‘Modern Family’ Actor Opens Up About Struggle With Body Dysmorphia & Cosmetic Surgery

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We often talk about the pressures women face from the media, advertising and fashion industries. It seems no one is immune to feeling insecure about their bodies, not even celebrities. There are numerous female celebrities who candidly admit the ways in which various consumer industries have gotten the better of their self-esteem by forcing them to hate the way they are.

In fact it’s as if it is a normal part of being a woman to experience this sort of body dilemma at some point in our lives, but thankfully there are so many of us fighting back in order to promote more healthy and diverse representations of beauty in society. We’re pretty lucky that as a gender, despite the overwhelming amount of body image negativity aimed at us on a daily basis, we can often find various ways to raise our voice and find a sisterhood of women who will confidently stand alongside us.

But what about men? Who will speak for them? Better yet, who is encouraging them to be vulnerable and speak out about body image issues the way female celebrities do for women? Unfortunately there are no where near as many male role models giving permission to the many many men around the world who suffer with the same issues.

There are a few who have risked criticism and shared their own personal journey of learning to accept their bodies despite what culture tells them they should look like. Musicians Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, actors Ron Perlman and Matt McGorry and a growing number of male bloggers are breaking the silence on this issue and setting examples for men and boys everywhere not to be ashamed about the struggles they face.

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And there is one more we can now add to the list: actor Reid Ewing from ‘Modern Family’, who plays the lovable yet dim Dylan, boyfriend of Hayley Dunphee. We have to be honest and say what a shock it was to read about what he has been through in terms of body image problems, but at the same time we are encouraged that he felt the need to use his public platform as a way to encourage other men that they are not alone in this fight.

In a candid blog post for The Huffington Post, Reid details his journey with body dysmorphia which became so bad, he started getting plastic surgery on his face thinking it would improve his self esteem and get him more work as an actor.

In an article titled “I underwent cosmetic surgery for my body dysmorphia…and I wish I hadn’t” Reid explains how he used to obsess about the way he looks, and convinced himself that his appearance was the only thing that mattered. As a young actor in LA, he would constantly examine his face in the mirror on a daily basis from all angles, scrutinizing his face.

“After a few years of doing this, one day I decided I had to get cosmetic surgery. ‘No one is allowed to be this ugly’,I thought. ‘It’s unacceptable’. In 2008, when I was 19 years old, I made my first appointment to meet with a cosmetic surgeon. I genuinely believed if I had one procedure I would suddenly look like Brad Pitt,” he writes.

He then goes on to detail the interaction he had with the first surgeon who played right into the vulnerable mindset of a young male actor struggling with his looks.

“I told him I was an actor. He agreed that for my career it would be necessary to get cosmetic surgery. He quickly determined that large cheek implants would address the issues I had with my face, and a few weeks later I was on the operating table. He spoke with me before I went under, but he wasn’t the same empathetic person I met with during the consultation. He was curt and uninterested in my worries, making small talk with his staff as I lost consciousness,” Reid recalls.

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After waking up from the operation, he was in intense pain and had no idea how swollen his face would be for a number of weeks. He tried escaping from Los Angeles while he recovered, but soon returned after realizing the surgery didn’t go as planned. It was clear that there was something wrong with the cheek implants he had asked for from the way they made his face look hollow, despite them supposedly being inserted to do the opposite.

“I went back to the doctor several times in a frenzy, but he kept refusing to operate on me for another six months, saying I would eventually get used to the change. I couldn’t let anyone see me like this, so I stayed in complete isolation. When I went out, people on the street would stare at me, and when I visited my parents they thought I had contracted some illness,” said Reid.

By this time he started to get desperate and sought out another doctor who could help fix the problem created by the first surgery. However the second doctor was less qualified, but because Reid was desperate at this stage, he had another procedure done: a chin implant. The second doctor told him he would be “so happy” with his new look.

“Like before, I went into hiding post-surgery. Only a few days passed when I noticed I could move the chin implant under my skin, easily moving it from one side of my face to another. I rushed back to the surgeon, and acknowledging he had made a mistake, he operated on me again. After the surgery, he waited with me while the anesthesia wore off so I could drive home. We had a heart-to-heart conversation, and he shared that it had been difficult to keep his practice open with the two lawsuits he was currently fighting,” he admitted.

