Men and Body Positivity – Double Standard?
Of course, of course, of course – we all should love ourselves, our bodies, and everything that makes us unique.
We don’t. Not always. Not when it would be convenient, not when we (and by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’) would love to strut around the pool or wear the clothes I’ve squeezed into for an event I don’t want to be at.
In recent years, it seems like there have been waves of positivity toward women ditching anyone who dares think they’re anything but fabulous, and rightly so. The fashion brands and trendy magazines which had idolized an unhealthy airbrushed impossible standard have done a 180 and are showing stretch marks, cellulite, and other completely normal features that make a person recognizably human.
But what about the fellas?
Personally, and that’s whom I can really comment on, I am not confident with how I look. I don’t have the admired six-pack, huge shoulders, the 6ft 5 frame, and amazing beard. I’m just an average Dad (not pictured below). Maybe I shouldn’t think about body positivity at all. Perhaps body acceptance is where I should begin.
According to researchers from the University of Birmingham, everyday worries about looks can be exacerbated by increased phone usage and fewer face-to-face interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many students self-isolate and spend hours scrolling through social media, a sense of self-worth can be derived by comparing themselves to others.
With the popularization of the controversial body positivity movement encouraging women to love their bodies no matter their size or build, some men feel they are left out of the narrative.
“Men are left out of the conversation of body positivity because, in order for them to participate in the movement, there needs to be a vulnerability,” Svetly said. “That isn’t a quality that is considered ‘manly’ to have, meaning that most men don’t open up about their insecurities.”
Research from The Body Project shows that 95% of college-age men are dissatisfied with their bodies on some level. Men are also less likely to seek help for body image issues, holding off longer than women on average due to feelings of shame.
When Karin Katrina of Gainesville-based Nutrition Therapy Associates chose to specialize in nutrition therapy 35 years ago, men almost never came in for treatment.
“The way our culture demonizes fatness and pushes everyone to idolize a standard that is unreachable for most people often causes intense feelings of inadequacy not specific to one gender,” Katrina said.
In Katrina’s experience, however, body image is especially a problem with Alachua County’s college-aged men, as they worry about social pressures and the transition to adulthood.
So what do we do? Just look in the mirror and say “It is what it is” or hit the gym and try to change things?
That’s a really tricky question and I think it’s because there are so many reasons why we, as men might feel like we don’t love our bodies. From mental health and depression to physical health and wellness issues.
I think that loving yourself is an incredible thing to do, but it’s just not something I have the ability to do yet. But I’m working on it. From puberty to now, I’ve had issues with weight, in that according to my doctor, I had too much of it. I didn’t really think about nutrition and ignored comments about my weight. I knew I was ‘bigger’ than other kids, but I thought it would just come off later. As it turned out, that’s easier said than done. In fact, I’m still working on it.
The ‘Nood’ NFT collection, pictured above is a cute way to bring a conversation to body positivity, with an often-repeated mantra, “Be proud, be you”. They see the project as a way for everyone and anyone to express who they truly are with their ‘Noodie’. They each have traits such as pimples, scars, birthmarks and etc. These are just a few traits we want to showcase to show how true and real we want to be.
Equality ( No! to any kind of oppression).
Raj Chander for Healthline writes:
It’s helpful to adjust your social media sites to only show content that will inspire positive feelings about your body.
“I’m very discerning about what comes into my feed,” says Flores (Aaron Flores, a registered dietitian nutritionist from Calabasas specializing in male body image). “I’ll mute or unfollow people who exhibit a lot of diet or fitness talk, just because it’s not how I interact. I don’t care if my friends are doing keto or Whole30, or how many times they can squat — that’s not what defines our friendship.”
Other ways guys can cope with body image issues:
- Talk about it in the real world. Commiserating with a male friend can help ease the pressure to look a specific way. Online groups for body positivity are great, but it’s also valuable to get away from social media and spend time in places with realistic images of people.
- Embrace your body. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or totally out of shape — try to be happy with the way you look. If you’re taking active steps to be healthier through exercise or diet, embrace the journey. Instead of focusing on what you don’t like, be proud of yourself for trying to change what you can control.
- Don’t be afraid of vulnerability. “It’s not a challenge to your masculinity,” says Flores about being open and honest about body image struggles. “If we can learn to share our experiences, both negative and positive, that’s where healing comes from.”
- Remind yourself that media-portrayed body images aren’t realistic. The media is really good at portraying unrealistic bodies and misrepresenting the average physique — and that includes male bodies.
To close out this blog, my own journey of acceptance and maybe positivity is a tricky one. If I heard my daughter talking about herself the way I think about how I look, I’d be devastated and address it immediately. I suppose it’s a little harder when I’m further on my journey. Right?