Male Body Image Watch

sinfonietta
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It is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year the theme is Body Image. This thread is specifically for discussion of male body image.

Body image issues in men have a tendency to be overshadowed by the emphasis the media puts on women. There is unfortunately still stigma surrounding men being able to express their insecurities. This is a problem because many men will struggle in silence rather than getting the help they need. Seeking help can save lives.

Common insecurities in men include height, male pattern baldness, muscle mass, and leanness. Some damaging extremes that can result from this include:

Muscle Dysmorphia
This is a body dysmorphic disorder categorised by feeling as if you are not 'big enough'. Those affected spend excessive amounts of time fixated on their physique and training. This can dominate their life and distract from work and relationships. These men may abuse steroids and experience distress or shame if they stray from a strict diet. Their behaviour is more obsessive than the average gym-goer, and when called out on their behaviour may react irrationally.

Eating Disorders
Eating disorders tend to be considered the opposite of MDD. I will point you in the direction of shadowdweller's thread Support for Eating Disorders for more information. It is important to remember that while eating disorders are stereotyped as a “women’s disorder” that many men experience them too. Please do not let the association of these disorders with women prevent you from seeking help if you need it.

Do you have insecurities about your body image?

Do you ever compare yourself to men in the media or in the gym?

Do you feel that mens body image gets enough attention in the media?
Last edited by sinfonietta; 1 month ago
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shameful_burrito
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I'm a bit body dysmorphic and developed an eating disorder too. But atm at least I'm happy with my body. However, I know what I'm doing is far from healthy
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Anonymous #1
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Yeah, I think every male feels pressure to have a perfect body like a six-pack and to be toned. The media doesn't help either when people talk about plus-sized models would never really show plus sized male models, if you look online there exclusively female. Not to mention height expectations, I don't want to drag people into this but a problem is when people go I would never date someone smaller than 6ft, these expectations can really damage someone's self-esteem. It's just never really talked about tbh
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Anonymous #2
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I definitely think social expectations of men’s body image isn’t talked about enough. Not everyone has to be muscular, or tall or slim, but the general expectation is still there sadly.

When I was 14, I happened to be obese. Of course this was not healthy but I felt it was the reason I didn’t fit in. I chose to do an even more unhealthy which was starve myself. At first I thought doing this was amazing, losing tonnes of weight and slimming down until you couldn’t tell I used to be fat, let alone obese in the first place. However in my head, this wasn’t enough. I now had the thought I was still fat, and that I would continue to be ridiculed by the girls at school, so I continued eating only around 500 calories a day. Before you know it I happened to be anorexic, which is just as bad as obesity. It took several months of peers explaining to me that it’s all in my head, to realise that I wasn’t doing the healthiest thing at all. Nowadays I have much healthier habits and regularly go to the gym, but the fact that I’m not starving myself just to fit it is what’s important. I’m still insecure about my image but thinking about how boring life would be if we were all the same helps put me at rest.

What I want people to take away from this is that you don’t necessarily have to be ashamed of your image. If you want to lose weight that’s great, but don’t do it to impress people. Make sure your health is the number one priority but if you want to eat an extra slice of cake, so be it, don’t let anyone stop you. You don’t have to be muscular like half of the blokes at the gym. Be who you want to be.
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Anonymous #3
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Thank you for posting this thread. Male body image is a topic which is slowly getting more attention, but I think at the moment is so difficult to talk about. As a man, my own experiences with body dysmorphia and eating disorders start I suppose from a general lifelong unhappiness with my own body. I was bigger, not by much, but bigger than a lot of kids my age growing up. As I grew older, I noticed this more and more and decided that I would lose weight. Initially this started healthily enough, but quickly descended into anorexic style behaviour including laxative abuse, obsessive calorie counting, prolonged periods of fasting, excessive exercise etc. Around Christmas last year, constant pressure from friends and loved ones to start eating meant that I started binging, but that developed into bulimic tendencies, again including binging and purging and laxative abuse. Purging became so bad that I repeatedly made my throat bleed and I've now caused quite severe damage to my stomach in that I can't eat anything without getting severe stomach pains. That triggered a move into orthorexic tendencies and a desire to cut out anything, but simple, healthy foods. I still binge and purge every so often, but the binges are getting more infrequent and contain much lower calories. You'll note that I use the word 'tendencies'. I haven't got a formal diagnosis and have shunned therapy - I think the right time would have been around the time I started eating again, to manage my weight gain, but instead it's spiralled more destructive behaviour. Surprisingly, at the moment, I feel content with all of this. Well to an extent. The weight gain from bulimia has triggered anxiety which I manifest via my trichotillomania which in turn causes more anxiety about my appearance because of my hair loss.

I'm basically a mess in relation to my mental health and have no desire to get better. I find it so satisfying to tear myself apart and that comes from a belief that I'm worthless and don't deserve to be loved at all, so if no-one else can love me, why not just tear myself in various different ways to compensate for that? Despite all this, I don't want help and find it quite comforting to do this all to myself. It's odd how that works, but it makes perfect sense to me somehow. Happy to talk more about my experiences if it can help other people. As a final aside, I'm often ask why I talk about my experiences so openly and why I'm so outwardly positive to others and try to help them as best I can. Simple answer, because when you've got a voice in your head which basically hates you, you do everything in your power so that no other individual has to feel like that and that's why I'm happy to talk about my experiences and help others, because if I can help other people stay away from such negative thoughts, it makes mine more bearable.
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Anonymous #4
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Great thread.

I am glad that muscle dysmorphia gets some coverage now, but I would add that Body Dysmorphic Disorder is roughly as common in men as in women and that not all men with body dysmorphic disorder get muscle dysmorphia (we have wikipedia to thank for that). I think it's really important to point this out. Some literature tries to point put numbers on things, pointing out the most common may actually be skin, hair and nose - quickly followed by a whole array of other things from teeth to eyes and chin and that people often get 2nd, 3rd and 4th body parts that they obsess/check/cover up. Counterintuitively to what I guess many people would think many case studies talk about men with body dysmorphia who think about their hips/nose/waist/eyes/lips and other areas more likely to be associated with other disorders or current stereotypes of what women are supposedly concerned with.

I don't have body dysmorphia, but I did used to have a lot of checking behaviours, particularly with my chin, not about a double chin, but that that there was a small shape/ball of fat on the end and I would repeatedly check this 3 times and in the mirror, maybe checking a hundred times a day and taking up about half an hour/hour a day checking/thinking about it. Also at other times checking behaviours about the shape/symmetry of the face.
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