9 Out of 10 Men Have Body Image Issues, and Covid-19’s Making Them Worse
After a life of struggling with my weight and self-esteem, I was on track. Then Covid came.
“You know you look skinny, right?” The words felt like a too-tight hug that was starting to hurt.
At the time, I was in the middle of a weight-loss journey, having lost about 40 pounds from my adult high of 250 or so. (The “or so” is because I had no idea. I’d stopped weighing myself and stupidly refused to go to the doctor until I lost weight.) I’d gone from XXXL shirts and a 38-inch waist to larges and a 34-inch waist. But I was complaining about still feeling fat. That’s when my friend used the word “skinny” — something I’d never allowed myself to feel or understand no matter how I looked.
When I was 14 years old and 260 pounds, I looked in the mirror and saw raw, rubbed-together thighs, bright red stretch marks all over, and a stomach that succumbed to Earth’s gravitational pull. When I was 18 and 160 pounds, I saw those same stretch marks, dulled from years of settling in. Instead of focusing on my bony, broad shoulders, defined cheekbones, and the subtle outline of my ribs, I instead saw patches of leftover fat and hanging flesh. When I was 30 and back to 250 pounds, I saw failure. A teenage body coming back from the dead.
Then I started intermittent fasting, working out, and begrudgingly cutting back on cinnamon rolls. The pounds fell off. But by then, I’d learned something, first when I was in college and then again as a twentysomething after getting really sick following travel abroad: Getting in shape will never make me as happy as I think it will. Because no matter how I look or have looked in my life, I’ve never seen anything but a 14-year-old fat kid. Ever.
Even when my brain — and my friends — tried to tell me I was skinny, I couldn’t accept it. I started wondering if there was something deeper going on than simply body image issues, if I had something more serious going on, but had no idea who to talk to about it.