We often think of negative body image as something that afflicts young women, but the reality is that body image issues can affect everyone. Research shows that about 10%-30% of men experience body dissatisfaction and about 90% of men experience body dissatisfaction in terms of muscularity. Other factors that impact men’s body image are body weight, penis size and height.
Perpetuated by media and marketing, men often feel a need to attain an ideal physical appearance. While this phenomenon seems to be a bit more prevalent in women, men are not immune from pervasive pressures to look a certain way in order to find love and acceptance.
Additionally, men are not traditionally encouraged to speak about their body image experiences as openly as women, which can lead to even more problems.
5 Ways Men’s Body Image Insecurities Impact Health
There are several behaviors and disorders that can arise from men’s body image issues. If any of the list items below resonate with you, know that you are not alone! And it’s okay to reach out for support that can help you to feel happy and healthy in your body.
1. Eating Disorders
Unsurprisingly, men’s body image issues can evolve into eating disorders. In fact, a 2018 research study on men’s body image issues reported that one-third of people suffering from anorexia nervosa and one-fourth of those suffering from bulimia nervosa are men. The numbers of men and women who suffer from binge eating disorders are about the same. Amongst men, body image dissatisfaction is also linked to disordered eating and dieting, increased supplement use, compulsive exercise, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
2. Loneliness and Social Anxiety
When a man feels badly about his body, it may result in avoidant behavior that can lead to loneliness and social anxiety. Though everybody experiences a degree of loneliness at some point in their lives, prolonged loneliness can lead to a decline in cardiovascular and immune health, increased risk for dementia, and a loss in motor skills. Additionally, the more someone isolates, the more they lean into behaviors (like overeating or being sedentary) that can lead to obesity.
3. Unhealthy Relationships
Loneliness and avoidant behavior can also lead to unhealthy relationships, or a decrease in the quality and quantity of intimate experiences. It may also lead to unhealthy attachment patterns, like anxious attachment.
Anxious attachment is associated with the following behaviors:
- Constantly seeking praise
- Becoming overly demanding of your partner
- Focusing on relationship problems and a lack of self-esteem
Before seeking out a romantic partner it is important to first work on your self-love. This can help you find a healthy and stable relationship with potential for longevity.
Body dissatisfaction in men has also been linked to depression. If you notice that you’re experiencing symptoms of depression such as recurring feelings of sadness, excessive worrying, difficulty concentrating, irritability, diminished interest in activities or constant fatigue, consider consulting a therapist.
5. Decreased or Obsessive Levels of Physical Activity
Sometimes men’s body image issues can lead to obsessive behaviors surrounding exercise, including compulsive exercise, increased drive for muscularity, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Other times, a negative body image can actually lead to a decrease in physical activity and digging deeper into behaviors that lead to weight gain.
An interesting difference between body image in men and women is that men are more likely to think they’re a normal weight when they are overweight, and women are more likely to think they’re overweight when they are a normal weight. That can sometimes lead men to think they are practicing a healthy lifestyle when they are not. A lifestyle that includes balanced physical activity is an important component of a wellness routine, for mental and physical health.
Tips to Improve Body Image
If you struggle to feel satisfied about your appearance, here are some ways to help you develop a healthier relationship with your body.
- Work with a health coach who can help you identify healthy patterns and habits.
- Consult a therapist if your body image is affecting your mental health or you believe you have an eating disorder.
- Practice affirmations that promote self-love and confidence.
- Focus on eating foods that will help you feel your best, rather than foods that will make you look a certain way.
- Participate in exercise that makes you feel strong and happy, rather than activities that you believe will make you look a certain way.
- Surround yourself with people who are kind about your body image and will support your health journey.
The bottom line is that men can struggle with body image issues and sometimes end up doing so silently. It’s time to open up the conversation so that people of all genders can live the healthiest life they deserve.
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