“Do I look fat?” If you are the kind of guy who asks this question, please read on.
Did you know that there are guys out there who would be excited about being diagnosed with HIV? To them, this news means that prescriptions for steroids and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) are coming their way, along with an attractive muscular physique. Others even half-joke with their friends about getting a tapeworm to lose weight.
Sounds kinda nutty, doesn’t it? But it’s true.
It just goes to show you that you are one step from finding yourself diagnosed with a psychiatric condition from the Big Book of Crazy, if you’re constantly asking others if you’re fat.
Last time I checked – gay men are gay because they have sex with other men, not because they have a certain body type. These days, it seems to me that many gay men will stop at nothing to be muscular or have six-pack abs, as if this is some kind of prerequisite to being an accepted gay man in our community.
This disturbing belief is not confined to Southern California, where “healthy” lifestyles and fat-phobia dominate.
A 2009 study from the University of Iowa showed that photos of male bodies in The Advocate and Out magazines became thinner and more muscular from 1967 to 2008. Gay men in this study compared themselves to images found in media. If their body did not match those found in the images, the men reported dissatisfaction with their bodies and decreased self-esteem.
Gay men returning from circuit parties and pride festivities will likely feel tremendous pressure to achieve or maintain the muscle-bound, fat-free body type that we are constantly surrounded by.
I’ve seen many in our community go to the extent of eating minimally for the months leading up to summer pride festivities in hopes of attracting a hot guy for a quickie or relationship. This is not completely out of touch with reality, as numerous studies have shown that people who are considered attractive find it easier to get ahead in life.
But what are we doing to ourselves to achieve this look physically?
Endless hours in the gym
“Fat burning” pills
Steroids and HGH
I suppose it stops when you feel like you look attractive; or die, whichever comes first. The reality is that men who focus too much on their bodies are at risk for developing a potentially dangerous psychological condition known commonly as anorexia.
Anorexia is an eating disorder that involves restriction or purging of food.
Most people assume that vomiting is the only kind of purging and that only women are at risk of developing anorexia. Well, guess what? Having an obsession with obtaining a “beautiful body” through excessive exercise and restrictive dieting qualifies as purging, no matter what your gender is. In fact, a report from a 2002 issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that 20 percent of gay men have symptoms consistent with anorexia.
Here are some things to consider about your exercise habits:
* Instead of going to Pride, are you planning on being at the gym all weekend?
* Do you find yourself at the gym even though you’re hacking up a lung or recovering from the swine flu?
* Would you exercise more if the gym was still open?
* Have others told you that you were hot 10 pounds ago, but you’re still trying to lose a bit of flabby skin so you’ll look “perfect?”
These are all warning signs of excessive exercise.
You may be reading this after looking at my picture and thinking, “who does this fatty think he is?” Well, thanks for pointing out that I’m a fatty, even though medical science has a different opinion.
Many of us have beat ourselves up at the gym and been on restrictive diets, only to be amazed at the people doing far less (and looking far worse) who are getting the guys we thought were attractive. How could this be?
Here’s your homework for the next 2 weeks:
Try to find the gay unicorn: someone who doesn’t appear to go to the gym or really put much into their appearance, but otherwise has no trouble socializing, flirting, and being accepted. When you find that person (and you will), ask yourself the following question:
What is the difference between me and the person I’m watching?
In the next few articles, I’ll talk about some of those differences. Feel free to share your answers by commenting below. I look forward to reading them and responding in the next part of this series.
Stephen Brewer, M.A. is a registered psychological assistant (PSB33858) in Mira Mesa and is supervised by Angela Spenser, PhD (PSY15450). He runs a LGBT and kink-friendly practice, specializing in addictions, trauma, HIV/AIDS, and men’s issues. He can be reached at (619) 377–3120 or you can visit his website at https://www.therapybrew.com