Archive for the tag - body image

Quiz: Are You Beautiful?

maxresdefaultBeauty is a funny thing.

If you could ask our society to define beauty, you’d get a very narrow answer. It’s an answer that is depicted in magazines, advertisements and almost all the media that we regularly consume.

The thing is, beauty isn’t concrete. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Different societies and cultures have (and do) define beauty differently.

From the full-figured bodies with wide hips and body fat of the Renaissance Era to women with large feet in northern Indonesia, there’s really no consensus on beauty. In Thailand, I visited the Kayan tribe wherein women would wear thick metal rings to elongate their necks (and collapse their shoulders) as a sign of beauty.

And beauty has changed for men, too. From the lightly muscled and lean bodies of the Greeks and Roman statues to the feminizing Cumberland Corset of the 19th century, society’s definition of male beauty has evolved over time, shaped by culture, values and many whims.

Elsewhere you’ll see light skin, dark skin, tattooing, stretched earlobes or lips, scarring and just about every body type imaginable being included in some culture’s definition of beauty at some point in time.

The point is, when we see our society’s portrayal of beauty, it’s important to take a step back and see that definition for what it really is; it is shifting, arbitrary and totally subjective. We might not have long necks, big feet, tiny waists or six packs abs, but what does that matter? So rather than aspire to something which isn’t even real, let’s give ourselves permission to define beauty for ourselves.

And even if that definition isn’t accepted by the world around us, it’s important to recognize that it’s equally valid – and probably a lot healthier.

So, time for our pop quiz: Are you beautiful? You tell me.

WTF: Half Of Gay Men Would Die For The Perfect Body.

perfect-male-bodyHow far would you go for the so-called perfect body? Diet and exercise? Plastic surgery? What about death?

According to one study, 48% of gay men would trade a year of their life for the perfect body. And a staggering 10% of those respondents would trade 11 years (or more!) if they could have that perfect body right now!

There’s a few reasons why we shouldn’t be surprised.

First, it’s not just gay men. A lot of straight people would die for the perfect body, too. A survey of British women ages 18 to 65 found that nearly one in three would trade a year of their life for a perfect body.

Second, we know that gay men are particularly dissatisfied with their bodies. Study after study has found that body dissatisfaction is highest in gay men. We are more dissatisfied with our bodies than straight men, lesbians or straight women. As such, it’s not shocking that more of us would die early for the perfect body.

Third, when it comes to body image, gay men really experience the perfect storm. Sure, coming out and being rejected by family and friends or experiencing discrimination may have some impact on the way we see ourselves – and our bodies. But lesbians experience a relatively high level of body satisfaction, so that doesn’t tell the complete story. And yes, gay culture is very body-centric; we see images of go-go boys in speedos or underwear models with six packs. But straight culture directs similar and even more pervasive imagery towards straight women. So why do gay men hate their bodies even more?

I don’t think gay men objectify men’s bodies any more than straight men objectify women’s bodies. But with gay men, we also happen to live in the same bodies that we objectify. If a straight guy likes a woman with big breasts, he’s not necessarily going to beat himself up for not having boobs. If a gay guy is attracted to pecs, he may become upset with himself for not having them. And therein lies the difference.

So what’s the lesson to be learned in all of this? When it comes to body image, gay men have a lot of work to do. But where there are great challenges, there are also great opportunities.

In the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts for learning to replace some of that body hate with love.

P.S. Recognizing that rebuilding and repairing the relationship with your body is the foundation for any true and lasting transformation, I worked with psychotherapist and spiritual weight release coach Diane Petrella to put together a fat loss program based on self-love. It’s very different, but very powerful… feel free to check it out.

Should We REALLY Be Celebrating The Dad Bod?

635663018806338691127803170_zac.imgopt1000x70Unless you’ve been living under a rock with no WiFi, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the so-called “dad bod” craze.

So what is a dad bod? And is it really something we should be celebrating?

First things first, a dad bod is a male body type that could otherwise be described as softly round. Maybe the guy with a dad bod played football in high school, but he probably had a few too many pizzas and drinks in college. Like many of our dads, the belly gradually increased over time due to inactivity and a not-so-great diet. The dad bod symbolically rejects mainstream societal standards for male physiques. Like six packs. Unless they’re beer.

On one hand,  it’s important for all people to celebrate their bodies. With the amount of body shaming and our culture’s unrealistic standards for both men and women, it’s great to celebrate our bodies and their many shapes and sizes. In fact, according to a new study about weight stigma from a researcher at UC Santa Barbara, the media’s characterization of overweight people as lazy, weak-minded and self-indulgent may actually be contributing to the problem rather than helping to solve it. Regardless of our body mass index, it’s important (though difficult) to look at our bodies with love and gratitude – and anything that is a means to that end is worth considering.

