New campaign challenges male body image stereotypes

A new campaign from the UK aims to put the issue of male body image on the public agenda. Launched by the men's health and wellbeing platform Manual, the "Men of Manual" campaign aims to build on the initiatives for women like Dove's Real Beauty campaign. 

At the centre of the campaign are eight blokes who have stripped down to their underwear "to encourage men to stop hating their bodies".

According to Ben Whittaker, the UK’s first plus-sized male model who is a part of the campaign: "Growing up seeing men on social media, seeing this 'Men’s Health' body, being told that all men have to look a certain way, and they have to have chiseled chests and rock hard abs, it put a strain on my mental health."

George Pallis, Co-Founder of Manual, said: "If you only look at the men in adverts, you would think that all men have six-packs, the perfect amount of stubble and permanently bronzed skin. It is completely unrealistic and doesn’t reflect what masculinity really looks like. In a world where opening up about mental and physical well-being is arguably more crucial than ever before, it’s vital that we all work together to de-stigmatise men’s wellness and improve the health and happiness of men everywhere."

According to Australia’s National Eating Disorder Collaboration, while eating disorders are often portrayed as illnesses that only affect females, large population studies suggest that up to a quarter of people suffering with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are male. Almost an equal number of males and females suffer with binge eating disorder and under-diagnosis and cultural stigma mean that the actual proportion of males with eating disorders could be much higher.

Over-exercising, the extreme pursuit of muscle growth, and steroid abuse are also on the rise with Australian men. So, too, are other eating disorders. One in four sufferers of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are male.

Sarah McMahon, a psychologist and director of the specialist eating disorders clinic, BodyMatters Australasia, told the Sydney Morning Herald

"We are seeing more men presenting with body dysmorphia, where they experience a perception that their body is inherently flawed. Most often they feel they are not ‘big enough', however we also see men who are concerned about having a ‘dad bod’ or ‘man boobs’. One of the biggest differences between body image concerns in men and women is the fact that men generally don’t discuss it,” McMahon says.

Last year, a national eating disorder organisation, The Butterfly Foundation, launched a digital body image program for adolescent boys called RESET. The program is designed to give boys the opportunity to talk about the pressures they face and concerns they experience in relation to body image.

The Men of Manual campaign was launched after new research for the Mental Health Foundation in the UK revealed that one in eight (13 per cent) of people had considered taking their own lives because of concerns relating to body image.

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