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Body Image: I'm Looking at the Man in the Mirror

Body Image: I'm Looking at the Man in the Mirror

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Published by sharewik
While many people are overweight, there is a growing number of people who only think they are overweight. They need to learn to overcome their body image issues.
While many people are overweight, there is a growing number of people who only think they are overweight. They need to learn to overcome their body image issues.

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Published by: sharewik on Jul 26, 2010
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05/12/2014

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Body Image: I'm Looking at the Man in the Mirror
By Ginger EmasUsually when we talk about body image issues, we·re talking about girls. But did you know that more than one million boys and men struggle with eating disorders? More than 80% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. More than 10% of middle school boys have usedsteroids. These are boys who don·t understand why they should brush their teeth every night; how can they possibly understand the repercussions of starving or using steroids?Studies today suggest that body image is deeply affected by the media ² television shows andmovies that show buff, brawny young men and the sexy, slim women who love them. Andin fact, my own son ² who at 15 is tall and thin ² can often be found facing the mirrorsideways, and sighing over the fact that his stomach is not completely flat. What he sees isthe 10-year-old version of himself, when his one chin became two and he had to wearuniform pants marked ´Husky.µ (What marketing genius thought that ´Huskyµ would be agood retail term?µ) This was the year that his friends at school teased him about needing a´man-bra.µ But no one needed to tease him; my son was his own worst critic. Except,perhaps, for me.I remember being concerned about my son·s weight because his paternal grandfather anduncle were obese. My own mother lost 50 pounds more than 40 years ago, but today, at 5· 4µand 100 pounds, she looks in the mirror and sees the girl they used to call, ´Fat Ferne.µ I·veheard her stories of torment and Hershey bars all of my life; I·ve heard how her voicechanges when she talks about someone who has gained weight or ´looks heavy.µBut it was more than genetic concern; I knew that society treated heavy people differently,and on some level, I wanted to protect my son. Maybe even from my mother. Maybe evenfrom me. Gently, I encouraged my son to eat healthy and go outside and play. If you ask my son now, he·ll tell you that every time I said, ´no French fries todayµ he heard, ´you·re fat.µEvery time I said, ´You need to play one sport each seasonµ he heard, ´you·re overweight.µI wish that I had had a crystal ball; that I had not come from fear of obesity but rather fromthe joy of being healthy. Because you know what? Many of my friends who are overweighthave healthier body images and self-esteem than my thin, gym-obsessed friends. My son·sown uncle, the one I mentioned earlier? While it·s true he is often losing weight to help hisknees or hips, he is one of the funniest, most brilliant, most generous people I know. He isan excellent father and has a loving wife and family. If he wants to be healthier, fine; it·s notbecause he has a body image issue, I can tell you that. While I believe the media does influence our kids, I also believe that friends and family areeven greater influences. Back when I was a young teen -- and there were only threetelevision stations and one Teen magazine ² I had friends who took daily laxatives, starvedthemselves until dinner time, and constantly complained about how fat they were. None of them was actually overweight ² at all. They were the prettiest girls ² cheerleaders and
 
homecoming queens and dance squad captains. It seemed like something they did forattention, or to emulate their older sisters and mothers. Until one day, the prettiest of themall, couldn·t get out of bed due to a combination of exhaustion and anxiety.I never dieted as a young girl. In fact, at 11 years old, I can tell you exactly what I had forlunch every Saturday, because I ate at the pool club behind my house: French fries and achocolate shake. But I do remember wishing, as I pulled on my bellbottom jeans, that my stomach was flatter (and also that my hair was straighter and my skin less freckle-y). Look atthe picture
(I am second from the left)
-- how could I possible think I wasn·t thin? (Let·s not talk about the hair and freckles.)My point is, we spend so much time thinking we don·t measure up that we miss our ownbeauty, our own strengths. When I was 16, I was having dinner with my older brother·sfriends, when one of them -- a boy named Mark who was blonde, beautiful, smart ² wastalking about his girlfriend. ´She has a small belly roll ² it·s so sexy,µ he said.I have never forgotten that. It reminds me that men and women find all kinds of thingsattractive. One thing that·s not? Complaining about our own perceived flaws. I intervieweddozens of men for my book (  www.backontopthebook.com
 
 ) and the theme that kept coming through is that a confident woman is attractive, but a beautiful woman who is insecure is adrag. So that wrinkle between our eyebrows? Your man doesn·t see it. The way you think your butt sags? Your man is watching the way it moves when you walk. In fact, I read anarticle just a few years ago, and I·ve surveyed half the men I know to see if it·s true. They tellme it sums up the male mentality perfectly:
When a man and woman are getting undressed, ready to tuck into bed together, the woman is thinking,
 
´Damn, my stomach looks big. My butt is flabby. My breasts are so flat.µ  Meanwhile, the man is thinking, ´Yay! She·s naked!µ 
 Next time you start to diss the reflection in the mirror, remember: we are our own worstcritics. It·s time we just started saying, "Yay!"Ginger Emasis a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the authorof the hilarious and helpful book, ´Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.µ She is aregularShareWIK.comcolumnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com,Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.More articles by Ginger Emas, click here.

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