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Men are less able to identify the eating disorders I call mine: “losing weight” | Tom Usher

Men are less able to identify the eating disorders I call mine: “losing weight” |  Tom Usher
Men are less able to identify the eating disorders I call mine: “losing weight” |  Tom Usher


LLooking back, it was probably when I started checking how many grams of carbs were in red onions and broccoli that my eating disorders began. I talk about eating disorders now, but, of course, as a man, I didn't think of it that way at the time. It was just weight loss.

I was 22 years old and signed up for my first white-collar boxing match. Even though the weight categories were loose and barely enforced, I was determined to get into the best shape of my life, which I said meant going from my natural weight of 90kg to 80kg. It's like going from 36 inch jeans to 32 inches in the space of a month.

My mother, a woman who, when I was a child, buttered my bread like a mob boss burying a body in concrete, was appalled. But his protests about my abnormally low weight only strengthened my resolve to get as shredded as possible during three two-minute rounds of novice boxing, staged in a Holiday Inn near a ring road outside Norwich. That I lost.

Of course, she was absolutely right, as moms invariably end up. A man frowning over the nutritional value of a bag of onions under the ungodly hum of Tesco Express fluorescent lighting might, for some, hint at a sense of control. After all, he only cares about what exactly he puts into his body.

But, as someone who was once that frowning man from the Tesco Express, there is a dangerous stubbornness and pride in men. When you add the feeling that they lack control in other areas of their life, it can quietly lead to delusion.

This could partly explain the rapid increase in male body dysmorphia in recent times. When every other aspect of your life seems to be spiraling out of control, you're desperate to assert absolute dominance over what little you can, like what you eat and how much exercise you do.

A recent survey on body confidence carried out by Better showed that more than half of men (54%) showed signs of body dysmorphia, with a third of men often thinking about making their bodies more muscular or thinner. A government reportmeanwhile, noted that 28% of men aged 18 and older felt anxious about the appearance of their body, and 11% even felt suicidal because of their body image.

Growing up as a generic cis-het man in the 90s and early 2000s, I only understood concepts like body dysmorphia and eating disorders through the lens of women's magazines like Heat or Cosmopolitan. And I only read them because my sister or girlfriend left them (I swear).

Of course, there was Mens Health magazine and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. But while women seemed drip-fed with a latent despair about themselves, as if following Ludovico's technique, the pressure of the latest diet or the quickest way to get a summer body were concepts bouncing around in my head like a tennis ball.

Now that social media wriggles freely through our collective consciousness like a family of roundworms, I'm much more aware of a bunch of useless information and people I never thought about or cared about before . The other day I was lurking on father's body, because there were photos of him on vacation. in which he didn't look like a condom full of nuts, to quote the late Clive James on Schwarzenegger.

My Instagram feed is full of self-help/fitness influencers and nutritionists, such as Paul Saladino MD, Liver King, and Eddie Abbew, all with millions of followers, all promoting some variation of a meat that's extremely high in protein, often solely carnivorous, often barely cooked or raw, and all look so muscular they basically have abs on their faces.

And that's the problem with being a proud, unconscious man. When I see an incredibly ripped guy tell me that the only way to look like him is to follow his proprietary workout plan, follow the diet outlined in his ebook, or take the supplements he sells, my first thought is not probably not a scam or a quick fix, like I do with influencers advertising diet tea, or a six week booty plan. I don’t feel like my insecurities are being aggressively marketed to or exploited. And I certainly don't feel like I'm being actively manipulated.

And yet I think if I ate enough eggs per meal to bury Cool Hand Luke, I'd look like a bunch of fitness influencers, many of whom I took steroids is no different than going on a juice detox to get to size zero. It's the same unsustainable behavior in pursuit of an unrealistic goal that will ultimately leave you unhappy.

As I got older, I had my own struggles when it came to extreme diets and body image. I know that I feel healthier when my diet is balanced and moderate. I know that if I push myself too hard in the gym, I will get injured or burned out. And as I recently learned, many women think Tony SopranoThe father's body is as sexy as a man can be.

Wanting to work out and watch what you eat to be healthier and feel better is completely normal and should be actively encouraged. But for decades, even centuries, huge amounts of money have been spent on making women feel bad about themselves, so why wouldn't the fitness and beauty industries now want men to do the same? All they have to do is communicate it in a very manly way, so that it doesn't insult our ego.

  • Tom Usher is a freelance writer

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