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A closer look at male body image

A man cooling down after exercise

According to a 2021 study conducted by the charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and Instagram, 48% of UK men aged 16-40 have struggled with body image issues. Over half of the 2,000 males who participated in the study said that the pandemic had affected how they feel about their body in a negative way.

The power of mass media means men are constantly exposed to the ‘perfect’ male physique and bombarded with unachievable masculine images. This can give rise to body image issues, leading to lower self-esteem and quality of life, which, without the necessary support, can have a significant impact on both mental and physical health. Psychological problems can develop due to a reluctance to speak up about these issues, largely due to the stigma surrounding them for men.

Body weight

Body image dissatisfaction is frequently reported by those who have weight issues. If you have a BMI above 30, and need help to lose weight, there are various options for treatment depending on how much weight you want to lose:

  • Lifestyle adjustments such as dietary changes, a new exercise regime and other lifestyle habits, either managed on your own or with the aid of a self-help support group or weight loss programme
  • Counselling can give you a safe space to talk about your weight, feelings around it, and your relationship with food and exercise
  • New weight loss medications on the market may help. These can be prescribed by your GP

If you have tried losing weight through any of the above means with no success, weight loss surgery could be a route to change your life for the better. Numerous studies have reported notable positive effects on mood and a reduction in symptoms of depression following bariatric surgery.

In addition to reducing the health risks associated with being overweight, your mobility often improves as a result of weight loss, so it will have a positive impact on your physical as well as mental wellbeing.

It’s important to remember that bariatric surgery is a major procedure and a serious consideration, not a quick fix. It should only be considered after you have explored a variety of non-surgical options to lose weight and, to be truly successful, needs to be paired with a commitment to a lifelong weight management programme.

Everybody’s circumstances vary, so before considering private weight loss surgery, you should speak to a specialist to see if it’s the appropriate route for you.

Gynecomastia ('Man boobs')

Another condition which can often lead to low self-esteem and poor self-image is gynecomastia, otherwise known as ‘man boobs’. This overdevelopment or enlargement of the breast tissue in men is a relatively common condition caused by a hormone imbalance or from being very overweight. Those with the condition can often suffer from insecurity and social anxiety. Gynecomastia surgery can restore your confidence.

Offered here at Benenden Hospital, this procedure, also known as male chest reduction surgery, removes excess chest tissue and tightens the breast area to significantly improve the appearance of your chest.

The procedure removes excess skin, which can stop any chafing and rashes, as well as reducing the size of your nipples (if needed). It can also boost your self-confidence by giving you a more masculine-looking chest.

The surgery, performed under general anaesthetic, takes between an hour and two and a half hours, depending upon the type of procedure, or combination of procedures you may need.

The stigma around male breast reduction surgery has decreased over the past decade and the number of men opting for this procedure is increasing every year.

Pilonidal sinus

Another condition more common in younger men that can lead to negative body image is pilonidal sinus. This is a small hole or infected tract under the skin at the top of the buttocks. These tracts, also known as sinuses, often develop around a hair follicle where the hair has become ingrown. The condition occurs more frequently in males aged 15-30.

Men are more likely to experience a pilonidal sinus due to generally having more hair in the buttock area. They can also be caused by friction or pressure on the skin, sitting for long periods, being overweight or having an existing skin injury.

If a sinus repeatedly becomes infected, your GP may recommend that you have surgery to remove the sinus and to prevent further infections.

We offer surgery for pilonidal sinus. The type of surgery that you have depends on your symptoms, the size of your pilonidal sinus and if you have previously had an infection of your pilonidal sinus. There are two different surgical methods: wide excision of pilonidal sinus or excision and primary closure of pilonidal sinus. Your Consultant will advise the best pilonidal sinus surgery for you.

Help for male health issues at Benenden Hospital

If you are suffering from negative body image due to any of the above conditions, want to increase your self-confidence, or simply want to find out more about maintaining your health and wellbeing, we can help.

Our Private GPs can discuss any concerns you have about your mental or physical health. Book your 25-minute appointment for £100 today.

Published on 29 August 2023