These days, everyone seems to accept the fact that body image can be a big issue for women. Emerging research shows that men, too, can be affected by pressure to look a certain way—pressure from the outside and from within.
We are a bit unusual as a cosmetic surgery practice. We perform plastic surgery for men in New York almost as often as we do for women. As specialists in the field, male body concerns are important to us—we are always on the lookout for up-to-date information. Read on and we’ll share some recent material we’ve run across.
Male Body Image Basics
If you’re interested in finding out about male body image issues as we are, a great place to start is the website of a small university you may not know: Bradley University in Illinois. The school has an entire project devoted to awareness and acceptance of the human body: The Body Project.
The initiative began in the Women’s Studies Program, but that doesn’t mean men have been left out. On the contrary! The university says more light should be shed on the problem as it affects men. The website quotes studies that show more than 90% of men feel at least some dissatisfaction with the way they look, and other studies suggest the number may be higher for younger men.
Male vs. Female Body Image
There are similarities in the way men and women feel dissatisfied with their bodies. Both sexes experience negative emotions some or much of the time when thinking about being with attractive people of the opposite sex and in certain recreational activities. Both may also feel uncomfortable when social conversations center on appearance.
There are differences in how the sexes view body image, however. The Body Project cites research that shows men are quieter about their feelings than women and tend to hold off seeking treatment. One research team found that men are more prone to “atypical” eating disorders and substance abuse related to food.
Not Well Understood
In spite of the research The Body Project has found and promoted, the organization says male body image is still not well understood. The group debunks leading assumptions:
Men are influenced by sociocultural pressure.
–No, men are more often concerned with attracting the opposite sex.
Men are mainly focused on upper body development.
— Actually, men are interested in other areas too, including weight and fitness.
Men are concerned with attributes they can change, such as lean muscle.
— Men also care about things that are harder to change, like baldness and wrinkles.
According to Bradley University, we all need to realize that “men are more than the bulk of their muscles.” We need to work on changing the cultural notion of ideal bodies because, says The Body Project, the adverse impact of unhealthy expectations can profoundly affect everyone’s quality of life.
Factors Influencing Men and Body Image
It’s a good bet you are already aware of factors that affect how men feel about their bodies. If you name the media as one contributor, you’re right. A recent article in the online newsletter “Healthline” points out that for the last three years, at least four of the top 10 movies have featured superheroes, sending the message that in order to be ultra masculine and have other desired qualities such as bravery, you need a body that is simply unattainable for most guys.
Other forms of media relay similar messages. In urban areas like Manhattan, you can’t go very long without seeing an image of David Beckham’s six-pack on a billboard. And even the popular “Men’s Health” magazine published an issue this summer with some questionable call-outs on the cover: “Your Best Summer Body!” “Big Arms Now!” “Are You Ninja Fit?”
There are other contributing factors; social media is one. The “Healthline” article noted that more than 40% of people who hit the gym take photos and videos to post online. Even today’s Halloween costumes for boys and infants (playing off those Hollywood movies, no doubt) feature padded abdominal, chest and arm muscles.
The “Healthline” article had several suggestions you can try if body image is a challenge for you. From adjusting your social media sites to talking about your feelings with people you trust, there are some good ideas there.
Cosmetic Surgery for Men: A New York View
As a plastic surgery practice specializing in cosmetic surgery for men in New York, what do we think? Plastic surgery can play a positive role in people’s satisfaction with their lives, as long as it’s just one factor in overall contentment. In our view, a decision to move ahead with a procedure is one made by patient and doctor together.
When we work with people of all ages and genders, we look for those who are basically happy with themselves. They usually have a specific issue that troubles them, ranging from a nose that’s too large for their face, undersized/oversized breasts or signs of aging that just don’t fit the way they feel. The majority of our patients elect a procedure or two to fix an issue or fine tune an area of their body, then they move on to enjoy their lives even more.
Our responsibility is to take care in selecting patients. We have seen our share of BDD—Body Dysmorphic Disorder—and obviously people struggling in this way need counseling, not cosmetic surgery. We also meet people with unrealistic expectations for their results, whether it’s to look like a celebrity or to achieve an outcome we know just isn’t possible. We turn those patients away for their benefit and ours.
It’s true that plastic surgery for men has increased more than 300% over the past 20 years, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. But it’s keeping pace with plastic surgery for women, holding steady at about 10% of total procedures, not booming out of control.
With our track record of serving both sexes, we are fortunate that many male patients walk through our door, for man boob surgery, liposuction, eyelid lifts, rhinoplasty and more. We invite you to get started learning about our practice here, and give us a call if you want to talk: 212-570-6080.