At this point in his story, Reid was 20 years old and would go on to get even more procedures from two more doctors, and each surgery would cause another problem that would have to be fixed by another subsequent procedure. It wasn’t until after he endured such a horrific string of bad surgical experiences that Reid started to get wise to the inherent problems within the cosmetic industry.

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“The new business model for cosmetic surgeons is to charge less and get more people in and out. I used the money I saved from acting and then borrowed from my parents and grandmother when I was most desperate,” he said, adding that he was going through these experiences while he was shooting ‘Modern Family’.

Reid now recognizes that a lot of the issues surrounding body dysmorphia have to do with something far deeper than just not being satisfied with the way someone looks, and he wants everyone to know this. This is why although you can transform your body, it doesn’t mean you necessarily should unless you are very sure about what you want and why! You should always discussthese kindsone else close to you your reasons that you want these kind of surgeries.

“Of the four doctors who worked on me, not one had mental health screenings in place for their patients, except for asking if I had a history of depression, which I said I did, and that was that. My history with eating disorders and the cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder in my family never came up. None of the doctors suggested I consult a psychologist for what was clearly a psychological issue rather than a cosmetic one or warn me about the potential for addiction,” he said.

And like any other addiction, it becomes hard to just stop cold turkey, but one of the most powerful ways to combat this epidemic is to speak out about it.

“It’s a problem that is rarely taken seriously because of the public shaming of those who have had work done. The secrecy that surrounds cosmetic surgery keeps the unethical work practiced by many of these doctors from ever coming to light. I think people often choose cosmetic surgery in order to be accepted, but it usually leaves them feeling even more like an outsider. We don’t hear enough stories about cosmetic surgery from this perspective,” he said.

It has certainly been an expensive and painful lesson for him to learn, but what seems to be making it not all be in vain is him encouraging other people to look elsewhere to address issues of low self-esteem and body image, rather than a quick fix, so to speak.

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“At the beginning of 2012, all the isolation, secrecy, depression, and self-hate became too much to bear. I vowed I would never get cosmetic surgery again even though I was still deeply insecure about my looks. It took me about six months before I was comfortable with people even looking at me,” he said.

Of course, not all plastic surgery is wrong, and Reid acknowledges there are many instances where it can help save a person’s life. But he also warns against doing it as a “hobby” because as he describes, “it will eat away at you until you have lost all self-esteem and joy.”

If he could take every single one of the surgeries back now, he says he would, as he realizes there was nothing wrong with his face in the first place.

We applaud Reid for being so brave and honest about his struggle and hope that it will serve as a reminder to all of us how we should really go about addressing body image issues.

It can often be hard to find information and resources on how to deal with body dysmorphia as a male, because as the National Eating Disorders Association shares, it is commonly thought of as a “woman’s issue”. They also say there is far more research available examining eating disorders in women, than there is men, which can make it hard for men to find the right type of support. However, NEDA does say that in the US alone, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer with an eating disorder at some point in their life. Those numbers are nothing to scoff it, in fact it shows a very real epidemic that needs a better targeted approach specifically for men.

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“A gender-sensitive approach with recognition of different needs and dynamics for males is critical in effective treatment. Males in treatment can feel out of place when predominantly surrounded by females, and an all-male treatment environment is recommended—when possible,” says the NEDA resource page which gives some helpful information and links to further studies about how body dysmorphia affects men.

Eating disorders are the number one killer of all mental illnesses, yet they remain widely misunderstood, says the Eating Disorder Foundation.  It took Reid Ewing multiple surgeries and a major reassessment of his priorities to recognize that he should’ve addressed his mental issues stemming from body dysmorphia before looking for a quick fix.

We hope that for all the men reading this, you will find the right support and help you need in order to live an empowered life free from the pressures of gender stereotypes and trappings of the consumer industries.

“Before seeking to change your face, you should question whether it is your mind that needs fixing,” said Reid in his blog post.

Hear him talk to Inside Edition about his startling cosmetic surgery addiction admission:


 

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