Archive for the tag - body image

Exercise Disorders in Men.

Being able to appreciate a picture like this without measuring yourself against it isn't always something you can do alone.

When it comes to male eating disorders and body image issues, it’s really a vicious cycle.

Because few people talk about male bulimia, anorexia or body image disorders, these illnesses are viewed as largely female. And yet, the Harvard University Medical School found that 25% of adults with eating disorders are male. Because so few people talk about how these illnesses impact men, the men who experience body image issues and eating disorders often suffer in a self-imposed and shameful silence.

There are a number of factors that influence eating disorders and body image issues in both men and women. Internally, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence can be a contributing factor. Externally, society bombards us with unrealistic and Photoshopped images of unobtainable physiques. And this external pressure isn’t unique to women. For every Victoria’s Secret advertisement there is another from Abercrombie & Fitch featuring chiseled torsos and glistening biceps. And in an even more body conscious gay male subculture, the pressure is still greater.

It’s worth noting that body image issues can sometimes be expressed – especially in men – through an exercise disorder. Defined as training at least two hours per day unrelated to a career in sport, these individuals feel like they can’t live without a trip to the gym. A sign of exercise disorder is when gym commitments interfere with everyday life and social activities. Because going to the gym is a considered a good habit, it’s easy for these individuals to convince themselves that their illness is really just a healthy hobby.

At the end of the day, we can’t control the images that society directs our way. But we can control how we evaluate those images – and whether or not we use them as rulers against which we measure ourselves and our bodies. It’s possible to see (and appreciate) a picture of a chiseled, oiled and unrealistically proportioned Adonis without internalizing it as an assessment against your body.

But you might not be able to do it alone.

Changing our mindset isn’t easy, and it often requires professional help. Men and women alike need to feel empowered to seek out assistance in overcoming body image and eating disorders.

To that end, the stigma that these disorders only affect women isn’t helping. And the best way to break a stigma is by talking about it. I’ve talked about my childhood struggle with anorexia and I’d encourage you to do the same. In the journey from ashamed to shameless, every bit of dialogue counts.

Do you think many men are suffering from eating disorders or body image issues in silence? Let me know in the comments below.

Trade a Year of Your Life for the Perfect Body?

Would you trade a year of your life for the "perfect" body? Turns out, you don't have to.

According to a survey of British women aged 18 to 65:

Almost one in three would be willing to die younger [by at least one year] in exchange for the ‘ideal’ figure of the likes of model Kelly Brook or actress Scarlett Johansson. The finding is all the more shocking because almost all of those polled were in the normal weight range – or even underweight.

The study didn’t include men – or gay men, in particular. I suspect the numbers might be similar, as gay culture is very body-conscious and many gay men feel tremendous pressure to look a certain way.

If you would trade a year of your life for the perfect body, then I have two pieces of good news.

First, in this moment, you already have the perfect body. It may not look like the models whose muscles we so eagerly worship (see above picture), but your body – right now – is exactly as it needs to be. You can change the way your body will look and feel tomorrow, in a month or in a year – but you can’t change your body now; it is exactly as it must be in this very moment. Instead of resisting the way you look today, embrace and accept it. And then use your new-found energy to work toward creating a healthier tomorrow.

Second, while many people might trade in a year of their life for a healthier and stronger physique, the exact opposite is the reality. When you live a more active lifestyle, it has a significant impact on longevity and the prevention of debilitating disease. Work out and you’ll live longer – it’s really that simple. It’s why I like to remind my clients that they don’t have time not to work out.

You need not trade in a year of your life for the perfect body. Turns out, your body is already perfect. And making it stronger and healthier will cause you to live even longer. Looks like you can have your cake and eat it, too. So to speak.

Gay Men & Steroids: A Love Story?

The other day, I was showing a picture of a sexy, muscular guy on Grindr to a friend. My friend pointed out that the guy had gynecomastia (the development of abnormally large mammary glands in males), and was likely a user of steroids. I was surprised and shocked, but my friend told me that steroid use – especially among gay men – is fairly common. Even his roommate does steroids, he shared.

I was ignorantly unaware of what is seemingly an epidemic among gay men. In fact, a recent study revealed that 1 in 7 gay gym-going men admitted to steroid use. Some estimate that the actual number may be closer to 50%.

There is no no doubt that many people associate being gay with a certain gym and muscle culture. And while that gym culture doesn’t define a community as diverse as the gay community, it certainly is present and pervasive. Gay muscle culture is often traced back to another epidemic: AIDS. Physicians often prescribed steroids to people living with AIDS as a way to increase muscle mass on their otherwise frail frames. Moreover, pumped-up bodies became a symbol of healthiness.

Today, muscle culture is alive and well – and many gay men feel intense pressure to obtain lean, muscular builds. Under such pressure, taking steroids can seem like an easier shortcut than hard work and exercise. And there’s no doubt that steroids yield results. Unfortunately, steroids are plagued by tremendously dangerous and/or undesirable side-effects including:

  • Acne
  • Shrunken testicles – which leads to temporary (and possibly permanent) sterility
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Liver malfunction
  • Enlarged prostate and prostate cancer
  • Balding
  • Aggression
  • Liver failure
  • Stunted growth
  • Weight problems
  • Neurological issues

Of course, not all steroid users will experience all of the above side effects – but the list is long and daunting. If gay men and steroids are a love story, it’s certainly one that won’t end happily ever after.

If you (or someone you know) uses steroids, it’s important to talk to a professional. Most drug addiction treatment centers are equipped to deal with all kinds of drug addictions ranging from prescription drug abuse to steroid abuse.

But I want to know what you think. Are you – or someone you know – a steroid user? Why, despite the enormous risks, do people find steroids to be a viable option? Share your thoughts in the comments below.