When I started this blog, it was important for me to be as inclusive as possible by making room for everyone to explore body image issues. I knew one of the challenge would be to find men who were willing to talk about their struggle with body love, given that such vulnerability isn’t always compatible with the masculinity prescribed to men today. It would seem absurd to most people to fathom the idea of men struggling with body image, yet a recent study showed that
- 63 percent of guys said they “always feel like (they) could lose weight
- 53 percent don’t like having their picture taken
- 41 percent said they worry that people judge their appearance
- 44 percent feel uncomfortable wearing swim trunks
It is evident that many guys struggle with self-esteem related to their appearance, but don’t quite know whether to, or how to voice these feelings. I found a man who not only put his feelings into words, but did it through a poem that will just tug your heart strings. Jonathan Salazar’s poem is amazing because it gives you insight into what it’s like to be fat, and be aware of the condescending stares and the judgmental attitude people have towards you because of your size. It gives insight into the tug of war of wanting to love yourself, yet feeling like your body is a prison who want to escape. There is so much I want to say about the importance of this poem, but it is best that I let you enjoy it first, then I will write a follow up article on it.
This poem is beautiful and heartbreaking, yet so hopeful and never tire of watching. I hope you love it as well.
Jonathan also included this note for me to add to the article which makes the poem resonate even more when you understand his state of mind when he wrote it.
“I have always struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I grew up on the heavier side; I was then told to join sports so I could lose weight, only to end up in two sports (wrestling and football) that benefited me if i either stayed my size, or got even bigger. My freshman year of college I gained 55 pounds, then I lost 85 pounds my sophomore year, and slowly put it back on my junior and senior year. Since then I’ve done many family and co-worker friendly biggest loser competitions in an attempt to get “healthier”. I have succeeded and failed; I am positive that my weight will always fluctuate and I am okay with that. I wrote this poem in the mind state of my darkest days; when it seems like you can do nothing but break down and listen to every negative comment, every micro aggression from friends and family, and every harsh insult. I also wrote this poem for the good days; on the days where you put on that sweater/blouse/shirt and you look GREAT, when your smile is the only important curve on your body, when you woke up and said today I am going to be happy, if not next week…TODAY! I wrote this poem to remind people that they are not alone, that they are loved, they are beautiful. As much as I wrote it for myself, I wrote it for anyone that needed to be told that they matter.YOU MATTER!”
As a woman, my immediate reaction is to encourage men to voice out their challenges with body images in a space that welcomes and seeks to resolve these issues. I do however understand that I cannot possibly understand how men process their problems and may not find communication to be the best avenue for problem solving. It seems to me though, that something needs to be done because there are men who suffer in quiet desperation, living with eating disorders yet are less likely to speak out and seek help. According to the National Eating Disorder association, 20 million women in the US suffer from some form of eating disorder, as do 10 million men. I suspect that number is even more significant for men because not only are they less likely to speak out and seek health, most health providers are not trained to recognize signs of body abuse in men. It is important to have a space in which men are more vocal about living with body image struggles, to have a space where healing can take place without feeling like vulnerability and weakness are not compatible with their masculinity.
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.