Let's Talk About Body Image.
OK - I’ll be honest, I was going to post about this on my Instagram a few weeks ago but after re-writing the caption too many times and getting a bit teared up, I gave in. The emotion wasn’t to do with my inability to write an Instagram caption (although I’ve been close on my bad days!), it was to do with thinking about my younger self and body image.
Right, let’s just start chatting about it, shall we?
Men actually do talk about body image. But in a different way. We take gym selfies, post thirst traps on Instagram, talk about how swole we’re getting or post about never missing leg day. What we don’t talk about is body dysmorphia, eating disorders, stretch marks, confidence issues or celebrate any other body than what’s on the cover of Men’s Health that month.
You know how much I hated my stretch marks when I was younger? I’d never heard a man talk about stretch marks before so when I saw that I had some, I felt absolutely ashamed and hated myself. It wasn’t until a few years later, one of my friends mentioned that her boyfriend had them and I felt a weird sense of relief that I wasn’t the only one. I also remember me as a young teenager, sitting in my room and thinking about why I was bigger than the boys everyone fancied in school. I even started thinking about cutting off my stomach fat, wondering how long it’d take to heal and if the scar would be too ugly. That’s so fucking terrifying - a little introverted teenager who was always just chill and laid back, thinking of giving himself DIY liposuction (or whatever I thought liposuction was at the time). All for the sake of looking good.
A few years ago, I really got into my fitness and healthy eating. I joined Slimming World, lost a few stone then started hitting the gym. I was loving it. I was getting loads of nice compliments, felt confident in myself and the likes on my shirtless selfies were rolling in - but to be honest, it wasn’t healthy. Physically or Mentally. I knew that if I lost weight, built muscle and looked better, I would feel better. But why would I feel better?
Mostly - validation. Body image is huge, especially in the LGBT community. There’s the gay stereotype on almost all TV shows with gay characters that are gym-rats with 6-packs and mad for a quick hookup with headless profiles. On Instagram, our feeds are filled with men’s health pages, LGBT advocacy groups and magazines promoting the SAME buff, unattainable body types and we inherently make ourselves feel bad because we’re so different. Imagine me, single, young, impressionable and constantly seeing these images. No wonder I desperately wanted to change how I looked. Even now, in my late twenties (don’t remind me), I’m struggling to relate to any of these '“idols”.
EVERYONE is deserving of love and acceptance, regardless of body type. We don’t need to be ripped and roided to feel attractive and as a community, we need to do more to be truly inclusive. Anyway, I’ll step down from my soap box lol.
When I was forcing myself to hit the gym, I was doing well with my squats and cardio, but I was feeding into my subconscious, telling it that on some level, people complimenting me and giving me that validation for this, was satisfying. Why was I obsessed with getting swole for likes and the opinions of other people? It’s crazy, but it’s reality. Over the years, I’ve had a pretty unhealthy relationship with food and my body. Criticising progress pics, constantly weighing myself, binging at the weekend, making myself sick and then starving myself - all in the name of looking good. I’ve still got a long way to go, mind you, but I’m slowly learning to be OK with how my body looks.
Since being in New Zealand, I’ve put on quite a bit of weight and it makes me feel slightly uneasy. But, I’d rather give my Mental Health priority over stressing about losing my love handles before flying home. So, this all came about when I was thinking about body image the other day and I wanted to drop my 2-pence in. Whenever I’m feeling a bit down about being a b Thicc Boi, I remember the few lines in “The Suncreen Song” (a motivational song if you haven’t heard it). The bit goes:
“trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall (in a way you can’t grasp now), how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.”
It reminds me that we’re so much more than our bodies. How much time do we spend worrying about our bodies and wishing we were different? we could do so much with that energy. We should learn to talk about body image and practice some body positivity. Learn to be comfortable with how your body is and focus on what it can do instead of how it can look. You don’t need to look like the ripped insta models or the image on the magazine covers. Dad bods are great. And normal. Getting into a positive view of your bod might be hard but it’s worth doing the work.
I’m not saying that I’d never eat health and aim to lose weight in the future but I want to do it for the right reasons - not comparing myself to other people or feeding validation. I am still learning and that’s OK.