“Everyone looks different and that’s what makes the human race so interesting. If everyone looked the same, we would look like mannequins,” Laurent Amzallag, founder of YALA! Fitness, believes.
But aren’t some trying to get that mannequin look, men and women alike? You know the look. It’s plastered across fitness and fashion magazines. The look — for men — of a chiseled six pack and bulging biceps — is constantly present in comic books, Hollywood blockbusters, action figures, you name it. But why are men shunned from talking about this picture-perfect physique they should be born with while women often times are given the green light to discuss how they look in that new dress?
How men are supposed to look is something that confronts men as early as their childhood, by watching cartoons and commercials. And it doesn’t seem to end, as evident by the pressures to look a certain way stressed by the media, Hollywood, the advertising and fashion industries — essentially by society.
Men are often told to “man-up.” This means not divulging emotions and developing “thick skin.” No matter what. Body image issues, if believed to exist, become something that is not discussed openly while others completely wave it off as not real.
Tom Tomlo, a trainer and founder of Human Development Systems in Arlington, Va., doesn’t believe body issues exist.
“I would not call it body image issues. I was a scrawny, little weakling. I wanted to be stronger, faster, jump higher, throw harder,” Tomlo said. “I think every single boy wants to do that. We are physical animals. Men hunt, protect, provide. That’s what we do. If we are weak we can’t do that.”
As a child, Tomlo was raised to be physically active, as was Amzallag, whose father would take him to the YMCA in Montreal to swim frequently. But such a childhood is not the reality for all boys growing up.
Andrea Bonior, psychologist, author and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, discussed the reality facing men when coming to terms with body image issues.
“It is hard to get a larger dialogue going. Eating disorders are predominantly female disorders, but not exclusively so — plenty of men have disordered eating and exercise behaviors that may not fit the mold of an actual diagnosable disorder like bulimia or anorexia nervosa, but are nonetheless problematic,” she said.
Bonior goes on to say that the idea of even acknowledging that one has a disorder or body issue can be associated with being a “classically feminine” issue. In our society, men are not supposed to be concerned with how they look.
If present, how body image issues originate plays into how they develop over time. For some, playing with physically unreal G.I. Joe action figures instill in a boy that in order to be considered a man — he should look and act certain way.
For others, being constantly told by family members, friends and peers that they should look a specific way may be shrugged off, but the real reaction and processing remains within the individual. Does one simply ignore all that is around himself and simply be? To not be affected a little by our surroundings would be difficult. The fact that it is taboo to discuss topics that affect our daily lives is something that should never allow one to feel as if they must keep everything inside.
Being conscientious of one’s own body image seems to decline as time moves on. Such an internal battle, if it can be called that, becomes lost, won, or an extremely extended and mentally tiring battle to fight.