live, a guy called Chris Tognotti spoke about his lifelong struggle with his appearance and body image, saying for him it started in middle school around puberty. Does that sound familiar? It’s pretty much the same time that body image starts to affect women, if not earlier in some cases, but it is an eye-opening statement to make that at the same time you may be starting to struggle with your physical appearance in school, think about the guy sitting next to you in class who is going through the same thing but unlike you doesn’t know how to express his feelings and not feel alone.

This interview is a rarity amongst the media saturated with dialogue about women’s struggles, and we certainly encourage you to watch the full video by clicking on the above hyperlink.

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Another guy who is choosing to step out of the cultural norms expected of men is Youtuber John David Glaud who is choosing to document and speak openly about his weight loss and continual struggles in a series called ‘Obese to Beast’. Formerly obese in his youth, John lost a lot of weight and is now healthier than ever before. But he isn’t “perfect” as he states, touching on the very word that has been such a trigger for women because of certain advertising that has caused controversy recently.

He has excessive skin hanging off every part of his body which he feels is unsightly, but he has learned to live with it and accept it as part of who he is. Perhaps it is one of those permanent reminders of the incredible journey he has been on. The admission in his video below titled ‘My Biggest Insecurity’ that he too has fallen prey to the idea that there is a “perfect” body ideal he needs to achieve says a lot, not just about men, but about humanity. Perfection is something we need to run far away from, because it is like the carrot in front of the horse. It is dangling right in front of us, and we are continually chasing it, but in the end we never attain it and all we are is worn out from striving so hard.

The message of acceptance and being comfortable in your own skin is what John talks about, and it is very refreshing to hear an honest take on this from a man. We encourage you all to watch the video below, and if you know a man who suffers silently with this issue, please use your voice to speak up in the same way you would for a woman in your life. We need to show the men in our lives and communities that unless they end the silence and step out boldly, their self-esteem is in grave danger.

If there is one piece of advice we can give to men is this: your vulnerability is not a form of weakness. It is a source of power, advocacy and a very important voice to other men around you. Don’t ignore the impact you can have on redefining true masculinity by speaking up.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: This UK Lad Has A Powerful Message To Women About Media & Magazines

  2. I absolutely ADORE this piece. For whoever wrote it, I’d love to discuss this topic more — feel free to email me at Liz@RealTalkmag.co. I’m excited to talk with someone about a seldom spoken fact!

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