Male Body Image: The Naked Truth

Male Body Image: The Naked Truth

October 27, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


I have people message me
on Instagram, saying, “You’re really slim.
I like your hair. “The only problem is,
I’d break you.” I’m walking on the beach.
Everyone’s just turning, looking at me, like, “Ah.” I’m not even big. I starve myself… Wow. ..which I have to do, to help my
body to eat itself. All right, fat boy?
Oh, hold off. He wants a sausage. As I’ve got older, I’ve come to
accept that the one thing that I can’t change
on my body is my penis. Where we stand at the
moment in 2018, for guys, there’s a massive,
massive pressure for us all to
physically look like, maybe, a Greek god. In order to be masculine or
attractive, you should be well-built. You can’t show any weakness. You can’t show any feelings,
you can’t show any softness. You have an expectation
to be strong. Flat stomachs, abs, muscles… Looking great, looking groomed. The ideal body type is definitely
six pack, puffed-out chest. Oh, yeah. Shredded. “He’s ripped.” It was always pushed into my brain,
“You have to look a certain way.” It does play with your head
quite a lot. I think, “Nah, I could be bigger.” Me wanting to look a certain way, that stems from childhood, really. My dad always said to me, “You have
to look physically strong.” And he drilled that into me
from a very young age. I’m kind of OK with my physique,
but it’s that thing of striving for perfection even though I know I’ll never
have perfection. I was a 30 waist, then it
was a 32, then a 34. Then, people started making comments
about, “Oh, is he pregnant?” It was always a bit of fun,
but somewhere in the back of the head, rings a bit of
truth. It hurts. I wanted to do something about it. Just puts that fear into you of making a change and failing. People assume that when you’ve got
an eating disorder, you look skeletal. That you look incredibly thin. But I was never like that. I could look just, like,
a perfectly healthy weight and people wouldn’t know
that I had bulimia. When I was young, I was bullied
for my appearance. I was very, very small and skinny
and that never ended, five years at school. I’ve eventually weighed 8st now
since I was 11, that’s not changed. I’ve kind of just got taller
and stretched out. Growing up as a black man,
I feel that there is yeah, a sort of, stereotype. In the way we’re seen, as well. I could come out the gym one day, I’m in my tracksuit, you know,
I’m sweating out, people just think, like,
“Oh, yeah, it’s a big black guy “walking behind me,” or something, and then they cross the road. I don’t know,
it’s just quite weird. A couple of times I’ve been stopped
in my car, as well. Told to come out the car,
and then straight away it’s like, “Ah, yeah, you’ve got
a bit of size on you, mate. “I’ll need to put these
handcuffs on you.” I am someone who has always
struggled with body image. I was around 15 years old. My parents were diagnosed
with cancer. I shut myself off from the world,
because I didn’t want everyone to see how much
my family was in pain. And I was already dealing
with everything else that a 15-year-old deals with –
identity, sexuality. I was overweight.
I did get teased. People used to say that when I
walked, it caused earthquakes and all these layers just built
up on top of me. I remember one moment after school,
I just ate so much food that I was naturally sick. Afterwards, I had this
feeling of, “I’m empty,” and that feeling
became an addiction. Kids would tell me in school
I was anorexic, that my parents starved me. One day there was four lads
on both sides of the corridor. I was on my own.
I had just got out a lesson. Two picked me up by the arms,
took me up the stairs, put me over the banister, sellotaped me there and left me. I was so lightweight,
I stayed there. It took two teachers to get me
down, but I was there for about half an hour. And it was in a crowded corridor,
so, obviously, you had everyone walking past, laughing as they went
along and it just felt like torture. I ended up going home and crying
to my mother the whole night. I turned around to my mum at one
point, and said, “Did you do anything while
pregnant with me? “Why am I this way?” At the age of 17, I went to the doctors to get help
for my bulimia. I was turned away
because I was a boy. And I was told that I didn’t
have an eating disorder, it was stress. People assume that teenage boys
are just confident, and that they don’t have issues with
their image or their body image. From that, I was just stuck
in this spiral that I just couldn’t get out of. And during that time, when I went
to the bathroom to be sick, I thought, “This is how you
will end your life. “This eating disorder
will kill you.” And I was OK with that. I tried these extreme diets. I was taking fattening, gaining
pills that were costing me hundreds of pounds a month. I was eating KFC, McDonald’s… ..breakfast, lunch and dinner. I only gave up after about
eight months of doing that. I was getting nowhere. My dad, he used to lift
weights, as well. But he wasn’t serious about it,
like I am. I used to go in the shed,
take his weights. I was probably about 14. I just started lifting in my room,
and then started getting big. My training stopped
quite dramatically. I was 25. I came off my bike. My leg was literally just broken
in three places, like, mangled. I was in a wheelchair
for quite some time. I went back skinny. I had to learn to walk again. I had this determination, like,
the doctors, they’re saying to me, “You’re not going to walk
for 12 months.” I did it in about five. I was determined. I needed
to get back in the gym. Look at me, like, my clothes
are all hanging off me now. And so that was part of the drive. When I was younger,
I was quite sporty so I played football
five times a week. I was 9.5st when I was 19, 20. 24, 25 mark is when I just stopped
playing football altogether and never done any
exercise after that. I started eating takeaways. I stopped looking after myself and
the weight just started piling on. At my heaviest, I was up to 20st. I had no confidence. There’s a lot of pressure on men
to look a certain way, and that means that we like
to put on the front that we’re happy,
we’re big, we’re proud. And then the “fat boy”
names start coming in. Can say, “Oh, it’s just
a joke,” or banter. I used to wear a bra,
