Body image refers to how you feel about your body. Although this has been seen in the past as an issue for girls and women, body image issues are increasingly significant amongst men. Check out this page for more info.

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OK, so this blog comes from me, who no one could describe as a fashion queen, not even a princess, not sure I even get in the castle. I don't really enjoy shopping, I just wish my wardrobe would re populate itself, you know my favourite top smooches with my second favourite top and 'BAM!' a new number is created.

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Body Image and Guys

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Body image refers to how you feel about your body. Although this has been seen in the past as an issue for girls and women, body image issues are increasingly significant amongst men. These issues are not exclusive to any particular group of people (gay or metrosexuals); they can happen to anyone and everyone.

In almost every advertisement targeting men these days, you see muscular men with bulging abs, pecs and biceps, with broad eye brows, smooth skin and strong jaw lines. These ads leave men questioning about the weight, size and/or shape of certain parts of their body – eg beer bellies, man boobs, private parts, etc. Is it any wonder men are feeling insecure to walk around with their tops off these days?

Many young men feel pressured to act like the stereotypical ‘real man’, strong, tall, fit, more sexual and more muscular. However, we all know that this is all false! We are all born different!

If you are a male, and questioning yourself about your appearance, you are not alone – there are thousands of young Australian males who are suffering in silence! More and more young men are developing eating disorders, taking supplements and/or medications without consulting their GP, using products without reading more information about it, and spending far too much time at the gym!

Facts + figures

In Mission Australia's 2008 National Survey of Young Australians is was reported that body image was an issue of concern for 22.2% of young men aged 11-24 years old.

According to the Better Health Channel website:

  • about 45% of Western males are unhappy with their body to some degree
  • 17% are dieting at any given time
  • 1 in 10 anorexics is male
  • 20% of regular exercisers (approximately 5 per cent of the population) are addicted to exercise, either psychologically or physically
  • about 3% of Australian teenage boys use muscle enhancing drugs (like steroids).

These figures could be higher as men are less likely to seek medical help, thus lesser cases can be recorded. Furthermore, males are less likely to admit to issues they are dealing with, especially when ‘unhealthy body image’ is stereotyped as a female problem.

When could negative body image be a problem for you?

Being conscious about your body, like eating well and staying fit is important for leading a healthy lifestyle but it can quickly become a body image problem when it starts to take-over your life and create anxiety and stress.

  • You might be experiencing body image problem if you:
  • constantly feel inadequate about your body
  • have negative self-perceptions which affect your lifestyle
  • feel stress or anxious about leaving the house because of the way you look
  • are obsessed with certain physical characteristic (e.g. facial hair, muscles)
  • constantly compare yourself with others
  • constantly look into the mirror and criticise yourself
  • are extremely self-conscious about having your photos taken
  • call yourself negative names like, ’ugly’, ’hideous’ or ’disgusting’
  • constantly think about the nutritional value of the food you eat
  • blame yourself when you forget to exercise or eat 'unhealthy' food
  • use food or exercising for comfort
  • take supplements to increase your muscularity or improve your looks
  • take dangerous substances like steroids and hormones to increase muscularity.

Negative effects of poor body image

Body image problems could lead to:

  • Self-esteem problems - Feeling like the odd one out, feeling ‘inadequate’.
  • Unhealthy thoughts and/or actions - Thinking too much into something, or focusing on things that could be detrimental or unhealthy.
  • Social issues - Shyness, social anxiety and exclusion from social activities.
  • Exercise - too little or too much.
  • Eating Disorders, which include

Anorexia nervosa – extreme concern about weight leading to intense desire to lose weight (often unhealthily), even when they are already underweight.

Bulimia nervosa – consuming large amount of food, or ‘binging’ within a short period of time, and then leading to an obsession of getting rid of the food.

Reverse anorexia nervosa or body dysmorphic disorder – compulsive obsession with the imperfection of a certain of the body.

Binge eating disorder - regularly consuming a large amount of food within a short period of time even though you are not hungry.

Night Eating Syndrome – lack of appetite for breakfast, and regularl consumption of food after evening meal, before sleep.

For more information on eating disorders check out our topic page.

How to get a more positive body image?

Negative or unhealthy body image often develops over a period of time, so to change that might take a period of time and effort, but it is possible. In most cases, the first step is always to make the decision to make the change and stay motivated with the decision. You can:

  • Find a balance between ignoring, and worshiping the body – adopt a healthy lifestyle. Eat well and stay fit but not letting it dominate your life.
  • Image by NGyuriDevelop a personal identity including, but not based exclusively on your size and shape – know your strengths, eg sense of humour or sports abilities, and use it to your advantage. Check out the Self-esteem and Strengths fact sheets for more info.
  • Celebrate the fact that your body is functioning well, and allowing you to do things some people can’t – try to appreciate what your body can do more than what your body looks like. Check out the Gratitude fact sheet to learn more about how this can help increase your happiness.
  • Consult a counsellor, psychologist or professional to help with your negative experiences that might influence your body image issue(s) – negative experiences like bullying, sexual abuse and so on can have negative impact on your body image. For more information check out Reach Out's Who can help you section.
  • Make informed choices about your food intake (including supplements) and exercising by reading up on true scientific and medical based information – if there is a need to take supplements, consult your GP or a professional. If you think there are problems with your diet, consult a dietitian.
  • Develop meaningful, close relationships with your family, partner and/or friend – they should appreciate you for who you are, not what you look like. Check out the relationships section for more info.
  • Remind yourself to deal with people as people and objects as objects, not the other way around.
  • Remind yourself that the images you see in magazines are all fake anyway; they are meant to be ‘unattainable,’ so that you DO feel bad about yourself – just so you buy whatever it is they are selling.

Getting Help

It can be a good thing to be conscious about your body and health, but when it turns into obsession, creating stress and anxiety, it can become a problem. If you are feeling inadequate about your body or yourself in general, it may be worth talking to someone about it. This may be a family member, friend, teacher or counsellor.

Remember that you are not alone, and that it is likely to be an issue other friends of peers also struggle with. For further information check our the suggested links in the resource area below. The Butterfly Foundation, who support Australians with eating Disorders also has a information line 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 46 73)


Michael Colling - School’s Out! Youth Services

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2 Responses to “Body Image + Guys”

  1. Grace says:

    hi over some months i have started to gain a lot of weight. i am 14. i feel very fat and have i have tried a lot of diets. . i dont were anything shorter thann my calves or my elbows i cover my chest as well. i recently asked a guy out and he said i was too fat and ugly too go out with. i hate my body and i am saving up for lipo when im older. do you have any tips on losing a lot of weight. Please help

    • lynz says:

      Hey Grace, thanks for your comment, sorry to hear that you are having a tough time, it can be hard when we have a hard time inside our own bodies, and hey don’t listen to that guy, he is just being mean and unkind. We really recommend contacting some fantastic services which can help you find a way through these feeling. eheadspace – https://eheadspace.org.au/ is great to chat with online or via the phone – headspace also have services across the country. The Butterfly Foundation is also fab, check out their hotline, give them a call the people who work there have gone through the same feelings and understand http://www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/. Take great x

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