But, on the other hand, the dad body is built on inactivity and poor nutrition. While it’s important to celebrate our body, let’s not celebrate depriving ourselves of movement and nourishment. And with those extra pounds come increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and a whole bunch of things that none of us want. And if you are a dad, it’s also important to be healthy and productive for your family. This excludes having a heart attack at age 66 – which, consequently, is the average age for male heart attack victims.

I think there’s a middle ground between being a sculpted Greek god and sporting a dad bod. That middle ground is called being healthy – and it’s based on a combination of smarter food choices and increased activity. It means eating your veggies, skipping some of the beers and hitting the gym. And healthy is something that all of us can celebrate.

P.S. To turn your dad bod into a healthy bod, I recommend my bootcamp program. You can download it right now – and get started today!

Are You Beach Body Ready? YES!

Across London, advertisements were posted featuring a bronzed model and a question: Are you beach body ready?

The reaction has been loud and swift. With complaints of body shaming, Londoners have responded by defacing the signs with their own commentary.

Here are a few of my favorites:

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Am I beach body ready? Yes. We all are. And it has nothing to do with size. Period.

The beach isn’t a privilege for women that are size two. Or for men with six packs. It’s for all of us to enjoy, and to imply otherwise is both ridiculous and potentially damaging.

Though the company behind the campaign is completely unapologetic (and claims 5,000 new customers have signed up in 4 days), it can easily be argued that fitness and nutrition products have a responsibility to avoid contributing to a culture of body shaming and insecurity. While campaigns like these may generate sales, it’s blood money.

Instead of emphasizing body size and further marginalizing individuals who might already feel insecure about the way they look, marketers ought to focus on health and well being. Rather than profiting off of insecurities, be part of the solution.

And that’s something that all of our bodies are definitely ready for.

Mirrors Lie.

Mirrors lie.

Or, more accurately our brains do. More specifically, our brains lie when observing our reflection. It’s pretty much impossible for us to see ourselves as we really are.

At the most basic level, our mind plays tricks on us when viewing our reflection. Our brains are literally trained to focus on the things we don’t like. Moreover, our minds exaggerate the things we don’t like so that they appear larger. Anyone who has ever had a pimple knows this to be true.

But let’s take a step back.

Even beyond our tricky brains, everything we see is an illusion. Look at your arm. It looks like a solid mass of flesh and bones. But it’s not; it’s trillions of atoms whirling around in giant clouds of information and energy. When you look in the mirror, that’s not something you’ll see

But let’s take yet another step back.

There’s a great and fitting quote by Thich Nhat Hanh about seeing clouds in a piece of paper:

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

Though it sounds like a line in some cheesy song, almost every element on earth was made in the heart of stars. The nuclear fusion that causes our sun to glow and the stars to shine also creates the elements from which the world around us – and even our own bodies – are built.

When you look at yourself in the mirror, you might see wrinkles or fat or things that you don’t like. But if you could really see yourself at a deeper level, you wouldn’t just see the clouds or the stars. You’d see the entire universe reflecting back at you in all its grandeur.

The mirror lies.

P.S. To lose weight through a new relationship with your body, download Davey Wavey’s Weight Loss Program. You’ll get three professionally filmed workout videos as a free gift!

Why Are Gay Men Skinnier?

gay guysOver the weekend, I visited a very gay gym in Palm Springs, California. Though most of the exercisers were well into their 50s, 60s and 70s, they were in better shape than most 20-year-olds. It raises the question: Why are gay men in better shape than straight men?

To answer that question, we must first examine whether or not it’s even true.

Certainly, the stereotype is that gay men are fit and muscular. But in reality, gay men come in all shapes and sizes. As a community, we’re not defined by a single body type.

However, when comparing gay men as a whole with straight men, it is statistically clear that gay men have a lower average body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight – and, on average, gay men are thinner and a third less likely to be obese. This has been confirmed time and time again including an article in the American Journal of Public Health.

Of course, a lower BMI doesn’t necessarily mean that gay men are in better shape. It does mean that they’re skinnier. But skinny isn’t a synonym for healthy. I have many skinny friends that couldn’t run a mile.

Instead of asking why gay men are in better shape, it’s more accurate to ask why they’re skinnier. So why are gay men skinnier?

It’s a great question with no clear answer, especially given the breadth and depth of our community’s diversity. Based on my experience, here are a few possibilities:

  1. Gay culture is very body-focused. Pick up a magazine that targets straight guys. On the cover, you’d probably see a deer in cross hairs, a football player or a woman in a swimsuit. Pick up a gay magazine and it’s probably a dude in his underwear. This isn’t to say that straight men aren’t body focused, but much of that attention is directed at women – and not themselves. If a straight guy sees a bikini-clad woman on a magazine cover, his first thought is probably not that he needs to lose 25 pounds to look like her.
  2. Gay men can be overachievers. If society – or your family – treats you like you’re a second class citizen, you may feel like you need to prove your worth by becoming an overachiever. Being an overachiever isn’t just about working 70 hours a week and getting promotions. It can also translate to other areas of life, including the gym. Working out can become an obsession in the pursuit of perfection.
  3. Your body is a currency in the gay community. Some things feel beyond our control. Like getting older or how smart you are. Or even your job or how much money you make. But you do have control over your body. And in the gay world, a good body can open many doors. It can help you do and get the things you want. And it will definitely help you get laid. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it’s a true thing.
  4. You create in yourself what you are attracted to in others. If a straight guy is attracted to large boobs, he’s probably not going to try to create large boobs in himself. But in the gay world, you have the opportunity to create in yourself what you’re attracted to in other men. If you are attracted to large pecs, you’re probably going to want large pecs on yourself. It’s a uniquely gay experience, but certainly a possible motivating factor.

