Time to talk about men’s body image

Aoife McMahon

It’s a common misconception that men don’t suffer the same amount of pressures as women do when it comes to body image. Men and boys are expected to be tall, strong and have muscles, these expectations can be a huge burden to men of all ages.  

It’s hard for men, they don’t have a male version of Lizzo who tells them they’re Greek gods. Men are also less likely to talk to their friends if they’re feeling insecure about their bodies, so they wouldn’t get the same reassurance that us girls give our friends. 

23-year-old Dean Caffrey said: “It’s a different pressure for men because you’re meant to be strong”.  He explained how he thinks this stems from traditions in the past where the men were always the head of the household and seen as the “protector” and the provider.

Another prevailing assumption is that only women suffer from eating disorders, this couldn’t be further from the truth. According to Bodywhys, the eating disorder association of Ireland, it is estimated that 10 per cent of cases of anorexia and bulimia are male, though more recent studies suggest this figure could be as high as 25 per cent. 

Men affected by eating disorders are often under-diagnosed. It can take longer for men to acknowledge their eating disorders, which means they might not be diagnosed for months, years, or until they reach crisis point. One of the main reasons men are diagnosed later than women is that there is a belief that eating disorders are female illnesses. This stigma causes men to hide their issues from others. 

Bodywhys say that recently the eating disorders men encounter most are extreme dieting, as well as bulimia and muscle dysmorphia.

16-year-old Ciaran Treacy is an avid sports player and he said that boys on his various sports teams constantly compare themselves to each other. He said: “there is definitely a pressure among young men to have big biceps and big legs” and that boys on his sports teams would often say they wish they had muscles as big as other team’s members. 

A man who’s paving the way for male body positivity is 26-year-old Stevie Blaine a.k.a @bopo.boy on Instagram. Like the numerous female body positive influencers on Instagram, Blaine’s aim is to make people feel good about their body. He posts unedited, real photos of what his body looks like to his 16K followers and encourages men to love their “man boobs” like he loves his. Growing up, Blaine just wanted to fit in but now he’s proud to stand out, he says he doesn’t need to shrink himself, he’ll make his own space. 

However, a few influencers on Instagram isn’t enough. Why are there almost no plus size male models? Surely if women have models like Ashley Graham to look up to, men should have someone too. Men need to be told just as often as women that their bodies are beautiful, that their curves are natural and that they all don’t need big guns and six packs to be attractive.

Aoife McMahon

Image Credit: Teen Vogue