Boys, lets talk about Body Image

As men we’re not always great when it comes to talking about our emotions or feelings. Which is strange really as we all have them and all deal with them at some point in our lives.

Some of us are lucky in the sense of we may not have much to deal with but some are not so lucky and often struggle in silence.

I’m lucky in that I’ve not had serious issues to deal with, I’ll also add that I’m by no means an expert on the subject but feel I’ve been around the block enough times to be able to at least start a conversation about it.

Here are some findings published by the Mental Health Foundation following a survey carried out in March 2019:

The statistics above are quite scary when you consider body image in men isn’t something that is generally spoken about.

There could be many reasons why we don’t talk about it such as embarrassment, fear of being judged, aging ‘rules’ of society that say men should be tough and strong. For younger men it could be peer pressure or inexperience of life.

Lets have a look at some of the bullet points above in a bit more detail.

28% of men felt anxious because of body image. Yep I can say I have felt that. Who doesn’t walk out at the swimming pool or on the beach while just wearing shorts and think to themselves “Do I need to suck in a bit” or ‘tense up’ a bit? I’ve been getting ready for a run on a hot day thinking I’ll go topless but then decide not to at the last minute, or if I do I wait til I get somewhere less busy.

Why am I doing this?

I do it because I care what others think of me.

Why do I care what strangers think of me?

I DON’T KNOW.

I’ve seen plenty of other people at the pool or on the beach, I’m not bothered what they look like so why would they be bothered what I look like?

The problem is the idea of the ‘perfect’ body. The pictures we see in adverts and films, pictures we see on social media. The reality is there is no perfect body. All bodies are different.

This leads on to the other statistic of 22% of men negatively comparing themselves to others. Yep I’ve done that too. This is where social media can be dangerous.

I’m all for the like of the Transformation Tuesday pics on Instagram, but remember that it is someone else’s journey not yours. Once again everyone is different. You may not be seeing the whole story. There could be a lot of extra work they do behind the scenes, there could be things they’re struggling with themselves.

It would be easy to look at someone’s profile and think wow they’re doing great but they only posted 1 run this week, they posted a story about donuts the other day. How do they do it?

In reality they may be working out every day but not posting about it. The donut could be the only thing they ate that day. Their metabolism may be different to yours. Basically you can’t compare yourself to someone else as you’re not the same.

Also don’t believe everything you see. For starters there are 23 different filters that can be used for an Instagram post. After applying the filter there are then 13 different ways to edit the picture. Most of which then have a sliding scale from 0 – 100.

Even without using any of these the lighting and the angle the picture is taken from can have a massive effect also.

Take the picture below for example, taken in the usual side by side ‘transformation’ style.

The amount of time between these two pictures is about 30 secs. No filters or editing on either side yet both look quite different just because of the light and how I'm stood. Had I changed the shorts I could’ve said it was a few months between them. I could've made something up about clean eating or an exercise plan I'd followed.

Would I ordinarily want to share the pic on the left? No I wouldn’t. But why not? Everyone folds when they sit down. It’s my mind having been conditioned to think that other people won’t want to see it or they might judge it.

It doesn’t ‘conform’ with the idea of the ‘perfect body’.

I could potentially achieve something that might resemble the ‘perfect body’ but I would have to become extremely strict with exercise and nutrition and at the end of the day I would be miserable. I like cake and beer and crisps and chocolate. Why deprive myself of things I like and want for months or maybe years just so I can post a picture on social media that people (people I don’t know) may or may not like.

I’m not knocking those who do put that work and effort in, fair play to them. I just hope that they are enjoying the process and are in a good place with what they’re doing.

It’s not for me but that shouldn’t make me feel bad about my body. It shouldn’t dictate what I do or do not eat, it shouldn’t restrict what I post on social media. It shouldn’t restrict what I wear. We all have parts of us we don’t like but lets not let it rule us.

I think we’re starting to move in the right direction on a lot of important topics in the world today, lets add Body Image to that as well.

Ladies I obviously can’t speak for you as I’m not one of you but I hope some of the points I’ve made can resonate with you as well.

Gents remember we’re all in it together, don’t try and get through stuff by yourself. Reach out to mates, brothers, fathers, uncles or anyone, chances are they’ve felt something similar at some point.

Also remember next time you’re talking to someone or having a laugh and a joke maybe don’t take the piss about how they or someone else looks. It’s not banter if it’s damaging to them.

Here are a couple of phone numbers for organisations if you prefer to talk to someone impartial:

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portrait

Geoff Ridout

Fire Officer from Birmingham

Age group: 40-44
Club: No

My Disciplines
Obstacle race Marathon Ultra marathon Ultra trail run

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