I don’t have the ideal body shape

Owen shares his experiences within the world of weightlifting and the pressure for men to look a certain way.

I’m Owen Boxall and I’m from Dartford. My hobbies include Olympic weighting, films, games and anime.

I’m one of the top ranked weightlifters in Britain

I work for British Weightlifting, and am the regional relationship manager for the south of England. I have competed for Britain in World, European and many National competitions, as well as for England in the Commonwealth Games.

Summer is an uncomfortable time for me

It’s hot and sweaty, and there’s no way too cool down! I feel uncomfortable taking my top off in public. Having trained occasionally without my top on, I stopped when I gained more body weight (due to an increase in my competitive body weight.)

I thought my body shape wasn’t pleasing to look at

For public or beach training, I stopped taking my top off. I feel uncomfortable doing this when I go swimming.

I have struggled with male body image

The ideal looking body for a male, is a body I don’t have. When I began training, it was to look good, but then I found my sport in weightlifting. As a weightlifter, my intention was to get strong and not to look good. As you train, you find yourself obsessed with doing extra bits to improve the aesthetics of your body, although this would be counter-productive to training.

Body dysmorphia is an important issue 

I see it a lot in weightlifting – the need to keep looking in mirrors for that moment of joy, or that compliment you want from people around you, to make you feel like you look good. It is not always good to look like this “ideal” male. It can be counter-productive to success in the sport. I often have found that – as I look like just an average guy – I would get questioned on what sport I did when wearing my GB kit and people would say, “Oh, you don’t look like a weightlifter”. People seem to have a pre-conceived idea of what a weightlifter should look like.

There is stigma attached to male body image

You need to be big, muscular and tall. This can cause real issues for those who don’t have that particular body type. On social media, I think its important to show those who are successful in sport who don’t have the perceived ideal sporting physique.

Focus on your own success

I would tell my younger self to stop worrying what people think about the way you look. Being successful gives meaning to your life. The greatest feeling of all – when I won my medal at the Commonwealth games – could never be replicated and it had nothing to do with the way I looked or my body shape. On that day I was just someone who who worked hard and won a medal, and gave it my all.

Next Steps

  • Through the arts and education Body Gossip, a positive body image charity, aims to empower everyone to fulfil their potential.
  • Beat help people overcome eating disorders through helplines, online support and self-help groups. Call 0808 801 0677 or, if you're under 18, call their Youthline on 0808 801 0711.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 28-Aug-2018

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