when was the last time you stood in front of the mirror and thought, “my ears look weird” or “I wish I had longer legs?” The truth is that all of us have at least once done that but media and popular culture would like us to believe that only women have body image issues. but what about men?
what are body image issues?
at the core of body image issues is the urge to fit into the ideal image the society has created for us. anything that makes us a little different from the ideal leads to insecurities. so, it does seem absurd to think that men are completely secure about their bodies. research shows that 30-40% of people in India who have eating disorders are male. in fact, boys below the age of 18 also suffer from various body image issues, especially when they hit puberty.
some of the eating disorders that many young boys might develop are
- anorexia is not eating food due to intense fear of not gaining weight.
- bulimia is a person binge eating secretly and getting rid of the extra calories in very dangerous ways like inducing vomiting. this is a life-threatening disorder.
- body dysmorphia is a psychological disorder where you can’t stop thinking about how your body is flawed and might even avoid meeting people because of anxiety and embarrassment.
so how are men and young boys developing body image issues?
faux ideals and unrealistic role models
think about it? most boys have role modes who are either sports stars or film stars. have we ever seen a movie where the male protagonist is not lean or not beefed up like a bodybuilder? our movie industry has come forward with movies like dum laga ke haisha to discuss women and body shaming. but can we think of any movie with a similar arc for a man?
so, what’s wrong with staying fit or aspiring to be like a movie hunk. well, actors are always in great shape because they are always active and their bodies are continuously conditioned to look a certain way in front of the camera. nowadays, due to the streaming culture, many boys might be idealizing western actors and this can even lead to more insecurities because an average Indian teenager might take time to fully mature.
toxic masculinity takes a toll
if someone is going through these issues, it might take them a long time to accept or ask for help because of the pressure that society puts on boys to be “strong” or “masculine”. experts say that by the time parents realize their child needs help, they have already developed other disorders like depression and panic attacks.
now, well-known stars like Chris pratt are coming out and talking about how they struggled with these issues. but the role models are too far and few in between. there needs to be more conversation in schools, homes and other institutions so that people can ask for help at the right time.
parents, their kid’s closest role models, should be careful about what they say and observe if they are not eating and saying things like they want to follow “high protein diets” or “lose weight”.
so, there you go. if you are reading this and someone you know is dealing with such issues, then just talk to them or get them professional help.
take care of yourself. live aastey.