By Ian Howley - CEO of GMFA/HERO @Ian Howley

NOTE: This article was written while Ian was Editor of FS magazine

I used to be fat. Not super fat but very chunky. At my heaviest I was 15.5 stone standing at 5ft 8 tall. I don’t know how I got to that point. I guess I had no filter for what I was eating and exercise was something only people in a faraway land did. Then what happened? Well I moved to London and entered the gay world, the real gay world, where the scene was split up into different tribes. I went out and saw all these hot men, with their shirts off, dancing away, looking fantastic and there I was stood in the corner feeling horrible about myself. So I did what pretty much every other gay man does, I joined a gym. And I lost the weight, fast. In fact I lost 30kg and it made me feel fantastic about myself.

After a few months, that feeling wore off a little. I kept on thinking I should push myself to build muscle and abs. I started researching the best way to get them: tips, eating habits etc. In the end, I never got those abs. Ultimately I just didn’t have the motivation in me to do it.

Recently, I looked back at my ‘fat Ian’ photos and it prompted me to think, why did I feel I could not be happy with a bit of weight on me? Why did I feel that I needed to lose 30kg to be happy?’ Pressure! I felt pressured by the scene and its celebration of all things hot and sexy. We live in a society that congratulates gay men on having abs. It’s come to the point that the most important thing we, as gay men, can achieve is to have a beach ready body. At what point did this become okay?

Now I’m not saying that gay men are all shallow people, far from it. But we have grown up in a society where sex and hot bodies are celebrated and thrown at us on a daily basis. I was heavily congratulated on losing the weight. And it felt good. It felt like instant acceptance and approval. I was a good gay for not being fat.

Working in the gay media sector I can see why other magazines constantly throw out pictures of shirtless celebrities and regular club goers. It brings in hit and hits bring in money. When your job is on the line, those numbers that Google Analytics spews out are like gold dust. And that’s all advertisers care about.

But is it our job to make you feel good about yourself? I believe it is. Why? Because until we live in a world where your family and friends are your first point of call in helping you develop as a young gay man then we, the gay media, need to realise that our posts on Facebook, Twitter and how we display our magazines have an effect on how gay men see themselves and how we are telling them they should look and act.

I realise that posting a #FridayFella on Facebook is all a bit of fun. And it is fun to see a good looking guy. But I don’t ever want to make anyone feel bad about themselves. I care about gay men’s health and how gay men view themselves and I don’t want you, or anyone, to look at something I’ve posted and then look at yourself and feel like you’re not worth anything.

Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting abs or being a gym bunny, just like there is nothing wrong with being overweight. You are not a bad person for having abs and you are not a horrible person for having some weight on you. All I can ask is that if you want abs you do it for the right reason and not because it’s what you think society expects of you. What I learnt from losing all the weight is that the self-doubt still remains, it’s not till you work on how you see yourself that you get to a point where either having abs or being fat doesn’t matter. Confidence is the sexiest thing you can have. It outshines abs any day.

As for me and FS magazine, I will try my best to use a range of different men to promote FS and our magazine and I promise that while I remain editor of FS, we will work on telling gay men that abs are not the most important thing you can achieve, health equality and positive self-esteem is.  And I hope one day, my fellow gay magazines will follow our example. Our worth goes far beyond just looking good at the beach. 

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