Men affected by body image issues are finally speaking out
Expert says one-third of eating disorders occur in males and 28–30% of men experience negative body image
Body image issues are often associated with women, but it also affects men and people are finally starting to talk about it.
Mina Gerges is a 24-year-old Egyptian-Canadian man living in Toronto who has struggled with how his body looks. He overcame an eating disorder in his late teens and now posts shirtless pictures and videos of himself to open the discussion.
"I decided to dedicate my platform towards offering the kind of content that I needed when I was going through my eating disorder," said Gerges. "What did my younger self need to help them love their body?"
Gerges says while opening himself up to possible abuse and scrutiny was a tough decision, the feedback has been mostly positive.
He now has more than 113,000 Instagram followers and is helping further the discussion around male body positivity.
"It has been completely left out of the conversation and I think that that further perpetuates this stigma and this shame that men shouldn't be experiencing these things," said Gerges.
Stevie Grice-Hart, a U.K.-based vlogger known online as bopo.boy, is another man fuelling that conversation.
"The problem with seeing the same body type time and time again, it reinforces the idea that that's the only acceptable standard of beauty and that anyone who doesn't look that way isn't considered beautiful, which, plot twist, they certainly are," said Stevie Grice-Hart in one of his YouTube videos.
His posts have gone viral and received attention from media outlets around the world. They've also helped further hashtags on Instagram like #malebodypositivity.
"My extra belly skin, my bingo wings, thunder thighs, my bum I've always felt is a little bit too small, doesn't make me any less beautiful," said Grice-Hart in a YouTube video. "I may not fit into your beauty standards, but I sure as hell fit into mine."
Men don't seek support
The discussion is encouraging to Paul Gallant, a Vancouver-based independent consultant with his own company called Gallant Healthworks and Associates, which provides healthcare leadership, research, education and marketing services.
"It's reassuring to see some real authentic images of men out there showing up on social media or beginning to," said Gallant.
Twelve years ago, Gallant was working with a provincial eating disorders program and noticed men weren't accessing the service. He started focus groups and PhD research on the subject, held one-on-one meetings and ran men's groups to try to understand the issue.
"Men typically don't seek support for issues around health in general," said Gallant. "But especially health when it comes to issues of self-esteem, mental health and body image issues."
He says about one-third of eating disorders occur in males and 28 to 30 per cent of men have some body image concerns or experience negative body image.
Gallant says the most frightening part is how young it begins with children as young as nine avoiding certain foods because it will make them fat or disliking particular parts of their bodies.
"That's quite disturbing," said Gallant. "And the range of people I've seen affected by this have been as young as age nine and as old as 77."
Using social media for good
Gallant hopes the increasing attention and ongoing social media conversations will provide change for the better.
"I would like to see this grow exponentially. Our bodies come in different shapes and sizes and we should be proud of those and we should be sharing photos of those," said Gallant. "We really need to actually be comfortable with ourselves, comfortable enough to photograph ourselves and put it out there."
Mina Gerges is helping the cause by continuing to post about his issues.
"All I can hope is that someone who's struggling with their body image, that they can maybe come across one of my pictures, after years of trying to learn how to love my body, and that maybe that could help them learn to love their body as well."
One group in Vancouver has already taken action. The Health Initiative for Men launched a free eight-week body positivity group earlier this year.