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Starting as the fat acceptance in the late 1960s[1], the body positivity movement has challenged unrealistic beauty standards and encouraged rejecting social norms. Body positivity movement criticises beauty standards and encourages women to love themselves for who they are. The digital world accelerated body positivity ideas and women around the world under the hashtag “#bodypositivity” would share pictures of themselves telling stories about relations between them and their bodies. However, men do not contribute to the movement on social media since they feel body-image pressure from the influence of social media[2]. I believe that the topic should gain more prominence in social media, because men seem to be more prone to certain eating disorders and substance abuse, suffer from muscle dysmorphia and seek treatment less frequently.

First, men are at greater risk for atypical eating disorders as well as are likely to have substance abuse issues. Dissatisfaction with body image and being far away from the ideal leads to potentially dangerous actions taken to close the gap[3]. This includes drastic changes in eating habits in order to lose weight or gain muscle mass, using steroids or other body-enhancing drugs to achieve their desired body type. For example, only 10%–15% of eating disorder diagnoses are assigned to men[4]. Results could be higher but, stereotypically eating disorders remains overwhelmingly female-centric[5]. Eating disorders are reflected in social media from the female perspective leaving the issue stigmatized, and, as a result, it makes it harder for men to recognize eating disorders and lets alone seek help for them. Also, one study showed that steroid use in male bodybuilders is linked with perfectionism and lower self-esteem[6]. Arthur Blouin and Gary Goldfield measured body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, self‐esteem, perfectionism, as well as designed questionnaires to measure attitudes toward steroids, and rates of steroid use of 139 male athletes recruited from fitness centres. It demonstrated that bodybuilders significantly greater body dissatisfaction and the great use of anabolic steroids suggesting that male bodybuilders are at risk for body image disturbance and the associated psychological characteristics. Men are victims of eating disorders and body-enhancing drugs since media does not contribute to men’s body positivity.

Men are likely to develop muscle dysmorphia which is when the body is not muscular or lean enough. Strive to gain weight or muscles is often a symptom and significance for muscle dysmorphia. Like any other body dysmorphic disorder, muscle dysmorphia could affect daily life including work, social life and relationships[7]. One study demonstrated how boys from a young age are used to think of the muscular, thin and strong body as an ideal image for men[8]. Adolescent boys were presented with various body types generated on a computer. Each was asked to choose one body type considering these questions: (1) What would you like your body to look like? (2) What do you think the ideal male body should look like? and (3) What do you think others think your body looks like? Results showed that boys on the first 2 questions selected body types that were 30 to 40 pounds heavier than the reference image. Answers to the third question revealed that young respondents perceived their bodies to be much thinner and weaker looking than they actually were. It illustrates that media dictate the way an “ideal” body should look from a young age and younger men might feel pressure if they won’t reach that “ideal” body look.

Lastly, positive body ideas should be acknowledged among men, because they are quieter about their body negativity[9]. Such a tendency is extremely harmful to mental health and is associated with depression, and anxiety disorders. In media, we know little about the prevalence of the issue in males because body is traditionally regarded as a “female problem”[10]. Men believe that their beliefs or behaviours as unusual or problematic and as a result, they seek treatment less frequently or hold off on treatment longer. However, digging deeper into the reasons why men passively seek for help, the main barriers include man’s traditional social role characteristics: a sense of immunity and immortality as well as a belief that seeking help is unacceptable[11]. National Eating Disorders revealed that males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa and noted that they are at a higher risk of dying[12]. Specialists assumed that they are diagnosed later since many people assume males don’t have eating disorders. Such data contributes to the idea that men body problems are not recognized among specialists. By encouraging men to open up with their views on body image and promoting body positivity ideas in media, different men body types could gain acknowledgements in social and medical fields.

With increasing awareness of body image, social media users have an opportunity to curate the environment by promoting body positivity content. Chasing „the ideal body“ is quite common among women, but, however, it lacks conversation from men side. Men‘s body positivity should be advocated. Media does not recognize men‘s different experience with body image issues – they tend to be at greater risk for atypical eating disorders and abuse body-enhancing drugs, followed by muscle dysmorphia and not seeking for help. Acknowledging this, we could create and contribute to safe space in the internet.

[1] http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1913858,00.html

[2] https://news.jrn.msu.edu/2017/12/male-body-image-pressure-increases-with-influence-from-social-media/

[3] https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00114.x

[4] https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00114.x

[5] https://www.insidehook.com/article/health-and-fitness/mens-eating-disorders

[6] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/1098-108X%28199509%2918%3A2%3C159%3A%3AAID-EAT2260180208%3E3.0.CO%3B2-3

[7] https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/body-dysmorphia/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1323298/

[9] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00114.x

[10] https://www.bradley.edu/sites/bodyproject/male-body-image-m-vs-f/

[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9934383/

[12] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders

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