Bo(d)y image

A conversation about body image and mental wellness in males


Gabrielle Lazor, Writer

Body image between men and women is definitionally without distinction- how one perceives and feels towards his or her body- however, conversation on the topic is one-sided. Research has been performed more extensively on the female population. Fortunately, male body image research is gaining popularity, yet it lacks the depth of its counterpart. 

Body image concerns are not an explicit mental health condition, but they can be risk factors for psychological distress, depression, and eating disorders. With too much on the line, it is foolish to ignore the risks especially since “…people can be adversely affected regardless of gender or age, with many of the same drivers, such as social media and advertising, at play,” according to The British Psychological Society. Body image issues facing men are equally as complex as female counterparts. 

In this fairly newer field, researchers are still developing conclusions on how the media affects male body image. Societal assumptions about negative male body image often have the potential to be misleading and overly-simplistic as well. Most correlate male body image to desiring a lean physique with strong upper bodies. Battlefield junior Mathew Pianoto shares, “A lot of people my age like to go to the gym to obtain… huge lats, huge biceps, huge pecs, and huge legs. They aim to be as big as they can get, but sometimes neglect what they are putting into their bodies.” The narrative of an “ideal” male body has been broadcasted throughout the decades, yet that is not where the insecurities end. 

         Research from the Body Project on male body image reports that men have concerns beyond biceps, triceps, and pecs- they are more concerned with being seen as desirable by members of the preferred sex and remaining in good health. Battlefield junior Dariyan Benham shares, “I think being shorter than average isterrible, but us short guys gotta [keep] doing what we love to do.” The stereotype that men are only motivated by muscle mass is untrue considering many are equally concerned with uncontrollable, yet natural aspects of their body including hair, sweat, height, and balding. 

With body image satisfaction ranking as the second strongest predictor for overall life happiness in guys, the conversation between male self-esteem and mental wellness is nowhere near over. Ways for males to find themselves happier with their appearance include setting realistic expectations, focusing on the positives of one’s body instead of its faults, fueling oneself with a healthy diet, and releasing endorphins exercising. Nobody is perfect, and hoping for perfection is unrealistic in itself. “When you start to see your body as your home and not your billboard, you’re likely to find greater peace with yourself,” says psychotherapist Andrew Walen, president of the National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (NAMED) and founder of The Body Image Therapy Center in Maryland and Washington, DC. Having a positive body image is more than loving one’s appearance, but respecting what it can do- something every male deserves in his endeavor towards mental wellness.