Healthy & Happy  

For men: Overcoming Body Image Issues

Rock hard abs, muscular glutes, and a chiseled facial structure are the attributes of the Hollywood “superhero” male body. But aspiring for this type of male body is not only unrealistic, but unhealthy. On the other end of the spectrum, the notorious “beer belly” is being embraced by many as endearing and “cute”; however, the dangers of abdominal fat could be an indicator of visceral fat, or the fat around internal organs, and is a major risk factor linked to diabetes, heart disease, and other unhealthy conditions. With all these confusing messages around body image, let’s explore how to cope with male body image issues to get you and your body on the right path to health.

Focus on health and wellness.

Seeking a “dopamine high” through eating pleasurable foods may be a reason for weight gain. This “high” never lasts long, so the cycle of eating may be repeated in an attempt to keep that pleasurable feeling. Instead, there are many healthy ways to improve our levels of happy hormones, such as exercise, meditation, music, laughter, spending time in nature, and trying new hobbies. In addition, testosterone decreases as men get older, resulting in a decline in muscle mass which can contribute to weight gain. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, so a decline in muscle, leads to a decline in metabolism. This is why it’s imperative to focus on your health and wellness. Acknowledge your “why” and look at the bigger picture. Getting fit and healthy is not only important for you, but it’s important to set an example for your family, too.

Acknowledge unrealistic expectations in the media.

We’ve all seen the superhero action films that put men’s characters’ bodies on full display – 8-pack abs, muscular glutes and big biceps, as well as the perfect jawline. While it’s fine to admire these male Hollywood bodies, it can become a source of unrealistic expectations and feelings of inferiority. Behind the scenes, these movie stars are on strict, unsustainable diets, and train many hours everyday with world-renowned trainers. Many of these stars go back to their regular regimens after filming because the demand of maintaining that perfect body is just not realistic. Let go of those unrealistic expectations and don’t let thoughts of the “perfect” body rob you of experiencing joy in yourself.

Disconnect from social media.

Research finds that social media increases your tendency to compare your life to others, which is linked to lower self-esteem and social anxiety. With all the pressure that comes from social media, whether it’s one side of the spectrum championing “beer bellies” or the other side of the spectrum, championing rock hard abs, you deserve to take a break from the noise. Unfollow accounts that are negatively influencing you, and disconnect your social media accounts for a while. Take your newfound time to focus on your health priorities and make realistic goals.

Build your self-confidence.

In a study conducted by Psychology of Men and Masculinity, about 40% of men were unhappy with their weight and 20% experienced dissatisfaction with their bodies. Build your self-confidence by practicing positive self-talk, focusing on your strengths and setting realistic weight loss goals.

Accept your body.

Even when you lose the weight, you may not look like a Hollywood actor. And that’s more than okay! Accept your body and its limitations. It doesn’t mean you still can’t transform your body with weight loss, it just means you won’t be in the next superhero movie. But if you have your own version of a superhero body and are healthy for your family – you can be the real-life superhero you’ve always wanted to be.