I’ve lost 60 pounds in the last 5 months.
I’m going to type that again: I’ve lost 60 pounds in the last 5 months. And the sad thing is, I can’t see it. I struggle to notice it. I notice that my pants fit better and my shirts are looser, but when I look at my body in the mirror, I don’t see any change.
Weight’s always been an issue with me. Even at my “best,” at the end of high school, I was still clocking in around 250. I was carrying it pretty well; I was stocky without being too chubby. Solidly built at just over 6 foot tall. Then college, with its cafeteria meal plan and endless bowls of sugary cereal and cups of chocolate milk and Dr. Pepper. Post-college and independent living, where the Hamburger Helper became my primary chef. And 12 years and 250+ pounds later, I found myself tipping the scales at just over a quarter-ton.
I always feared that my weight would keep me from meeting someone, getting married, having a family. I was wrong. In His great mercy, God gave me an incredible wife who loves me for me (not because I look like Tyson Beckford). And even though my body isn’t anywhere approaching perfect, she still encourages me and makes me feel strong and capable and desirable.
Since we’ve gotten married, my wife and I have been eating more healthy foods and choosing to live a more active lifestyle. We go for walks; we sometimes go to the gym together. It’s been great. And the scale is indicating that I’m making progress.
But I don’t feel it. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see progress. I see failure. I see years of bad decisions. I see sagging and stretchmarks and softness.
And as much as I hate to admit it, I struggle with jealousy when I see guys who are muscular and handsome. When I watch “Captain America” or “Man of Steel,” I can’t help thinking, “Man, I need to go to the gym.” Because those guys are ripped. I’ve never wanted to bulk up to Franz and Hans proportions, but I have always wished for some obvious musculature.
This article by Paul Maxwell was a revelation for me recently, because it was a reminder that other guys struggle with these same kinds of body image issues. It’s well known and much discussed how culture and art and advertising contribute to women having poor self image, and this is a serious problem that should continue to be discussed.
However, male body-image issues and body hatred is not often discussed. Of course, there are the jokes about balding-midlife-crisis guy, with his comb-over and his desperation to look younger. There’s the stereotype of the slob-male, the frat boy, the grungy-messy-lazy single dude who doesn’t care how he looks. There’s the gym-rat character, who’s perceived as stupid and self-absorbed. While these guys do exist (I’ve known a few), I think there’s another large portion of the male population (which includes a lot of these types of guys) that struggles with accepting who they are and how they look. But because body image is so often described in terms of women’s issues, guys don’t really talk about it.
Maybe it’s time we come clean as men and admit that, yeah, we struggle with this area too. And I’m not talking about having a communal cry-fest (though expressing these feelings is totally legitimate and healthy). But fellas, can we at least say, yeah, I sometimes don’t feel good about how I look? Can we admit that we worry (rightly or wrongly) about how people view us physically?
If we can do that, then maybe we can start finding peace, as Maxwell describes, by reconnecting with our identity as image-bearers of God, no matter what shape we are or how fit we are or how much we can lift.
Your Turn: Have you or someone you know struggled with body-image issues in the past? How have you/they dealt with this type of struggle?