Jonah Hill’s body image message is making waves.
The actor recently shared on Instagram a heartfelt message about his struggles to accept himself after British tabloid the Daily Mail posted paparazzi pictures of the 37-year-old surfing.
“I don’t think I ever took my shirt off in a pool until I was in my mid-30s even in front of family and friends,” Hill admitted. “Probably would have happened sooner if my childhood insecurities weren’t exacerbated by years of public mockery about my body by press and interviewers. So the idea that the media tries to play me by stalking me while surfing and printing photos like this and it can’t phase me anymore is dope.”
The Superbad star concluded, “I’m 37 and finally love and accept myself. This isn’t a ‘good for me’ post. And it’s definitely not a ‘feel bad for me post.’ It’s for the kids who don’t take their shirt off at the pool. Have fun. You’re wonderful and awesome and perfect. All my love.”
Hill’s post resonated with his fans — more than 40,000 of them left comments on the post, including from Judd Apatow, Justin Timberlake, Rashida Jones, Ava Duvernay and so many others. Rapper Lil’ Dicky even shared, “I’ve got so much body acne and I stopped caring only last year.”
Hill’s body has been a media storyline since he started appearing in movies and TV shows in the early 2000s as a teenager. Hill, whose weight has fluctuated throughout his career and time in the public eye, has opened up about his weight in the past.
“I became famous in my late teens and then spent most of my young adult life listening to people say that I was fat and gross and unattractive,” he said during a 2018 appearance on The Ellen Show. “And it’s only in the last four years writing and directing my movie, ‘Mid90s,’ that I’ve started to understand how much that hurt and got into my head.” He continued, “I really believe everyone has a snapshot of themselves from a time when they were young that they’re ashamed of. For me, it’s that 14-year-old overweight and unattractive kid who felt ugly to the world, who listened to hip-hop and who wanted so badly to be accepted by this community of skaters.”
Hill’s experience is fairly common and highlights the fact that men are forced to internally struggle with the way they exist in their own bodies. According to Preventing Obesity and Eating Disorders in Adolescents, a research study released in 2016, up to “37 percent of overweight boys are teased about their weight by peers or family members,” which can lead to “weight gain, binge eating and extreme weight control measures.”
Associations with negative body image are usually with women, and often for good reason, as girls are unfairly defined by narrow, unrealistic beauty standards from a young age, as well as being implicitly taught that their entire worth comes from their looks.
But, sadly, it’s often downplayed or outright dismissed the notion that body image issues even exist for men — despite statistics suggesting that male body image issues are incredibly common, with nearly half of men admitting to body dissatisfaction and research showing that males experience body dysmorphia at the same rate as women, all of which can lead to low self-esteem, psychological distress or even eating disorders.
Eating disorders aren’t typically associated with men, but according to the National Eating Disorder Association, numbers indicate that “one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is male” and that “subclinical eating disordered behaviors,” which includes binge eating, purging, laxative abuse and fasting for weight loss, are nearly as common among men as they are among women.
Virgie Tovar, one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image, puts it all into context, explaining that men tend to keep these issues to themselves, as they “feel shame or worry” at the idea of opening up about their problems.
“I think a lot of the silence comes down to toxic masculinity,” Tovar tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “At the end of the day, we all need to recognize that having negative body image is a highly likely outcome in our culture, regardless of gender.”
Hopefully, seeing someone like Hill open up about his own struggles with his body might encourage other men to speak on their own journeys towards self-acceptance. Otherwise, men may be forced to continue to suffer in silence. Sarah McMahon, a psychologist and director of specialist eating disorders clinic BodyMatters Australasia, says that men tend to keep these problems to themselves despite numbers indicating an increase in body image issues among men.
“One of the biggest differences between body image concerns in men and women is the fact that men generally don’t discuss it,” McMahon says.
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