I am currently going to weekly Weight Watchers meetings. This consists of me going to a weekly meeting, weighing in, and chatting with people about the challenges I faced that week.
I am, as is usually the case when I go to these meetings, the only guy there.
I am not embarrassed to be the only guy there. I don’t try to sneak out after weighing in or shy away from discussions about my body. Likewise, I am not embarrassed to be a guy who struggles with body image.
If anything, I AM bothered, and yes, a little embarrassed as someone who talks about body positivity, that I am not able to view my body as “wonderful exactly as it is.”
I am not confronted by the same constant pressure to be “this size” or to look “that way” that many women are confronted with. But, this hasn’t prevented my brain for finding its own way to struggle with the way I look anyway.
Like many men, sometimes I just don’t like my body.
I’ll be sitting in a meeting & my brain will chime in: “cross your arms over your chest because that shirt makes you look too round.”
Or maybe I’ll just be casually hopping out of the shower, catch a look at a torso that is wider than my chest and think, “you’re gross.”
I can often shake my head or go hug my kids and make the thoughts disappear for a little while. But at an equally inopportune time, they return.
Then I remind myself I’m the only guy in a Weight Watcher’s meeting. Do men talk about body image enough for me to ever view my body as “wonderful exactly as it is”?
Or, do men think it’s too much to talk about body image with their friends so approach it alone?
We don't talk about it much, but many of us feel it isn't cool to talk to your friends about these kinds of concerns. You can talk about why you want to dump your favourite hockey team or complain about how bad the beer at a restaurant is, but heaven forbid you interrupt a conversation with "I'm having a hard time with the way I look, does this ever happen to you?"
It's a conversation killer of conversations we need to have.
I’m looking for the path to viewing my body not on a before and after picture basis but as a continuity of right now, right now images and acknowledging my body right now is wonderful.
It's not as easy as saying it though, I understand that.
A case study in body image
ASOS is being praised right now for not airbrushing stretch marks out of their advertising for swimsuits and other clothes.
I am not suggesting they shouldn't be praised for such an act because they are in the minority of big companies who do advertise this way. I am suggesting that it is unreal that we still operate in a space where companies like ASOS deserve praise for representing bodies exactly as we have them because this is still considered revolutionary in our culture.
I am a naive idealist, there is no debating that.
I don't have the research behind this but what percentage of people have stretch marks? Is it 90 per cent? Is it higher than that? I know I do and have for more than half of my life. I remember first seeing them in high school, wondering what the lines slowly creeping across the sides of my stomach were.
There is also often some kind of payment method attached to stretch marks---a justification we have to make explaining how they arrived on our things or our stomachs or under our arms. Things like I earned my tiger marks during pregnancy or I gained weight when I was going through a hard time in my life. I understand this move to give some kind of purpose to the marks on our bodies but it is horrifying that so many of us feel the need for it.
But wouldn't it be amazing if we didn't have to justify why our bodies do what they do? If every time we made eye contact with someone at the beach we didn't wonder if they were looking at stretch marks before they caught our eye? If we didn't have to be proud of stretch marks, we simply had to have them, the same way we have teeth, or a nose, or fingernails.
I am all the way in for supporting businesses that understand stretch marks aren't a marketing gimmick or current trend, but are simply a part of our bodies.
So, guys, let’s talk about it more. Talk to me if you don’t want to talk to anyone else right now. Talk about how we view our bodies not in a dadbod/trendy kind of way but in a “I’m working through this, how about you?” kind of way.
It’s normal and fine to do.