The Latin Guy Lunch

Jacob Pharoah

Latin is alive with talk of eating disorders and body image issues, and it seems evident that we have created an open dialogue that would be alien to most schools. In the wake of “The Latin Girl Lunch” and a recent LAW breakfast that focused on the way certain groups are affected by the media, I have no doubt in my fourth-quarter-fried mind that the women at Latin are knowledgeable about the topic of body image and are willing to talk openly about it.

But what about the guys?

From LAW meetings to discussions between clusters of women in hallways, library rooms, and cafeteria booths, it seems that eating disorders and body image issues garner sustained attention from the women at Latin. On the flip side, when it comes to Latin’s male population, we’re far less eager to voice concerns about issues that concern body image. Quite frankly, exploring the topic of body image is an intangible idea for most guys at Latin.

Advertising six-pack abs and bulging biceps, the media projects its own ideals on men. Although the ideal man realized in the media cannot be equalized with the size zero female models that strut their stuff (or lack of) down runways, the ideals for men are extreme in their own right. Yet, because of the drasticness of the flawless woman, coverage of male extremes is often minimal. The knock-on effect is that discussion of this topic is also minimal among the male population despite the prevalence of the issue. As Senior Ian Spear put it, “there’s no doubt that a ‘buff’ body type is considered superior, and I think many guys wish they could change their bodies.” With this in mind, it becomes slightly more comprehensible how subdued talk is on the men’s side when it comes to this issue.

If you’re looking to find a place where men will willingly shows glimpses of their insecurities with body image, you should look no further than the gym. Talk on the subject is rare, but the gym is one of the few places where men will show how they feel about their body image through dress. As Senior Blake Lasky comments, “guys complain about how much they can or can’t lift,” alluding to weigh-lifting abilities. Junior Alex Mendoza adds to this by saying, “guys can feel a pressure to workout.” On social networking sites like Tumblr, guys flaunt their muscles with the taglines “fitspo” and “fitspiration,” which mirror the “thinspiration” tags that have gained controversy for promoting anorexia. Upon googling fitspiration, I was presented with an array of links to Tumblr pages and personal blogs. Quotes like “shut up and squat” were rewarded with retweets, reblogs, and likes.  The pressure that men can feel is easily disguised, as excessive working out often prevents men from staying healthy. It’s simply not as apparent as the pressure that women feel, meaning that the unspoken pressure to “bulk up” is exceedingly dangerous, as it continues to go unaddressed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently conducted a study, showing that 40 percent of men in middle school and high school say that they regularly exercise with the goal of increasing muscle mass, and thirty-eight percent say they used protein supplements. A worrying 6 percent went on to say that they have experimented with steroids. Just as women restrict their eating to attain society’s ideals, men are harming themselves by chasing their perceived image of manhood. There is no legal restriction on supplements, and dietician Erin Palinski warns that men are “actually going to harm their health if they [use] excessive amounts [of supplements].” Consumer Reports tested fifteen different types of protein drinks and found arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead in all fifteen. Each of these elements are toxins.

Because of differing ideals for men and women, the average meal consumed by men at Latin seems to stray from the “The Latin Girl Lunch.” Guys at Latin load up on carbohydrates, and often fuel themselves with the most calorie-heavy options. Men that frequent the salad bar are a rare breed, and find themselves in the minority. It also seems that there is a degree of certain meals being viewed as less masculine than others.  It goes back to this intrinsic sense in many men that worrying about weight goes against the male gender role. All of this perpetuates the need for the perceived masculine physique, and lessens the chance that men with body image issues will get help because of the gender stereotypes surrounding it. It seems to be far more acceptable to conform to the established male ideal and down a couple of protein shakes  than to eat a Caesar salad. There is a stigma around such foods and, at its core, this stigma enforces an unhealthy diet for those conforming to the masculine norm.

Until the men in our community can talk about body image with the same ease that women do, the problems surrounding it can’t be mitigated. We are all human, and we all have insecurities, so why not just be honest? We have nothing to lose but the false assertions that we’ve willingly absorbed about what it means to act and look like a man.