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While women have been dealing with body image issues, very less attention was paid to men who were going through body image issues at the same time. We keep going through different articles and content that is present around us talking about the distorted image of an ideal woman, be it about her body or character.
However, with the times turning, it has now become important to note how social media as well as mass media has exhibited a particular image of what a man should look like. Although, quite obviously not all men are able to keep up to that ideal male body image (according to the media) due to certain reasons and end up with body image issues linked to dieting, over exercising, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa as well as binge eating disorder, and other mental health disorders such as low self esteem, depression and anxiety.
A man’s body image means how he thinks and feels about his body. Body image involves your thoughts, perceptions, imagination and emotions. It may have little to do with your actual appearance. The truth about body image issues is that it can affect men of all ages.
When you compare your body image to what the media tells you, mostly lean as well as muscular, it leads to poor body image or body dissatisfaction. According to research, about 34.44% of young Indian men are dealing with body image issues as they are not satisfied with their body shape. This leads them to focus on weight loss, muscle building, which often leads to over exercising as well as use of image enhancing drugs such as steroids.
Social media is overloaded with fitness enthusiasts who add the pressure on men to join their local gym to get that perfect body that a particular model has. What these men do not know is that most of these pictures on social media are edited to make them look perfect from every angle. These men spend hours in the gym to get that lean, muscular look, even when they are not motivated enough to do so. Instead of just being fit by going for a jog, they continue working hard for a body they don’t really want while drinking protein shakes and taking steroids.
Self Destructive Behaviours in Men
When a man has body image issues, it can work in a very negative manner on his body as well as lead to self destructive behaviour. Men cannot control hair loss or their beer belly. While hair loss is a natural process and cannot be stopped, in order to lose weight, some men often opt for fad diets which are not always nutritionally sound. They believe that this will help them lose that excess belly fat in a number of days and will also not cause any harm to their health.
Apart from that, eating disorders are not uncommon in men who are dealing with a poor body image. While some turn to anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, starving themselves in order to lose weight, some men turn to binge eating disorder, continuing to eat all the time.
However, the trend that has been garnering a lot of interest is the fact that almost every man has turned to an exercise addiction. After the pandemic, there has been a surge in thinking where being fit is equated to being active in the gym. Men are now over exercising and not letting their muscles recover which often leads to injury as well. Image enhancing drugs or steroid abuse is also common in such men who are into weight training a lot and want their muscles to grow and reduce body fat.
Causes of Body Image Issues
Whether a man is athletic or overweight, anyone can have body image issues and indulge in self destructive behaviour. However, what exactly are the causes of body image issues? Well, there can be a lot of causes of poor body image in men.
If a man has been teased during his teenage years for being too thin, too weak or too fat, it can certainly lead to body image issues for him later on in life where he feels dissatisfied with his body image. He won’t be happy with his body even if he is muscular as well as lean and has lost weight.
Peer pressure amongst boys during their teenage years to be physically strong and tough often leads to a poor body image in a man later in life, especially if he is not having that muscular body that the social media has been showcasing.
Apart from that, the emphasis of male sports players as role models for teenage boys can truly cause body image issues in a man later in life. However, advertising campaigns can be no less as they showcase idealised male images, making men believe how they should apparently look like.
Along with that, society has been promoting the ideal male image as lean and muscular which pressurises men to turn towards the gym to get that ideal male body image. Also, a lot of well meaning public health campaigns urge men to lose weight.
Improving Body Image for Men
Body image issues develop in a course of time so in order to improve it, you will need time as well as effort. However, it is not something which cannot be improved. In order to stay away from crash dieting and other self destructive behaviour, we have a few suggestions for you.
Firstly, reflect on your experiences and try to identify the influences on your body image from childhood. Secondly, you need to lessen weighing yourself as well as measuring and mirror checking yourself. Try to focus on health and vitality rather than on weight, size and shape.
Apart from that, you need to make a pact with your body to treat it with respect. You can do that by eating healthy, such as a balanced diet, rather than punishing it by over exercising, indulging in fad diets or taking steroids.
Try to move to a healthier focus of how your body functions as well as consider all your body assists you to do in life rather than just focussing on your body’s appearance. You can also read about body image issues and how men are dealing with it to get more informed.
When it comes to exercising, you can always go for it, however, do not indulge in working out just for the sake of how your body looks, but for better reasons, such as stress release, vitality as well as improved concentration.
It is not just just the laymen who have been dealing with body image issues; celebrities such as Sam Smith and Robert Pattinson have also opened up about how they had been struggling with a poor body image, even though they are quite famous and successful. A lot of research has shown that men often feel that they are either too thin or too heavy to meet the ideal male body image.
However, men’s body image issues are much deeper than their weight. The silver screen has been one of the major contributing factors for the rise of negative body perception for men and boys. The stars on the silver screen appear chiselled with their six packs making most men insecure about their bodies.
Apart from that, most men who are fitness freaks, also known as fitness influencers take photos as well as videos of themselves in the gym for their social media profile. This often intimidates other men who are not too fond of working out and makes them feel like hiding in a corner.
With social media as well as mass media showcasing such muscular and built men all the time, it is hard for a normal man to ignore body image issues. While the media is broadcasting that a man should be muscular, lean as well as strong, body image issues for men are much more than that. Men also have to deal with height, hair loss and skin care issues along with the shape of their bodies.
Hair loss is a big concern for men today in society as the stigma attached to it says that if a man has thinning hair or is bald, he is less attractive, agreeable, and assertive. Research has also found that hair loss is linked to feelings of inadequacy, depression, stress, and low self-esteem.
The right thing for man to do is to accept his body the way it is. Men need to be happy with their body image and should not focus on fixing it as it is an act of rebellion itself since society is too focussed on achieving the male ideal body.
Another way out for men will be to adjust their social media websites to get positive content about body image. The best way would be to embrace your body whether you are athletic or completely out of shape. You can take active steps to keep your body healthy.
What you need to realise is that what the social media and the mass media has been portraying is unrealistic and cannot be achieved. You need to build your self confidence as the way you have been and the way you are, whether you are too thin or too fat. Exercising is not wrong but do it for the right reasons, such as being healthy rather than for the way you look.