Mirror, Mirror – Body Image and Men

male body image

Body Image Issues and Men

Are you one of those guys that constantly looks in the mirror and obsesses over the ideal physical look of your body? Well, you’re not alone. A recent study conducted by professors at the University of Hawaii found that 20 to 40 percent of men are dissatisfied with some aspect of their physical appearance.

They concluded that there are several reasons that contribute to an obsession with our physical appearance, but mostly it has to do with two factors: self-esteem and the prevalence of so-called “perfect” body images in the media. They work hand-in-hand to shape our concept of the ideal body size.

Over time, the ideal male body image has gotten larger, leaner and harder to obtain. A comprehensive study of male body dissatisfaction found that the overall value of the male image has increased exponentially in the last couple of decades. Advertisers are using the image of undressed males to sell more goods and services than ever before.

This trend is leading to a growing number of men with body and muscle dysmorphia. That means when you look in the mirror, you’re dissatisfied with what you see. You might think you’re too fat, too skinny or don’t have enough muscle.

The perfect body size changes over time, but there are some timeless indicators that you can rely on to qualify your physical self-image. There’s body mass index (BMI), the amount of body fat you have, and the overall proportions of your body.

Taken together, these three qualifiers can help you obtain your own personal ideal body size and shape without the self-shaming sessions in front of the mirror.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

You might be familiar with BMI if you’ve gone to the doctor for a general check-up. After measuring your height and weight, your doctor has probably referred you to the Body Mass Index chart. That chart was invented back in the 1830s and some critics are devaluing its importance in our ever-changing world. However, it is a good indicator of overall health when used in concert with other health qualifiers.

Related: What are somatotypes?

Here’s how BMI works? Your height is found on the left side of the chart and your weight spans across the top. The blue field is for underweight entries. Green is for healthy. Yellow is for overweight and orange is for obese. Red is for extremely-obese. For example, if you are 5 foot 11 inches tall and weigh 145 lbs. then your Body Mass Index is 20.

That’s within the green field. You have a normal BMI. The problem is that BMI doesn’t account for how much muscle you have on your body compared to the amount of fat. If you are a body-builder, then your BMI number might indicate that you’re overweight. Muscle weighs more than fat.

That’s why you need to also measure your body fat percentage.

Body Fat Percentage

Okay, you’re back at the gym now and your personal trainer has just pinched your abdomen with that skinfold caliper. She just checked your percentage of body fat. “One percent body fat” is a term that gets tossed around the gym sometimes, but you shouldn’t even be attempting to reach that ideal.

In fact, according to the American Council on Exercise, a healthy percentage of body fat is around 18 to 24 percent. The normal range for male athletes is 6 to 13 percent. So that “one percent body fat” myth is way off the chart.

Body fat is normal and necessary for your health. It’s like a reservoir of stored-up energy that can help your body push through demanding physical stresses. Another form of body fat is called essential fat and it protects your internal organs and helps fight off infectious diseases.

The only type of body fat that you want to avoid is excess body fat that can increase your risks for heart problems, stroke and diabetes.

Overall Proportion

Proportion is the easy indicator of an ideal body image for both men and women. Just look at The Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci. This classic sketch uses the golden ratio and illustrates the mathematical proportions of a male body in such a beautiful way.

Some fitness enthusiasts, trainers and body builders rely on overall proportion, not body weight, to determine the ideal male image. Traditionally, this image has been the V-shape. Simply explained, the V-shape is having broad shoulders and chest with a slim, tapered waist.

Now, you need to determine what type of body you’re looking to achieve. Do you want to look like a body builder, a martial artist, or just a well-proportioned fit man? The key is symmetry. No single muscle group should dominate the others. An expert of the proportion symmetry method was Steve Reeves.

He was a world-renowned bodybuilder who wrote extensively on the subject. His body proportion measurements are the gospel. His waist measured 30 inches and was 86 percent of his pelvic size. His arms, neck and calves had identical measurements of 18.5 inches.

His ideal chest measurement was 54 inches across. Yet, even Steve Reeves took these proportions with a grain of salt, citing that your body changes naturally over time.

The Takeaway

It’s normal to care about your body image. You should always strive to be healthy, but that doesn’t mean you need to go to extreme lengths to meet unrealistic ideals. It’s important to note that body dysmorphia isn’t just for females. Men obsess about their physical image, too.

Related: 5 signs you have severe body image issues

We’re just as susceptible to all those ads of men with 8-pack abs as women are to the stick-thin models who try to sell them perfume and lingerie.

The key takeaway is to rely on concrete qualifiers to determine if you have an ideal body shape and size. Check your body mass index, your percentage of body fat and your physical proportions, not your social media feed. What’s perfect today might not hold up to the test of time. So, you need to love your body and pay less at

About Freddy Blackmon 107 Articles
Freddy Blackmon is a freelance writer and journalist who has a passion for cars, technology, and fitness. Look for articles on these topics and more. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.