An Instagram blogger who proudly shows off his belly rolls and 'man boobs,' as he yo-yos between a size medium and an XXL, has declared he is on a mission to make plus-size men more body positive.
Financial advisor Stevie Grice-Hart, 26, from Southampton in England who is known as 'Bopo.Boy' online, hopes that his “warts and all" pictures on social media will make people aware that body hang-ups are not just a female thing.
With the support of his store manager husband, Sam, 29, he has found the courage to share how his toxic relationship with food and body image led him down a dark path, saying: “I've grown up always being a larger kid and feeling like no one else looked like me."
Stevie taking a selfie at home (PA Real Life/Collect)
He continued: “I looked for validation on TV and tried to find people who represented me, but there was no one, which made me feel even worse. All I saw was ripped men and, after that, I spent the majority of my life dieting and exercising.
“After years and years, I did lose a lot of weight between the ages of 22 and 24. I forced myself to go the gym every day – obsessed that if I didn't, I'd become obese overnight. I had three meal replacement shakes instead of actual meals, even ordering and gorging on weight loss tablets.
“I thought by doing that, I'd be popular and successful, but neither of those things happened. I just went from 18 and a half stone (259lbs) to 10 stone (140lbs) and was left with excess skin and stretch marks."
Stevie enjoying ice cream guilt-free (PA Real Life/Collect)
Always keen to find new ways to improve his look, Stevie took to Instagram for inspiration but, instead of finding fitness accounts, he stumbled across a plus-size model who changed the way he saw himself altogether.
He said: “By chance, I found a girl who was about a size 16. She was in a bikini and had belly rolls and a huge smile.
“I realized I should be like her and start living my life. I decided to do the same and post a video of myself in my underwear discussing men's body image, although it was scary since it's something that no one really does. It was really liberating."
Stevie with his husband Sam (PA Real Life/Collect)
Since making his body-positive films, Stevie has attracted plenty of attention from other Instagram users who agree that men's body dysmorphia – a mental health condition, where someone obsesses about flaws in their appearance – needs to be taken more seriously.
He has also been delighted by the variety of men he has inspired – ranging from gay males like himself to happily married heterosexual dads.
He said: “I like to think that I'm helping to start something new for men and their body confidence. It's usually hidden for us. I want to create a space for men to talk openly about it."
What Body Positivity Means To Me | Stevie Blainewww.youtube.com
He added: “The most humbling thing from my page has been hearing young boys just aged 11 and grown men in their 60s say I helped them to improve their body confidence.
“Even super masculine, bearded, tattooed men who look like truck drivers thanked me for what I do!"
While he has received positive feedback for his bold posts, Stevie has also attracted vicious comments from people who disagree with his message.
Stevie making a statement on Instagram (PA Real Life/Collect)
He explained: “Some people say I should change the way I look and stop being lazy, but they are clearly so deep in diet culture that they think what they're saying is right.
“I did the same when I hated myself too – I would comment on how other people looked to make myself feel better, just to deflect the pain onto someone else.
"I do remove the negative comments, but some stay with me, such as someone who said 'if I had a body like that I'd kill myself.'"
Stevie showing his support for homosexual couples (PA Real Life/Collect)
Currently in the process of adopting a child with Sam, Stevie has also vowed to make sure that their child – whatever gender – will not be worried about body image.
He said: “If we have a boy, I want him to see that men and being a man comes in all different forms.
“I would give my child the freedom and space to be whoever they want and I'd like to hope that when I feel crap about my body, I don't project that onto my son."
Stevie taking a selfie at home (PA Real Life/Collect)
He added: “No matter what gender we have, boy or girl or trans – whoever they identify as – I would embrace them for all that they are and let them do what they want within reason and safety."
While Stevie believes social media has been a useful tool to promote the body positive message, he feels reality TV is woefully inadequate when it comes to showing diversity in body shape and size.
“Reality TV is horrendous, everyone on it looks exactly the same, and all it does is reinforce the idea that if you don't have abs there is something 'wrong' with your body," he said.
Stevie after recovering from restrictive eating (PA Real Life/Collect)
“The problem with modern TV is that it doesn't represent how people really look. Young boys are exposed to this even more than I was in the 90s – it's worrying," he continued.
“For the men who are struggling, I would recommend following people who actually look different – stay away from the Hollywood actors who have airbrushed and edited photos.
“That's why I don't edit my photos – I don't want to contribute to that side of social media."
Stevie showing his back rolls (PA Real Life/Collect)
Stevie hopes that in the future men will find the support and visibility they deserve for their body issues in the same way women do.
He added: “As a society, things are changing. We have plus-size Barbie – now it's time for a plus-size Ken!"
A version of this article originally appeared on Press Association.