The body image men have is different than the body image women have. While we hear a lot about the importance of a healthy body image in women, a healthy male body image is also important.
Body image not only affects how we see ourselves, it affects how we interact with others and how we behave. It affects our physical and mental health.
How Male Body Image Develops
Men begin to develop their body image when they are still children, based on parental cues. When they begin attending school, their body image develops further. The media also influences the development of the body image men have. Under ideal circumstances, men develop realistic body images. They understand what a healthy body looks like and have realistic expectations about what they should weigh.
Unfortunately, if men grow up with criticisms about their appearance, their body image may suffer. Men that are regularly exposed to unrealistic images in the media may also experience a poor body image. Even little boys that play with GI Joe figures may find their body image suffers; a GI Joe toy, if extrapolated into human size, would be taller than the average man and have bigger biceps than any body builder. This gives boys an unrealistic ideal to live up to.
Problems With The Body Image Men Have Today
A counselor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering reports that over the past decade, male college students have expressed increasing degrees of dissatisfaction with their bodies. Men that regularly read fitness magazines express greater dissatisfaction than those that don’t read such magazines. Male body image suffers when men are exposed to images of unrealistic male bodies.
A survey conducted by Psychology Today found that men believe their appearance is much more important to women then women report it is; for instance, men believe if they lose their hair women will not want to date them, even though many women say they are willing to date bald men. In an effort to become more attractive, men spend billions of dollars on things like hair transplants, cosmetic surgery and pectoral implants. Some men go to great lengths to improve their male body image. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve your appearance but cosmetic surgery procedures involve some risk and these procedures can be very expensive.
The development of eating disorders is a serious concern for men with body image issues. Certainly not all men with poor body image develop eating disorders, but some do. The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness reports that between 2.4 and 3.6 million men suffer from eating disorders today. Up to 20 percent of people with anorexia die from the condition, so this is a very serious issue.
Addressing The Body Image Men Have Today
We must address the poor body image men have to prevent conditions like depression, anorexia and bulimia. Of course a poor male body image is not the only thing that causes such conditions but it can be a contributing factor for some men. It’s normal for people to feel a bit self-conscious about their appearance from time to time and it’s normal to have a few small things you’d like to change about your appearance if you could. However, if men feel obsessed with their appearance or if their concerns about their appearance begin to interfere with their daily lives, they should seek help. For instance, a man that refuses to participate in social gathering because he worries about his appearance should consider counseling.
Certainly any man that has symptoms of anorexia or bulimia should seek treatment. Symptoms to watch for include excessive weight loss, health problems caused by excessive weight loss or malnutrition, eating very small or very large amounts of food, excessive use of diet pills or laxatives and vomiting after eating.