A photo posted by Zach Miko (@zachmiko) on Mar 17, 2016 at 9:25pm PDT
It’s not every day that you hear a male model talking about his body image issues. But Zach Miko is no ordinary model. At 6'6" and 275 pounds, Miko is considered plus-size, and he recently opened up to the New York Times about his struggles with size growing up and how he’s learned to embrace his body — just like female plus-size models before him, including Ashley Graham, Robyn Lawley, and Tess Holliday.
Miko, who describes himself as a “beefy, stocky guy,” made his debut online last fall in the plus-size line of Target’s Mossimo collection. Miko is also the first model to be signed by IMG’s Brawn division, which is dedicated to plus-size male models, and he has posed for the British plus-size label Bad Rhino. A wave of fans soon followed, including more than 58,000 followers on Instagram.
A photo posted by Zach Miko (@zachmiko) on Apr 19, 2016 at 11:08am PDT
But Miko wasn’t always his body’s biggest fan. The 26-year-old told the New York Times that his size has defined his entire life, and accepting it has been a battle. “I don’t remember when I learned that being big was a bad thing,” he said, “but as a kid that’s what I thought.”
Although the focus on body image and the negative consequences of that in females is well-documented, male body image issues are increasingly prevalent, according to Mia Holland, chair of the studies in human behavior programs at Capella University. In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their lives. “We typically think of females when asked about eating disorders or body image issues because historically, females have been the focus,” Holland tells Yahoo Beauty. “But males are just as susceptible to eating disorders and disordered body image as females. It is important that our society recognize males as a vulnerable population who are equally affected by media, social pressures, and unreasonable body image expectations as females.”
A photo posted by Zach Miko (@zachmiko) on Mar 16, 2016 at 7:29pm PDT
Surprisingly, for Miko, it was starting his modeling career that helped him feel empowered and better about his own body. He’s now dedicated to promoting inclusiveness, getting his body-positive message out there, and being the kind of role model that would have been a great help when Miko was a child.
“I was always the big kid who felt like the outsider,” Miko told the Times. “For me, the coolest thing about this is the idea that kids like me can look at a website or a magazine and see somebody their size instead of these Adonises. I think that’s going to do amazing things for their self-esteem.”