Body Image

This is a really personal topic for me, not because I am overly obsessed with my body image, but as I grow older I felt the need strive for a good, toned masculine stature. A body that that matches the likes of Davey Wavey, Colby Melvin, and Brandon Robert Brown, as well as some of my friends. I felt the need to be built, I felt I was too thin and not as muscular as I should be. I didn’t change because some imbecile decided to make fun of me for my used- to- be thin stature, rather, I chose to change on my own terms. I wondered why I started to have the idea to go to the gym and get a toned body, and why for that matter men choose to go to the gym. In fact according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though men and women do different exercises that women, “Men were slightly more likely than women to participate in sports and exercise activities on an average day…” (bls.gov). Similarly, a recent Gallup Poll also confirms that,”men are much more likely than women to say they exercise or engage in vigorous sports or activities on a regular basis” (gallup.com). Furthermore, the Gallup poll stresses that 33 percent of men exercise intensively, compared to 26 percent of women (gallup.com).

As I mentioned prior, I wondered why this was the case. Why do men exercise more than women? I started to ask a few people. A person asked told me, “It helps me unwind and …feels good overall in my opinion.” Another informant added that he wanted “to live a healthy lifestyle…” Another feels exercise is a way to stay “healthy and in shape!”

I saw some recurring themes such as: living a healthy lifestyle and feeling good. I felt that these are superb reasons to exercise; in fact I exercise partly for those reasons. I knew from my opinion, my personal desire to exercise extended farther than living healthy and feeling good. There was an emotional, more psychological reason to my desire to exercise. I really wanted to find the  true reason that men want to exercise because I believe that there is a deeper meaning to exercise than lifestyle and feeling good. I believe it had something to do with body image, the mood, and the mind; all of these reasons are interrelated. Informant number four shares my opinion. He explains:

“1) You tend to feel good if you look good, so looking good makes me happy. 2) It’s healthy to exercise, not only for keeping your body active but also for your mind. It’s been shown that exercise improves your mood…”

I believe that men are portrayed by society as a masculine, the big and buff. Any man being non- masculine men, or in other words, a male being or acting feminine is the odd ball in society and often are ostracized by society. This phenomena is known as the study of gender roles specifically, “masculine ideology” (psychologyofmen.org).

In fact the organization called Psychology of Men agrees with me that, “These include prescriptions for ways to act (be tough, stay in control, etc), attitudes to hold (work is very important, women should be be (sic) primary caregivers to children, etc), and ways to look (wear pants and suits, wear hair short, etc). It also includes proscriptions for ways not to act (don’t cry, don’t be a wimp, etc)… and ways not to present oneself (don’t wear a dress, don’t have long hair, etc)” (psychologyofmen.org). By exercising, and by looking good, you feel good, partly because you fit into the portrayal of men in society. A society that men are supposed to be big, buff, and tough. Once you feel good and are satisfied that you fit in, your mind will be healthy because is absent of negative thoughts on body image.

For example, I believe the reason why homosexual men exercise is because of body image and how it is ported in society. Despite efforts to reverse society’s outlook on homosexuals, society still views homosexuals as feminine, as outlandish girly figures dressed in rainbow colors at pride parades. In fact, things are not getting better (gvsu.edu and wmich.edu). In order to break that stereotype, they become manly, by becoming big and buff they overcome the body image issue.

In conclusion, I believe that there is a deeper meaning to exercise than lifestyle and feeling good; it had something to do with body image, the mood, and the mind. Men are portrayed by society as a masculine, the big and buff. Any men being non- masculine men, or in other words, a male being or acting feminine is the odd ball in society and often are ostracized by society. However, as we progress through the twenty first century where the United States, and some parts of the world have slowly started to be inclusive and accepting of non- confirmative ways of living, gender roles are ideas of the past and should be abandoned. For example, we have seen some gender flopping in the United States. That is there are more and more stay at home dads and the mother is the bread winner. In fact, the Pew Research Center finds that almost 2 million fathers are at home, up from 1.1 million in 1989 (npr.org). So what does all this have to do with exercise? Well, it is sad that exercise, a wonderful thing to do, has become more of a means to break the stereotype that men are supposed to be masculine, big and buff, and men that don’t fit in are outsiders. Granted, we are slowly moving forward to becoming a more inclusive society in certain areas, but how were we supposed to move to be an more inclusive society in all areas of living if we still hold the that stereotype?

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