wore a thong. You know, I’d run around naked
or I’d draw stuff on my belly, I’d shave all my hair off. Just, I wore a gimp suit. Yeah. If I was taking the mick out myself, they couldn’t do it to me
and make me feel crap. I’ve watched both my brothers
be taken to the gym and train and get big. But my dad, if I ever came down without a T-shirt on, “Your arms
getting a bit skinnier.” There would be comments. So as soon as I hit 16 he took me to
the gym, introduced me to training. To look a certain way
you have to sacrifice certain things and part of that is…pleasure. You have to eat a certain amount
of food, a certain time of day. When I eat, I’m so look forward to eating,
halfway through the meal, I start getting depressed
because the meal is going to be over soon
and I’m still hungry. I think I’m more addicted
to me pushing me. That comes from the other
insecurities in my life. I have a disability. My right foot is three shoe sizes
smaller than my left and I have four toes on my right foot and my right leg is five centimetres shorter than my left. Stopped me joining the police force,
stopped me joining the fire brigade and all those kind of things
which test one’s self and not everybody can do. It ain’t easy. Every day I go like that,
“What am I doing? “Can’t I just like, just be
normal?!” We all have issues with body
image and that’s why I think it’s so important to have these
conversations. Hi. Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you. I see someone who’s incredibly
confident and got great muscles. But is there ever a time
when you think, “Hey, do you know what? Give
myself a break this year.”? I-I have that thought literally every day… Yeah. ..that I go, “Is this
actually worth it?” I keep going, “Yeah. “Yeah, yeah, it is.” Four-five years of my life
I had bulimia. OK. From a teen up until I was 21.
Oh, wow. It was for five years. Everyday was a routine then. Right. Now I avoid anything
that involves controls over any sort of shift in diet. I kind of see there’s similarities
between maybe having an eating disorder and doing what I do –
that I starve myself. Wow. Which I have to do to get my body
to eat itself… Yeah. ..before I stand on stage,
and even though it’s unpleasant, I force myself to do it. You’re talking about stuff that people don’t want to talk about. Just starting the conversation
can be so difficult for everyone because not everyone wants
to talk, not everyone is ready. We’ve seen the conversations before. We’ve seen it with women over the
last ten years or so and now it’s just a natural process. We can start off in those
conversations too. Women have always had to look a
certain way and act a certain way. Society has now said that men
need to look a certain way, just like women. Now men are able to talk
more about body image. One thing I’ve learned is
that everybody thinks they’re alone. Everybody thinks what they’re going
through is, is some unique. Yeah. And it’s just for them and
no-one else has experienced it. And it’s not, it’s not true. I mean, it’s always down to the
same thing, isn’t it? Just having an open and honest conversation.
Exactly. Yeah. I couldn’t agree more.
Yeah. Guys have become so obsessed
with what they look like now. I never thought there’d be a day
where people bothered about getting hair transplants and veneers
and all that sort of stuff. I think that the pressure
on men particularly now has increased a lot. We’re always presented with images,
whether it’s online, on TV. We start comparing ourselves
to what’s out there and that comparison
is very dangerous. It’s always been around. The problem with social media
is that it becomes so much bigger. People take out their phones,
they’re scrolling constantly. Their brain is absorbing
all this information, they’re not actually realising,
they’re just doing it and then think, like, “Oh, OK. “Wonder if I could look like that?” I know what it takes to get
that kind of body. That’s not who
the average person is! You only have to go into shops
to see what’s left on the shelves. It’s the smalls and the mediums,
every size that I want, large or extra large, is gone. Am I part of the problem? Erm… To be honest, it does my head in. I recently took a break from my
Instagram, I deactivated my account. Just… I got fed up of it. Now, I don’t feel like I need to
change body shape. It has a massive benefit
in the bedroom. I do like to be thrown about a bit. Gay dating apps, there’s so many
categories you can fall into. Like, I fall into something called a
twink, which is someone that’s slim
and looks young. I do use the hashtag twink
to my advantage. I put it in there just to up
my followers and my likes. You get people messaging you
on a daily basis saying you’re exactly my type. Knowing that people are attracted
to slim guys like me, it’s like I can accept my body. I tried to make fun of myself and my
body before anybody else could. And then I met this girl. She was like, “Well, no, that’s
not right. “You shouldn’t be doing this. “You shouldn’t be saying that.
You’ve got feelings.” She introduced me to new foods,
encouraged me to eat more healthy. I think my attitude changed
and then my body changed after it. Now I’ll go to the gym. I’ve got
a little bit of muscle but I’m by no means fit or unfit, I’m just
average. I have gone from a bigger guy that hated himself to a big
guy that loves himself. Do I do this to impress people? I would say no. I actually train
because I just love it. It’s part of my lifestyle. A lot of people train to have an ego
or you know to make themselves scary. That’s one thing I don’t agree on. My goal originally wasn’t,
it wasn’t to win. It wasn’t to make a career out of it and then
literally I put my big toe on that stage and it felt
like I was home. I was only supposed to do it once! I’m now doing it again
and I will do it again. So I’ve definitely got the bug
for it. I feel like I have to be confident
myself. I can’t expect other people
to be confident in me if I’m not even confident
with the way I look. People think you can say whatever
you want to a man about their body and they’ll just take it. If you can support somebody that’s
overweight, if you can be nice to somebody that’s overweight
rather than the nasty comments and the bullying, then half the
battle is already won. It doesn’t matter what I’m
presenting here externally. It matters about what I feel
inside and that’s what shows.