Summer is upon us. Men walk in the streets having shed a few layers of clothing. It can be appealing. It is also the start of the Pride season. We want to look our best for Pride, don’t we? It all sounds fun and hot, doesn’t it?
Not for all of us.
For some of us, it can be a distressing time if we don’t like our body. There is a high prevalence of psychological distress related to body image amongst gay men. For some, it is only an uncomfortable subject. For others it can become a daily pre-occupation acute enough to create deep unhappiness.
I see men who go to the gym every day, their bodies look pumped up, and yet all they see is fat, and imperfection. No matter how many times they go to the gym or how much they restrict their diet, it is never good enough.
These thoughts and perception of our body can lead to serious psychological disorders such as eating disorders or muscle dysmorphic disorder. We usually associate eating disorders with women and fashion models but it is widely prevalent amongst gay men too.
Muscle dysmorphic disorder goes unnoticed because it is socially accepted, even desirable amongst the gay scene.
So many gay men judge their bodies in a harsh and critical voice. The protective winter jumper can be difficult to give up because it is harder to hide with only a t-shirt on. Sometimes it can feel like a battle that is impossible to win.
You may have a problem with your body image if:
- You have frequent preoccupation with your body image and body shape to the extent of controlling your life.
- You feel distressed, unhappy or depressed when you look at your body.
- You do excessive exercise.
- You’re always on a diet, juicing, or detoxing.
- You have problems with relationships: avoiding social occasions because you think you look bad.
© Turismo Bahia via Flickr
You may have body image distress if you feel bad about your appearance:
- At social gathering where you know a few people.
- When you look at yourself in the mirror.
- When you are with attractive people.
- When someone looks at parts of your appearance that you dislike.
- When you try on new clothes.
- When you exercise.
- After you have eaten a full meal.
- When you wear revealing clothes.
- When you get on the scale to weigh.
- When you think someone has rejected you.
- When in a sexual situation.
- When you are in a bad mood.
- When you think of how you looked when you were younger.
- When you see yourself in a photo or on video.
- When you think you have gained weight.
- When you think about what you wished you looked like.
- When you recall hurtful things people have said about your appearance.
- When you are with people who talk about weight or dieting.
Here are five tips of what you can do to help feel better about your body:
- Speak to yourself like you would speak to your best friend. Don’t be unkind about your appearance. Challenge your critical thoughts.
- Avoid focusing on the body parts that you don’t like. Instead, take a broader look at your body and also look at the parts that you like.
- Don’t go on a scale every day. Moderate your exercises. Take some time to do other fun things and hobbies that do not involve working on your fitness or body.
- Have a balanced diet that include all types of food group, including a dessert once in a while. Make meals a time for relaxation and fun.
- Learn to love the body parts that you don’t usually like. It is all part of self-love, self-compassion and self-acceptance. You don’t need to have a six-pack in order to be handsome, attractive and a worthy person.
If you feel much distress to a level that it stops you from living the life you want, it is a good idea to find a therapist who specialises in working with gay men and body image.
We have only one body for life. Take your first step to make peace with it today. Wear the Summer clothes that you love without hiding. Be proud this Pride Season. Be really proud. We are all beautifully imperfect.