With summer now in full swing, many people are thinking and worrying about their “beach bods.” Recent media has focused extensively on the obesity epidemic, prompting more and more attention to our diet and exercise lifestyle. While many believe that this is a topic that only impacts women, research has shown that body image is beginning to impact more and more males, both adolescent and adult.
Just like women, men are constantly bombarded with images of the “perfect body” -- Adonis-like celebrities and models with broad shoulders, six-pack abs and sculpted arms. Many men and adolescents are able to quickly identify an athlete or celebrity whose physical prowess they admire. An estimated 85 million Americans engage in some type of weight training, most of whom are males. Each year, more and more supplement companies emerge in what is now a billion dollar industry. Other statistics point out that men are spending more time and money on their appearance: $500 million dollars on cosmetic surgery, $3 billion on grooming aids, $800 million on hair transplants and $400 million on hairpieces.
The difficulty is determining whether these behaviors are part of a healthy lifestyle. Concerning behaviors include:
- Frequently looking in the mirror, highlighting flaws and weak body parts and often voicing disgust or displeasure at current appearance.
- Excessive amount of time spent at the gym. Working out more than once a day or forgoing work and social events to spend more time at the gym.
- Constantly comparing yourself to others or to media images, asking if they are bigger, stronger or faster.
- Low self-esteem.
- Hyper focused on daily regimen. Are you angry or irritable if you do not get a workout in? Do particular meals have to be eaten at certain times?
- Use of anabolic steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.
If you recognize yourself or someone else while you are reading this, here are several suggestions:
- Strive for greater balance. Often someone with a body obsession will put great self-worth into their appearance and their main identity is their physical appearance. Actively utilize self-care techniques and identify other parts of yourself which make you a complete person outside of your physical appearance.
- Explore self-help resources. There are a number of wonderful books and resources available that go into further detail regarding causes for body image problems, provide education about the topic, and help to normalize thoughts and feelings of someone with a possible concern.
- Question messages portrayed in the media. Have a critical eye when going through magazines and other common pop culture sources. Remember that many photos are digitally altered.
- Seek professional help if appropriate with a mental health care professional who has a specialty focus on eating disorders and body image concerns.