For years, I struggled with an eating disorder as well as body dysmorphia. But until I was 23, I didn't know that my dad — one of the closest people to me in the world — also struggled with the same disorder as a young man.
Body positivity is thankfully something that's become an increasingly accessible and mainstream subject: American Eagle's #AerieREAL campaign prides itself on using unretouched girls of all sizes as its models, for example.
But with eating disorders and body dissatisfaction in particular, those who don't fit the stereotypical notion of a person struggling — thin, white, female — are often silenced.
A new study published in the Psychology of Men and Masculinity confirms that body image is an issue that's real for many men.
The study asked 100,000 heterosexual and 5,000 gay men and women between the ages of 18 to 65 to answer various surveys online over the course of nine years (2003 to 2012). The research analyzed "body satisfaction, weight loss and diet efforts, social pressure, and sex," Vocativ reports.
The research found that men struggle with body dissatisfaction almost as much as women do. According to the Wall Street Journal, in the "body dissatisfaction" category alone, "21% of heterosexual men and 29% of gay men were dissatisfied, compared with 27% of heterosexual women and 30% of lesbians."
Hopefully the study will put to rest the damaging myth that only women are concerned — and even obsessed — with their weight. The surveys found that 39% of straight men and 44% of gay men said they were unhappy with their weight, and that 29% of heterosexual men and 37% of gay men had undergone a diet to shed pounds, the WSJ reports.
Many men also admitted to feeling pressured by media images to look a certain way — 61% percent of straight men and 77% of gay men said that social pressures influenced their body dissatisfaction.
In the fourth category, 20% of heterosexual men and 39% of gay men said they hid a body part during sex, particularly their stomach. Some said they avoided having sex due to internalized feelings of hatred toward their bodies.
"Prevalence figures for males with eating disorders (ED) are somewhat elusive," the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) wrote on their site. "In the past, ED have been characterized as 'women’s problems' and men have been stigmatized from coming forward or have been unaware that they could have an ED."
Just take it from my dad.
"I feel men think it's not masculine," he told me. "It's the macho thing."
If being macho means being silent, if it means hiding the confident, vulnerable, happy, sad, secure, skeptical person you are, then I'm glad my dad is not.