While body positivity — the social movement focused on the acceptance of all bodies — continues to gain traction with women, efforts are also ongoing to make men feel more secure about their physiques.
Just as women, brands and advertisers are challenging stereotypical beauty standards of size, shape, height, skin tone, gender and physical abilities, so, too, are men. There are growing concerns and media reports about how TikTok has sparked eating disorders and “bigorexia” — extreme exercising and weightlifting in teenage boys. Hollywood actors like “Magic Mike 3” lead Channing Tatum have spoken out publicly about the arduous regime required for that role, “even if you do work out, to be that kind of in shape is not natural.”
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Body positivity focuses on equality and acceptance of all body types and sizes. The international movement has been fueled in recent years by consumers’ willingness to question and challenge how society and media portray the human body. The term reportedly became a buzzword online in 2012, but it dates back to the late 1960s.
Body neutrality promotes self-acceptance and recognizing your body’s abilities instead of its appearance. The term was coined about seven years ago, when bloggers, celebrities and intuitive eating coaches encouraged body neutrality to rebut equating self-worth with physical appearance.
Low body satisfaction is associated with higher rates of eating disorders. As of 2020, an estimated 70 million people struggled with them and about one-third were men, according to the American Addiction Centers.
Male body influencers like IMG Models’ Zach Miko and public service advocate and The Isle of Paradise creator Jules Von Hepp are championing body confidence. The latter is so committed to that idea that his company circulated information about surveys and factors that are geared for greater positivity among men. And “Top Gun: Maverick” actor Miles Teller has said how gaining weight for the role was the toughest part.
Some of the highlights included a reference to the Campaign Against Living Miserably’s survey of 2,000 men about how their bodies make them feel. Thirty-five percent replied that they are unhappy with how they look. In addition, 39 percent of respondents indicated that they feel pressure to have a perfect body. Nearly half of the men — 48 percent — said they have struggled with their mental well-being because of how their bodies look.
With the support of Instagram, CALM has a “Body Talks” series to help men address and open up about such issues. There is also thecalmzone.net, which houses videos of well-known people speaking about their own body struggles. Former Premier League soccer player and boxer Leon McKenzie spoke in video of how obsessive he became early in his boxing career about “making weight.” He advised, “The first person you have to look to is yourself and understand what your body needs, how it can potentially look for biomechanically you’re built and you do the best you can to make your body the best that it can be, not because you looked at another picture, not because you looked at another celebrity, not that you looked at me, but because you’re doing what you can for yourself and what your body can do.”
Another takeaway from the survey was that only 26 percent of men between the ages of 16 and 40 said they were happy with how their bodies looked.
Asked for tips on using social media, McKenzie suggested in his three-minute video that if you see something that makes you so insecure to the point where you start doubting yourself, unfollow until you’re ready and confident and know within yourself that you’re happy and can look at someone else’s page and think, “‘OK, great body. But do you know what? I’m happen with mine.’”
CALM started raising awareness about suicide prevention in 1997, when it first set up a suicide prevention helpline. In 2006, the U.K.-based organization became a national charity.