Your Guide to Male Body Image

By: Surbhi Sardana ’16, University of Maryland Health Center, HEALTH Works Peer Educator

Between airbrushed images of celebrities and perfectly proportioned bodies of professional models, we are constantly bombarded with body image messages.

As socially aware college students, we understand that body image portrayals are not always realistic. Yet, many of us still nitpick and worry about parts of our bodies that we aren’t happy with.

On the other hand, we have campaigns and public leaders that champion acceptance for all body types. We have Love Your Body Month on campus to encourage a body-positive culture. We have the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty that supports diversity and Special K’s The Gain’s Project that endorses a woman’s sense of self-worth.

But can you name a well-known public campaign that advocates positive body images for men? No? Me neither.

Can you name one normal-waisted celebrity on a primetime television show? No? Me neither.

As Max An noted in the Diamondback, can you name one plus-size male model? No? Me neither.

However, did you know that 43% of men are dissatisfied with their bodies?

Did you know that about 1 in 4 eating disorders occur in men?

Did you know that between 28% and 68% of normal weight men believe they are underweight and want to increase their muscle mass?

Statistics from National Eating Disorders Association and The Atlantic

Negative body image, weight issues, and eating disorders are under recognized amongst all genders, but particularly so among men.

Most disorders present themselves differently in men than in women; whereas women typically want to lose weight, males are encouraged to gain weight by increasing muscle mass.

How do boys and men typically try to gain weight? By increasing exercise, altering their diet, using protein powders, and even using steroids to increase muscle gain.

Making healthy decisions to achieve a healthy weight is encouraged, but taking whatever means possible to achieve a desired body ideal can be unhealthy– physically, emotionally, and mentally.

So what do we do when we notice that our friends, brothers, or partners feel pressure to change their body type?

  1. Be honest. Share your concerns with the individual you believe is struggling with body image issues. Ignoring the situation won’t help someone you care about.
  2. Be caring, but be firm. Ultimately, your friend is responsible for his/her actions. Don’t make promises you don’t know you’ll be able to keep, like promising to keep his/her body image disorder a secret.
  3. Compliment your friend. Encourage their dreams, revel in their achievements. Remind them that they are more than just their body.
  4. Tell someone. Many times our friends need professional help to get back on track. Don’t hesitate to refer a professional to your friend, or to tell a trusted adult about the situation. Remember, you can’t force your friend to see someone, but encourage them to seek help.

Information from National Eating Disorders Association

It’s OK to be concerned for a friend; it’s OK to get them help. You don’t want someone you care about to fall into an unhealthy lifestyle.

We want to help those around us. Be fearless. Be strong. Above all, show others what it means to be a true Terp by looking out for the significant people in our lives.

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