The Impact of Body Image Across Genders

People too often assume it affects only women.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, over 10 million men will suffer from some kind of eating disorder in their lifetime.  This includes anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating.

Judy Tillapaugh, IPFW wellness and fitness coordinator, is also a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. She meets with students and faculty on campus to talk about personal fitness, and to improve the body image of her patients.

“Listening to students, listening to faculty and staff, I feel that in general our population is similar to the nation’s population that the majority of people do have body dissatisfaction,” Tillapaugh said.

Tillapaugh said she believes men’s body image is an especially underreported topic, in comparison to women’s body image. Their goals are different too. Women typically want to lose more weight while men want to be more muscular.

She believes a number of factors contribute to these ideals.

“I think that it’s not one factor but a number of factors that contribute, but it’s a combination,” Tillapaugh said. “Social, cultural, people’s time in their life, there is no one factor.”

Jake McDougald, an OLS senior from Auburn, agrees.

“I guess it depends on the situation,” McDougald said. “I think as far as if a guy or girl, which one cares the most, it just depends on the personality of the person.”

McDougald said he has a positive view of his body image, but continues to enhance it. He works out and eats healthy, so he can feel better about himself and comfortable in his own skin.

He said his relationship status has an impact on maintaining his weight.

“When I was single, I was able, that’s all I would do, work, workout, then go to school,” McDougald said. “Back then I’d cook up my meal for the next few days, granted it was basically the same thing, but you know it didn’t bug me. Because when you have someone else cooking with you, you can’t have that same meal every day.”

Zack Yahi, a freshmen general studies major from Fort Wayne, also believes that relationship status has an effect on how he sees himself.

“I’m self-conscious because I notice a lot of the guys around me are fit, or toned up, and they’re good looking,” Yahi said. “When I look at myself, I’m not. It has a negative effect on me.”

Yahi said he thinks the problem affects more than just gay single men. But he feels the gay community focuses on looks, which contributes to body image.

According to the journal Body Image, a study with 38 straight and 38 gay college men was conducted to test their body image using factors such as media influence and media exposure. Gay men scored highest in all categories, which suggests they are more susceptible to poor body image and media influence.

To enhance his body, Yahi said he goes to the gym, watches what he eats, and keeps his hair trimmed. He feels his body image is negative, but improving.

“I feel like I have a little extra weight here and there but don’t like that about myself, but recently I just came to terms with it,” Yahi said. “You have to love yourself for others to love you.”