Overcoming My Body Image Issues Within The LGBTQ+ Community


istock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Growing up, I always tended to land on the pudgy side when it came to my weight. Thanks to a love of baked goods, candy, soda, and pretty much anything sugary and fattening, I kept my baby fat long after my toddler days were behind me. I vividly remember being jealous of my brothers, both taller and leaner than me, because they didn’t have to wear the “husky” jeans, ones that are specifically designed with larger than normal waist sizes for overweight children, that I did. Luckily, thanks to an active schedule of sports, I never progressed to a size where my physical health was in question, but this extra poundage had a profound impact on my mental health as I progressed into my adolescence.

My family likes to refer to this time as my “hoodie” phase; for my entire sophomore year of high school, I wore baggy hooded sweatshirts that were at least one or two sizes too big with long, loose-fitting gym shorts. I wanted to hide myself in as much fabric as possible because I was overwhelmed with insecurities about the way I looked. I tried unhealthy diets, fad workout trends, and many other quick fixes to gain confidence, but of course, they all failed and lead to more doubt and mental turmoil on my end.

It wasn’t until I started college that I recognized that in order to improve my mental and physical health, I needed to make a lifestyle change. What I wanted was not going to be solved by a quick fix and with the addition of alcohol and greasy dorm food to my diet, I needed to figure out the best way to strike a healthy balance in my life.

Slowly but surely, I made little changes that over time helped me to reshape my body and totally transform my mental health. Of course, as I was making these changes, I was also dealing with another heavy mental burden; carrying the weight of my secret sexual orientation. I knew that in order to get that level of balance and happiness I wanted, that I would have to take the plunge and come out.

Eventually, I came out to my family and a few days later, came out to the internet by posting a coming out article. Almost immediately, my inbox was filled with messages from the LGBTQ+ community congratulating me and, for the first time ever, I had people complimenting my physique and asking me for workout tips. Flattered and encouraged by these messages, I decided to dedicate myself even more intensely to maintaining my physical appearance. However, I soon noticed that with these messages, there were a lot of negative comments about the way I looked as well. People told me I was still overweight, too short, and more, making the list of areas of improvement seem endless.

Suddenly, I found myself desperate to find an extra-large hoodie and a pair of baggy athletic shorts so I could hide away from the world until I was deemed acceptable by all. I went back to unhealthy eating habits, but this time I turned to the crash diets; taking in as little as possible to function while burning off as much as I could through lifting and cardio at the gym.

I was surprised at the scrutiny my body was facing from total strangers; with social media, people had easy access to pictures in order to make their opinions known and I soon realized both my physical and mental health were taking a turn in the wrong direction due to their commentary. It’s a problem that is abundantly prevalent in gay and bi men but was one I was wholeheartedly unprepared for. As we are constantly evaluating and judging each other’s bodies, we are creating an endless cycle of body image issues. These comments ultimately set me back several months in terms of progress and called for an entirely new round of self-evaluation to figure out what I was happy and comfortable with.

Today, I have landed in a place better than I ever have been before. I still work out almost daily, but not to a high degree of obsession or need; I do it because it makes me happy and keeps me in as good as shape as I want to be. I also try to eat as healthy as I can, but still grab a bag of candy or some brownies every time I do my grocery shopping.

It’s not to say that I love everything about my physical appearance; I still have parts of my body that I am not a huge fan of, but I think that’s just a part of being human. Rather than spending an excessive amount of time and energy trying to hide them or find ridiculous “fixes” for them, I’ve decided to embrace them.

Even with this new happy balance, the messages with “pointers” haven’t stopped coming. Within this past year alone, I’ve had several people reach out with suggestion on how I can improve on myself, the most memorable being, “You could be like, really hot if you lost around 10 pounds,” to which I replied, “Well, you could be really hot if you were an extra-large pizza…so I guess we both have things we can work on!”

Overall, the most important thing I’ve learned is that as long as I’m happy, confident, and comfortable in my own skin…that is all that matters; it takes constant maintenance to make sure I am, but the end result is more than worth the effort.  I’m never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, so I might as well make sure that I’m a cup of something I actually enjoy being.

Blaize Stewart
Blaize Stewart is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received a BA in broadcast journalism and a MA in journalism. He currently lives in Chicago, IL and works as an influencer relations associate for a full-service influencer marketing agency called Faam and as an adjunct instructor at Robert Morris University. Additionally, he runs the LGBTQ+ blog Out Loud, a space for members to share their experiences and thoughts on current events and more.