What to do if you’re a gay male
with body image issues?
If you’re a gay male with body image issues, you are not alone. Do an image search for the term “gay men” and you will find mostly naked, muscular and white men. Therefore, that is what society is telling gay males what they need look like. What happens if you fall outside that box? A negative image of your body can lead to all sorts of problems and serious conditions, including but not limited to
According to research done by Feldman in 2007, 15% of self-identified gay males have an eating disorder. While 5% of heterosexual males report the same concern. (By eating disorder, the study was referring to anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.) In addition to eating disorders, which can be life-threatening, a number of gay and straight men deal with body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is a general intense dissatisfaction with one’s body that can lead to depression and other mental health conditions.
Why is it so hard for gay males to love their bodies?
As gay males, we learn at a young age that we’re different and we need to hide parts of ourselves. Suppose you grew up in a totally supportive family or school environment, there still might be cultural and media messages that men and boys should be a certain way. If you differ from that idea of what an ideal man should be, you can suffer a great deal.
Do you struggle with your body?
There are a number of questions you can ask yourself to determine what your relationship is like with your body.
Are you uncomfortable with your relationship to food? Do you overeat and feel guilty about it? Do you under-eat and feel irritable or fatigued? Food is meant to provide energy and life. If you’re feeling guilt, shame or embarrassment about your eating habits, seek support. (And we’re here to help!)
Do you feel uncomfortable naked? If you find yourself hiding parts of your body when you’re naked or ashamed to put on a bathing suit, seek support. (And we’re here to support!)
Does the way you feel about your body make you avoid certain situations and withdraw from them? Are you ashamed of the way you look? Are you scared of how others will see you? If so, seek support. (And we’re here to support!)
Other signs you may struggle with your body
Binge/purge eating patterns
Self-medication through drugs or alcohol
What can you do if you’re a gay male
with body image issues?
One of the best things you can do is work on loving your body, exactly as it is today. Period.
Here is a list of ways to begin accepting your body as it is today. This list was inspired by a resource on The National Eating Disorders Association website. Under inspiration from this list of 10 Steps to a Positive Body Image, this list was created. While this list may be helpful, it is not meant as a substitute for counseling or professional support. If you or someone you love is struggling from an eating disorder, please call the hotline at the National Eating Disorders Association for support and guidance. 800-931-2237
One list cannot automatically tell you how to turn negative body thoughts into positive body image, but it can introduce you to healthier ways of looking at yourself and your body. The more you practice these new thought patterns, the better you will feel about who you are and the body you naturally have.
Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
Remind yourself that “true beauty” lies under the skin. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you — as a whole person.
Surround yourself with positive people. (You'll find them here!) It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are. (Find them here!)
Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message.
Do something nice for yourself — something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, or find a peaceful place outside to relax.
Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.
This song helps you to see the good feeling we get when helping others and being helped. Click on the song title "The Best Life Ever" to follow the lyrics and hear the song being sung. The digital button gives you the lyrics to the song being sung. Then click also on the video button to watch a music video appropriate to the song. We all benefit, the one giving help and the one receiving help.
Helping and encouraging others
gives us the best feeling ever!