"I don't feel comfortable going to the gym because of how I look."
Because of the way the media highlights women and their bodies (for better or for worse), it is easy to attach gender to that statement and assume it applies to females only. But the truth of the matter is 47% of males have admitted to having body image issues themselves (comparable to the percentage of women who've reported having body image issues).
You may have heard the story of Romario Dos Santos Alves who wanted huge, muscular arms so badly that he injected a mixture of oil, painkillers and alcohol into his biceps to make them appear as large as possible. The result was the hardening of muscle so severe that Alves faced double arm amputation.
Alves hasn't discussed what lead to his unhealthy obsession with the size of his upper body, but I can't help to imagine that Alves might've avoided this entire health catastrophe had he had someone in his life to intervene, to help him recognize the pressures he was feeling to "get huge", to refer him to a qualified therapist to combat that obsession, and to help him take pride in what his body can DO, vs. what it looks like it can do.
If there are male victims of the current pressures and extremes in the fitness industry who are risking their life to appear strong and fit, then where are all the men in our Body Positive Fitness movement?
Less than 10% of trainers in our resource group are male.
Perhaps male trainers feel comfortable in their "mainstream fitness" roles. Perhaps they feel the demand is enough to sustain their careers and they'll continue along the mainstream for as long as they can serving the same 5% of Americans who currently hold a gym membership (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, 2014.).
But wait, one of the more ripped and "mainstream" trainers that I know, Rolando Real, is riding this body positivity train because he sees the need for it and the greater good it can cause. He also acknowledges the potential damages that can occur in mainstream fitness.
"...my motivation comes from a place of strength and vitality, more than from a place of fear, guilt, and shame. This is why I don’t [coach for] physique competition prep, nor do I encourage clients to focus too much on stupid numbers. I have been helping women with their fitness and body recomposition goals for many, many years, and trust me... [ones] life problems and emotional struggles are not because of the scale number, your body fat percentage, or your thick thighs. Same with males. Obsessively focusing on physique changes tends to either exacerbate preexisting body dysmorphia and eating disorders, or create them.
I’m NOT saying that you should not seek to change your body composition. I would be the biggest hypocrite if I did. That’s basically my business: helping people to achieve physique improvements in a healthy and sustainable way, without the psychological shitstorm that it usually creates."
Less than 5% of members at Surf City Fit Club are male.
It's not that we don't provide great workouts- just last night a member of mine by the name of Matt Apodaca PR'd on his deadlift at 215lbs after training for just three months. Our environment is the pilot gym for the Body Positive Fitness Alliance, so where are all the men?
Matt said he loves our environment and trains with us because our trainers have empathy and truly wish to help people get better and stronger.
He said at other gyms, he sees a lot of improper form and misguided programming. He said he likes to avoid the "bro factor" and just come out and lift, without worry of showoffs. Matt says "I am so impressed each week with how hard [SCFC members] work, and have seen how they all stand a little taller each week".
Are we to believe that there are not ANY other males out there who desire this type of fitness environment?
Meet Scott Jordan.
Eight months ago, at 698lbs he was told by his doctor that he was staring death in the face due to health complications associated with his bodyweight. At a consultation for gastric bypass, he was told that if he elected for surgery, without a lifestyle change, the surgery would easily be negated and all of the weight would come right back on.
Scott's wife was lucky enough to know Body Positive Fitness Alliance certified trainer Danielle Lohmann. Before deciding on surgery as a last resort, Danielle helped Scott get moving- and together they saved his life.
With Scott, aesthetics were his last concern. He wanted to live.
After about three months of working with Danielle and making habit changes leading to sustainable results, Danielle and Scott decided it was time to hit the "big gym" with better equipment to allow them to lift heavy. Danielle was sure to empathetically let Scott know that there was a good chance they'd get negative looks and attitudes just from BEING in that gym and Scott responded with "They'll stare.... and then they'll know my name and I still won't know theirs".
Scott writes in a recent blog post that men need body positive fitness, too. "... for the guys that are uncomfortable going to a gym full of muscle heads, for the guys who think that fitness is a goal they will never achieve, for the guys that think so little of themselves, for the guys that think the journey is just too big."
Scott is now 100lbs down from his starting weight, his strength increases by the week and his endurance can rival individuals a fraction of his size.
There is a great wave of change happening in the fitness industry. Consumers are getting smarter. Men and women are feeling more empowered. Tons of individuals no longer want a superficial fitness experience. People want full health, they want longevity, and they want Body Positive Fitness Environments. In a recent survey, I've uncovered over 300 cities worldwide where the demand for body positive fitness exists.
95% of Americans currently don't have an active gym membership. There is an entire market of individuals who want to be fit, but don't have an environment where they feel they can become their best selves. The Body Positive Fitness Alliance is working hard to change that. If you're a fitness professional and you're ready to reach these men and women, join us, break free from the mold and start becoming a #partofthesolution.