For some reason, negative body image has always seemed like a particularly nasty thing reserved for girls only. Society seems to expect us ladies to obsess over how much we weigh and to constantly compare ourselves to celebrities with seemingly perfect bodies. I read and hear about girls striving for some sort of body “perfection” all the time, but I rarely hear about guys doing the same. And honestly, the idea that guys live without negative body image and are all perfectly comfortable with themselves is kind of annoying – especially since I know it’s not true.
So I was obviously really into a recent article in the New York Times about how teenage boys can be just as stressed about their body image as teenage girls can be. Except while girls are trying to be thin with curves in exactly the right places, boys are trying to be more muscular. The article mentions a study that says that 40 percent of boys in middle high school and high school work out on a daily basis trying to increase their muscle mass, and 38 percent of them used protein supplements.
What this study basically found is that, when it comes to negative body image, young boys are more similar to young girls than we all thought. Remember when thinspo blogs were under fire for encouraging girls to lose weight in very unhealthy ways? It turns out that girls aren’t the only ones going online for that sort of over-the-top motivation – guys are too, except instead of using thinspo blogs, they’re using fitspo blogs (which girls also use). On these blogs and forums, boys are sharing their weight-lifting session details and body fat percentages, which is really similar to what people were doing on thinspo blogs.
So while girls are trying to lose weight, guys are trying to gain it and turn it into muscle. And just like there are some girls who go too far and start being unhealthy about it, there are guys who do the same (as a doctor in the NY Times article pointed out, supplements to help guys gain muscle can be very dangerous). I’m actually a little surprised that people are surprised by this study – I’ve always thought it was obvious that girls aren’t the only ones suffering from negative body image.
If you disagree with me, I have some examples. My younger brother has a fast metabolism and is naturally very thin – and he hates it. He’s spent his whole life doing everything he can to gain weight and works out daily trying to build muscle. He’s really sensitive about his body, and if you mention to him that the’s too skinny, he gets super insulted. My boyfriend is very self-conscious about his body as well, constantly comparing his muscles to those of celebrities on TV or in movies. And one of my best guy friends from college was literally obsessed with his weight. He wouldn’t let a day go by without going to the gym (sometimes twice in one day) and was extremely strict with his high-protein diet.
Those aren’t the only guys I’ve met who have cared more then a little bit about their body. What I’ve noticed is that girls are usually more open about their negative body image, complaining about it on Facebook and Twitter or talking about it with all of their friends. I think guys are a little bit more private with that kind of thing – for example, you would never know those things about my brother or boyfriend if you weren’t as close to them as I am. In my opinion, girls are more open about that stuff because that’s what people expect from them, and guys keep quiet about it because, well, it’s not really expected from them. In short? It’s all kinds of messed up.
Honestly, I think it’s good that negative body image for dudes is finally getting a little more attention. While I agree that women are held to a higher standard of beauty than guys are, I also think it’s important to note that guys can be just as affected by body dysmorphia as girls can. Being obsessed with weight, whether it’s to be thin or more muscular, is a really serious issue for anyone. I think I can say that one thing we can all agree on is that everyone, girls and guys, needs to stop striving for perfection when it comes to their bodies.
What do you think about this study? Do you think guys care about body image as much as girls do? Do you think guys have it easier than girls? Do you know any guys who are obsessed with how they look? Tell me in the comments.