In collaboration with Chelsea Bonner from Bella Management and author of Body Image Warrior and Jason Williamson from Jason Williamson Management, Noisin.com is discussing the lack of visibility on Negative Body Image Issues among men and how the media is perpetuating these ideas. In a three-part article series, we tackle the issue head-on, to learn why the issue is on the rise, what are the facts governing the problem, the personal perspective from industry insiders and how conversations can change the issue. In part three of the series, we explore the discussion from a male perspective and industry insider Jason Williams. Jason Williams is very close to this issue, as a representative of the entertainment industry, a father and a person who has experienced his own struggles with body image issues. Williams’s message is a simple but effective one, strip back the ego surrounding body image and understand your own body type. From this position build a realistic lifestyle that keeps you healthy.
I have always been a bigger guy. I was a chubby kid and I didn’t lose much of it in adulthood. I’d go through phases of trying to shift the weight but they’d inevitably get derailed because of work or family commitments or low motivation and I’d be back to where I started.
After popping a fit ball at a gym a few years ago, which left me absolutely horrified at the time, I found the motivation to commit to shedding a few kilos and getting fit. But when I started looking at options I remember being shocked at how extreme it had all gotten. It seemed to all be about supplements, food challenges that bordered on starvation, extreme workout challenges or showing off your naked body. I didn’t want to show off my naked body. I just didn’t want to pop a fit ball.
After popping a fit ball at a gym a few years ago, which left me absolutely horrified at the time, I found the motivation to commit to shedding a few kilos and getting fit. But when I started looking at options I remember being shocked at how extreme it had all gotten.
The more I saw the more overwhelming it was. This idea of the perfect male body with the defined abs, and giant arms and almost hairless body. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to look like that but I wondered if people realized just how unachievable it was for most of us. It’s a 24/7 commitment to strict diet, strict exercise and a multitude of personal trainers, gym memberships and a complete life overhaul. It is almost a job. We forget that for models and movie stars, there is a financial pay off for maintaining this level of commitment to their physical appearance. For people competing in body shaping and weightlifting competitions, I also understand it is a requirement to achieve the best possible outcome to win. For your everyday bloke, there isn’t.
When I took a serious look at myself after ‘the fit ball incident’ I knew the change I needed wasn’t just about appearance. I had really flared IBS, I was suffering from anxiety attacks and the amount of coffee and coke I was drinking had me on the highway to a heart attack. I didn’t want to look Instagram ready, I just wanted to be healthier. And while I get the extreme conditioning from a professional perspective, from a personal perspective it messes with your head.
We seem to be stuck in this point right now where body positivity means telling everyone that this perfect body can belong to them. Being fit and healthy seems to no longer be tied to your abilities or your genuine health but with looking a certain way. If you search #fitness on Instagram you don’t see pictures of people crossing finish lines or playing a sport or even sweating. You get mirror selfies of people in their underwear posing against white walls, or bulging muscles and popping veins, or boobs and butts. It doesn’t help the average guy out there to feel confident about his own body image.
We seem to be stuck in this point right now where body positivity means telling everyone that this perfect body can belong to them. Being fit and healthy seems to no longer be tied to your abilities or your genuine health but with looking a certain way
Thanks to people like Chelsea Bonner and brands like Budgie Smuggler, we are seeing more and more examples of not just healthy bodies but realistic bodies. Some argue that the promotion of plus size and curvy promotes obesity when the opposite is true; it lets us see realistic depictions of people in society.
I am grateful that I was surrounded by excellent trainers and professionals who didn’t push the idea of a glorified male body onto me. I listened to them, did my own research and learned that there is so much you can’t change. Your shape, for example, is predisposed. I am boxy. I have bigger thighs and short legs. I can’t change those things so I’ll never have what people consider the perfect male form. But I’m healthier than I used to be and while I’m bigger than I want to be, I understand how my body reacts to different food, exercise, and my moods and that is a far more valuable lesson.
In my business, in recent years I have committed to representing diverse clients and pushing for diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry. In a 2014 survey conducted by Mission Australia, body image issues were in the top 3 concerns of youth aged 15-19 across the 13000 people surveyed. Other studies show that 1 in 50 uni students are at risk of body dysmorphia and that the rates of this are similar across males and females. This is why we need the conversation to continue and to keep advocating for change.
We need to encourage people to find what suits them between their family life and work life. If you can commit the time and money to achieve the perfect body, fantastic. But it’s OK if you can’t.
We need to encourage people to find what suits them between their family life and work life. If you can commit the time and money to achieve the perfect body, fantastic. But it’s OK if you can’t. We also need to keep pressuring our industries to take on average people so that we can see that the idealised perfect body is far from the norm.
How do we solve this mess
I’m not suggesting that we can solve a complex cultural issue in one article, that would be impossible. But what we can do in one article is contribute to the conversation of change and push it forward. The lack of visibility on the ‘Male body image issue’ has allowed it to grow in the shadow of shame. The shame of not living up to masculine standards, or the inability to build an unnatural body.
As the checks and balances on equality arising in modern culture there is a need to acknowledge that men, historically, have not been given the freedom to show vulnerability or appear as weak, out fear of shame. Hence why the issue of negative body image is so alarmingly dangerous among men, as they are less likely to acknowledge the issue or understand that they are exhibiting extreme behaviors. The conversation needs to be intersectional for everyone to benefit from inclusion.
So let's start with changing this conversation with some truths and tips that will help both genders relate to the issue:
This is a conversation for change not of blame. A conversation on exposure. If you feel you need help or know someone who does, please reach out to the respective self-help lines through Body Image Movement to find your local helpline.