Facing the Facts About Male Body Satisfaction

According to a new study led by Michael B. McFarland of the Department of Psychology at the University of North Texas, men primarily gauge their body satisfaction on three specific body parts, and they are not what one might think they are. Men who have body image issues struggle with a low sense of well-being and often develop mental health problems such as depression, muscle dysmorphia, and eating issues. Men are influenced throughout their lives by images of an ideal male body, which is depicted as lean and muscular. Media, peers, and even family members may pressure young boys in ways that are unproductive and unhealthy, causing these adolescents to feel dissatisfied with themselves and eventually leading them to engage in negative behaviors, including steroid abuse, extreme weight lifting, or restrictive dieting. The Body Parts Satisfaction Scale for Men (BPSS-M) is a measure used to gauge a man’s body satisfaction, based on 25 factors. However, in this most recent study, McFarland and his colleagues sought to isolate the factors that were most significant to a man’s perception of ideal body image.

In two separate evaluations involving 188 male college students, McFarland examined the responses to the BPSS-M and found that three specific factors were overwhelmingly selected as the most important to body satisfaction. In particular, McFarland realized that men focus on their face, legs, and upper body most often. In contrast to the belief that men visualize their overall body image with respect to muscularity and leanness, this study demonstrated that dissatisfaction with these three areas influenced negative psychological outcomes the most significantly. Behaviors such as extreme dieting and binging and purging were directly related to dissatisfaction with the face and upper body. Dissatisfaction with these three areas also predicted levels of depression and guilt in the men. Conversely, satisfaction with the face was one of the strongest indicators of self-esteem, showing that men are not only concerned with leanness and muscle mass, but their complexion and facial appearance as well. McFarland believes these new findings could help clinicians understand their client’s body dissatisfaction more intimately, allowing for better treatment of negative mental health outcomes and behaviors. He added, “Further, it provides a way to determine how satisfied men are with not just their body but also their face, which appears to be related to their general feelings of esteem.”

McFarland, M. B., Petrie, T. A. (2012, January 23). Male Body Satisfaction: Factorial and Construct Validity of the Body Parts Satisfaction Scale for Men. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026777

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  • Alana Karsch

    Alana Karsch

    January 26th, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    I’ve always felt it was unfair that males lacked support for body image issues. Males have experiences, like doing certain sports, which can really confuse a their definition of “health.” Sports like wrestling, where weight loss and weight gain are huge factors in participation can be detrimental as young men are forming their self-images.
    Thank you for reporting on this study.

  • skylar m

    skylar m

    January 26th, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    This is totally untrue in my husband’s case- he has never had a body image issue a day in his life!
    No matter how much weight he gains or loses or how much he works out it is like he likes his body just the way it is!
    I really wish that I could have just a little bit of his self confidence!

  • Janey


    January 27th, 2012 at 5:24 AM

    It is so forward thinking to finally get the word out that men have body image issues too, and that this can’t continue to be overlooked. There are some good resources available to these men, but I think many of them are too ashamed to even try to find them.

  • Vanessa


    January 27th, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Men face issues with their own self esteem just loike women do. I think that there is the misconception that men never feel bad about their bodies, and maybe they don’t in the same numbers that women do but it is a part of their lives sometimes just the same. I would not say that the treatment for men and women would be the same, because that is rarely going to be the case. But I do think that they need treatment just in the same way that women can. Body image is a hard thing for any of us to have to face and come to terms with and we just need to be sensitive to whomever is having issues with that.

  • phillip t

    phillip t

    January 28th, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    men are just as dissatisfied with their bodies as women are, but whereas society has intimated to women that it is ok to share this displeasure with others, men feel like we are going to be thought of as being shallow of we voice the same concerns

  • nadine


    January 29th, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    Then if this is true I don’t want to hear it from my boyfriend anymore when I am complaining about my body- he is feeling the same things!

  • Silver Cloud

    Silver Cloud

    January 29th, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    I have never had to diet in my life and I am thankful for having been blessed with such body metabolism.no excessive weight gain no matter how much i eat.but I still am concerned about my face as the study has noted.

    It can be hard for someone who is typically seen as being ordinary.its not easy to escape such things or views of others but I always try and believe in myself.and that does a lot.those struggling with their body image should work on this aspect.

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