Body image is how you perceive, think and feel about your body. Poor body image, and the role of the media in particular, has received a lot of press in recent times, and there is a widespread awareness of how it can contribute to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. However, most of the research and resources focus on young girls and women.
Boys and men are also subject to intense media and peer pressure to look a certain way – whereas girls are required to be slim, the ideal for boys and men is a well-muscled, ripped and lean look. Males may start an exercise or fitness regime in order to ‘bulk up’ in trying to achieve this perceived ‘ideal’, but taken too far this can lead to an obsession with diet and/or supplements and even steroid use, as recently evidenced in an elite Brisbane school. When taken to extremes, the end result may be a full blown eating disorder.
Alarmingly, body image dissatisfaction for Western men is estimated to have tripled in the last 25 years. But because worrying about weight and body shape is often seen as a ‘female’ problem, men are far less likely to ask for help. Preoccupation with appearance, food and exercise can lead to anxiety and mood disorders and needs to be taken very seriously. Cognitive behavioural therapy, with a focus on behaviour and attitude change, is a well-evidenced, effective treatment for body image concerns and is available at The Psych Professionals. If you are concerned about yourself, a friend or family member, contact your doctor, a psychologist or the following organisations.
Also see Body image: Is it just for girls?http://www.psychology.org.au/inpsych/2012/august/lewis/