For the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at how we gay men can stay healthy as we get older. Our focus has been on moving away from superficial qualities and looking at health from the inside out. This week we’re going to focus on gay men’s body image issues. They’re the primary reason we focus on our outside.
The pressure to keep up
When we look at how gay men are portrayed in the media, and in ads for things like gay cruises it’s no wonder so many of us suffer from body image issues. Everything we see is telling us we should look like those perfect, beautiful men with bulging biceps and six-packs. Most of those guys are also under 30. But, even portrayals of older men focus on the fittest and best looking.
What about the bears? Yes, the bear community is an important exception to this rule. But, the bear look is still something that isn’t available to all of us. It can be a healthy protest, but it isn’t an entirely healthy approach to your body.
It’s up to us how we’re portrayed.
There’s nothing we can do about the media though, right? Actually, that’s not right at all. The reason that we’re portrayed the way we are is that we respond to it. Those images of perfect bodies are what grab our attention and our buying power. Every one of us has the ability to change that by not supporting businesses, or visiting sites, that go after us with these unrealistic portrayals that do so much damage to our self-esteem.
Even Queerty, an online queer magazine that I really love, falls into the trap. While they post a lot of great, body-affirming content, for those of us who don’t fit the circuit queen mold, they also always have a feature with many scantily clad celebrities showing off their perfect bodies. I’ve noticed of late that there are more images of less-perfect guys. Beautiful men come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. If we demand to see more variety we may actually get some.
What does a healthy body look like?
Like so much else in life that entirely depends on you. It is a fact that not all of us are capable of having that perfect six-pack body no matter how much effort we put into it. Trying to meet that ideal may actually be making you sick.
Your optimally healthy body will be one that has a reasonable amount of body fat and a good dose of lean muscle mass. It will be created by a lifestyle that supports a healthy heart, good cholesterol, and great blood sugar. What that fit body is going to look like on the outside is going to have a lot to do with your genetics. It’s the luck of the draw gentlemen and those with fortunate genetics are just that. They’re not better than anyone, including you.
How to deal with gay men’s body image issues.
It may sound trite but you have to start by loving yourself, and your body, exactly the way you are. Regardless of how you may look your body has been supporting your life for as long as you’ve been on the planet and it deserves your gratitude.
You need to start wherever you are and take things from there. Get to the doctor and find out how well that miraculous body is functioning inside. Do what it takes to address any issues you uncover. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel. And guess what, you’ll probably see some really great changes in the mirror too.
If we really want to move beyond our body image issues as gay men, we need to stop reaching for an impossible ideal. We need to love the bodies we’re in and aim for optimal health so that we can be active, and enjoy our lives for as long as we’re here. Then we can be the examples of what a healthy, fit, man should actually look like.