Men With Body Image Issues: A New Start in 2012

Posted: December 30, 2011 in anorexia, Beyond Hunger, Body Image Disorder, Bulima, Bulimia, Eating Disorders, Gay Men, Geneen Roth, Hunger, LGBT, Uncategorized

The Body Beautiful: A Hellish Heaven?

With 2012 upon us, I’ve been pondering the state of hunger. Not so much “feeding those who go without food,” including the homeless—although check out Grind Out Hunger and Danny Keith and see some stellar activism happening in that realm—but more so about boys and men whose deep internal hunger pangs for self-acceptance often reveal themselves in the form of an eating disorder or a body image disorder.

The latter is especially true within the gay men’s community, where you often find a bevy of gay men devoting much of their livelihood to look physically “acceptable” among their gay comrades. In more concentrated gay areas, like West Hollywood, or San Francisco’s Castro District, and, really, much of Palm Springs, gay men are known to head to the gym six to seven times a week, diving into grueling workouts to acquire that perfect bod, one that often mirrors an advertising image found in publications like Out, The Advocate, or any Abercrombie & Fitch marquee.

Much like American women, who have endured an onslaught of media images insisting they must look and be a certain way, and aspire to a certain ideal, men—gay men especially—are on the receiving end of similar ideals. Basically … that unless they’re buffed and scrubbed up, there is something wrong with them.

I wrote about some of this in the book I co-authored, “Shut Up, Skinny Bitches” and have since found myself exploring my own insecurities about my body and what I think I should look like. (Imagine my shock when it finally sunk in that I had spent a good portion of my life feeling “fat” and “inferior” physically and that true happiness was only a bigger bicep and thinner waistline away!)

So, I began to wonder: in the quest to look great, does one ever truly arrive?

No. On the surface, perhaps. But the internal angst continues.

The majority of men I spoke with or interviewed while doing research for the book—and these blog posts and other health stories—admitted that their pang to always look better far out-weighed any true happiness inside. Alarming but a fascinating reality that exists—and one that isn’t really being discussed much. (See also America The Beautiful 2—great doc that touches on the matter.)

Think about it: how often have your gay comrades come together and talked about such internal truths?

Not too long ago, I appeared on David Perry’s television show in San Francisco to discuss some of the issues facing gay men. But before diving into the video segment below, I’ll leave you with this stat: The N.A.M.E.D. (National Association For Men With Eating Disorders) website  notes an  Alliance for Eating Disorders report that says, “Eating disorders currently affect approximately 25 million Americans, in which 25 percent are men.”  (“Men” technically being “males” or “boys and men.”)  Bottom line: an estimated 6.25 million males have eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

My goal in 2012 is to speak about eating disorders and body image disorders to/with groups of gay men. Stay tuned for more on that in the coming month. In the meantime, take note of my interview below:

  1. Greg Stevens says:

    I think this is an important issue, but I also think it’s important to be very careful not to demonize the drive to “look good” or the drive to work out across-the-board. Driving up awareness of self-image issues and trying to promote self-acceptance and the understanding that acceptance doesn’t come only from changing one’s physical looks is a good thing. But too often this conversation translates (in some circles) to an absolute derisiveness towards ANYONE who goes to the gym or likes to show off their bodies. And that is just as harmful, just as damaging, and just as wrong as insecurity-driven narcissism.

    So I guess that’s something that I would just caution you to be aware of. I think you write well, so I think you will do a good job of walking that line. Just keep in mind at any time that your words can be used to demonize and denigrate “people who work out” as a group, and that’s not any more healthy than “body issues” are.

  2. Greg Archer says:

    Yes. Very true. Thank you for your insights!!!

  3. ckylu1 says:

    I am a 36 years old (skinny and not muscular) gay male who has struggled with body image, I happened to stumble upon this blog during one of my online research on the gay male and body image (during another episode of being critical about about my body). I believe there is a lot of truth in your post about this issue, and wish all my gay friends (who also happen to have a lot of negative things to say about their bodies due to pressure of what we see in the media and the discrimination we face in the gay community) could see this with different eyes. Thank you for taking up this topic as I’ve noticed it is one of the main drivers of our depression.

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