At the end of the day, we don’t really know what drives gay men to be skinnier. While we can discuss gay men’s motivation until we turn blue, what’s equally important is expressing those motivations in a healthy and productive way. In a culture ripe for eating disorders and body image issues, it means building a healthier relationship with your body.

In the comments below, please share why you think gay men are skinnier. What motivates gay men? What motivates you?

P.S. If you’re looking to lose weight through nutrition, exercise and an improved relationship with your body, I recommend downloading Davey Wavey’s Weight Loss Program; I co-wrote the program with a psychotherapist, a nutritionist and another personal trainer. It’s the last weight loss program you’ll ever need.

Have You Thanked Your Body Today?

sev-fitspiration-2-deIf someone extends the simplest act of kindness to you by, for example, holding open a door, you’d probably thank them. It’s just common courtesy.

But what about something much, much bigger? Instead of giving up their seat on the train or letting you go first in line, what if someone – or something – did something truly extraordinary?

Each and every day, your body performs trillions of functions to sustain your life. It does this without a complaint or grumble. It never takes a day off. There are no vacations or overtime. There aren’t even any breaks. From the womb to the tomb, your body is your constant and tireless companion on this human journey.

But instead of thanking our bodies, we usually do the exact opposite. Have you ever looked in the mirror and hated what you saw? Have you ever ridiculed your body for being too fat? For having a big nose? For being too pale or too this or too that. The list is endless.

It’s like someone holding the door open for you and then punching them in the face. It just doesn’t make sense.

By replacing negative self talk with a more positive narrative, you begin to improve and repair your relationship with your body. And as you feed your body a diet of positivity, you’ll notice that it becomes much easier to make decisions that honor it. Working out and eating smarter become natural because your body deserves movement and nourishment. A healthier life becomes almost effortless.

So it all begs the question: Have you thanked your body today? If you haven’t, do it. Right now.

Exercise Improves Body Image – Even If You’re Unfit! [Study]

ken1If you don’t like the way your body looks, you’re certainly not alone. Surveys have found that about 60% of adults are unhappy with the way their body looks.

With body image issues being so widespread, exercise is often touted as one tool for treatment. But is this claim backed up by science? And is it only true for people who actually get into shape?

According to a University of Florida study, the act of exercise itself – regardless of whether or not you achieve your fitness goals – has a positive impact on body image. According to one researcher:

You would think that if you become more fit that you would experience greater improvements in terms of body image, but that’s not what we found.

In other words, even if you’re not receiving many physical benefits from exercise (i.e., lowering your body fat percentage, etc.), you still may be receiving important psychological benefits.

Interestingly, the only variable that made the body image boost stronger was frequency of exercise – and not the duration, intensity or type of exercise being performed.

The study also found larger improvements for older people than younger people, and a bigger boost for women than men. Still the gap between women and men wasn’t as large as researchers hypothesized; this may be attributed to the rise in body image issues among men. Indeed, body image issues know no gender.

The bottom line: Anyone can feel better about their body by engaging in any type of exercise on a regular basis. And with so many people dissatisfied with the way they look, exercise can be a powerful tool in helping to overcome a difficult issue – even if they don’t end up with that six pack.

 

Video: Thick is In.

Screen-Shot-2013-07-29-at-9.11.06-AMLast week, I answered a question from someone wanting to lose weight from their thighs.

The truth is, the commentator isn’t alone. Every day, I get dozens of emails from both men and women about the desire to be thin. It’s not about being healthy or about being strong; it’s about being skinny. And though I understand where this desire comes from, I think all of us could use a reality check when it comes to body image.

Over the weekend, I decided to record a video on the topic – and posted it on my second YouTube channel, DaveyWaveyRaw. Because body image is so central to health and fitness, I wanted to share it with you.

Check it out. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Why Gay Men Hate Their Bodies.

As a gay man and as a personal trainer, the issue of gay men hating their bodies is one that strikes close to home. And as someone who struggled with anorexia for years while growing up, this issue is personal.

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about why gay men hate their bodies more than straight guys, lesbians or even straight women. But I don’t think anyone is getting it right – so I decided to weigh in on the issue of gay men and body image.

Here’s why (I think) gay men hate their bodies so much.