MBH (my better half) and I had been preparing our trip to New Orleans for weeks and were hoping to shed some winter weight in time for Southern Decadence. Still a few kilos off the mark, we felt a little self-conscious about the prospect of turning up to an underwear-themed party looking like gravity had gotten the best of us.

While packing, I began to wonder why a slight increase in girth should even ruffle our feathers. It’s not as though we were suddenly confined to wearing muumuus or had to consider lapband surgery. Truth is, my partner and I are just average guys lugging around a little extra weight. As we’ve aged, our metabolisms have slowed down and the slim waistline we once took for granted has given way to middle-age spread. It’s a natural process that most of us deal with through healthy eating and moderate exercise.

For some, however, the process isn’t that easy. Unrealistic goals can get in the way of common sense resulting in body image conflicts and eating disorders. And, if you believe that women are the only ones affected, think again.

Apparently, a quarter of Australian men in a healthy weight bracket consider themselves fat. A majority of these are gay and bisexual men. Hardly surprising given the unrealistic images of ‘perfect’ people, seemingly living on dust and water, splashed across our screens and magazines.

Whilst it’s great to be able to drool over models and fantasise about celebrities, it’s good to bear in mind that their appearance is the result of gruelling private training sessions, strict diets, grooming, not to mention heaps of airbrushing. Who wouldn’t look fabulous saddled with a chef, trainer, hairdresser, fashion/makeup experts, and a gifted photographer. The trick is not to mistake illusion for reality and allow media to set society’s benchmarks of health and beauty. If we do, we only really have ourselves to blame. Back from New Orleans, I mustered up enough courage to step on the scales to face the fallout. My screams could be heard all the way from Sydney to Perth. Surely the dial had to be broken. Thankfully, reason kicked in before the scales flew out the window. Returning to light training at the gym, we both kept off booze and chocolate for a while and assigned ‘naughty’ food days to the weekend. Slowly, we got back in shape

And that’s the thing. You shouldn’t have to sweat over slip-ups. If you gain unwanted weight enjoying your favourite foods, balance out your diet. No need to punish yourself with hard-to-follow diets or military-like workouts. Moreover, it’s ok to have different ideas about body image and not aspire to a common ideal of homogenised beauty.

Follow Luke Brighty on Twitter via @brightlights_66

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