Body image is a term that gets thrown around a lot when talking about how girls and women perceive themselves in relation to pictures of trim and gorgeous celebrities.
But what about the boys?
Most men’s health magazines feature photographs of perfectly chiselled male bodies as the ideal to aspire to. The sports stars that boys look up to as models of masculinity are fit and toned. It is rare to see a successful male celebrity sporting anything less than Ryan Gosling-style abs.
So it isn’t all that surprising that men can be as affected by how they look to others as women. The Butterfly Foundation says body image is the No.1 concern for both genders aged 12 to 28 and at least 10per cent of people with eating disorders are male.
Clinical psychologist Rodney Ward says he has noticed an increase in the number of men who were concerned about their appearance and their body.
‘‘I personally still believe there’s more expectations on women, but I think it might be closing a bit. I haven’t come across any studies saying the gap is closing, but in my personal experience with people, men feel those expectations as well and it’s getting a little more prevalent.’’
He attributes this increase to societal pressure and media portrayals of the ideal male body as muscular and toned, an image men with other body types often struggle with.
According to the Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria, males with body image issues and eating disorders focus more on exercising to bulk up than dieting to lose weight.
‘‘There’s another part of body dysmorphia for men, which you may call muscle dysmorphia, so their concern tends to be around muscle mass, so they believe they’re too thin for that athletic body type and that may lead to compensatory behaviours such as steroids or going to the gym excessively,’’ Ward says.
But there is a fine line between exercising for health and exercising so you look better in others’ eyes.
‘‘You want people to take care of themselves, and that’s a sign of good self-esteem that you take care of yourself and look after yourself, but a sign of low self-esteem can be that obsessiveness about exercising.’’
Personal trainer Brendon Smith agrees. He says men with body-image issues tend to train for form rather than functionality, when it should be the other way around.
‘‘When you’re just training for aesthetics and looks using body-building techniques, doing the same sort of movements repeated, the benefits to your health aren’t really apparent.’’
He has noticed a strange culture among some male gym-goers in the last few years, with men working on their ‘‘mirror muscles’’ – ones that look good when posing in the mirror – rather than their overall body.
‘‘You often see people neglecting important body parts like their legs just to get a big upper body, a big chest and biceps because they’re the mirror muscles they see all the time.’’
Ward says the best way to combat poor body image among men was for them to gain self-esteem from things other than their appearance.
‘‘Draw self-esteem through social connections with friends, family, career goals and sometimes just being.
‘‘Just practise self-acceptance.’’