PHOTOS: This Is, Scientifically, The Body Of An “Average Man”


It used to be that women were the only victims of society’s obsession with physical perfection, but in the spirit of equality, men too have been increasingly bombarded with images of masculine beauty. For gay men, particularly, body image has always been a source of constant concern, shame, pride, anger, dysmorphia and a host of other emotions tied almost exclusively to sexual identity. But what does the “average,” everyday man actually look like?

Graphic artist Nikolay Lamm set out to answer that question with his Body Measurement Project. Using the average waist, height, and body mass index (BMI) measurements of the average middle-aged male, Lamm digitally rendered 3D models of the average American, Japanese, Dutch and French man.

And the Dutch are winning everything.

The average American male between the ages of 30 and 39 is 5’9″, has a 39-inch waist and a body mass index of 29 — to put that in perspective, anything above 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is considered obese. The Dutch are generally taller — averaging 6-ft — thanks in part to their exquisite prenatal and early childhood care, and they have a slightly more slender 36-inch waist with a BMI of 25.2.

Japan is keeping it snatch with the lowest BMI at 23.7 and a 32-inch waist. As a result of their diets and lifestyles, the Japanese also tend to live longer, healthier lives. Meanwhile, France seems to be getting fatter by the minute by following America’s “anywhere at anytime” eating schedule — the average Frenchman has a 36-inch waist and a 25.55 BMI.

Of course, BMI doesn’t directly measure body fat, according to the CDC: “some people, such as athletes, may have a BMI that identifies them as overweight even though they do not have excess body fat.”

Research and walking down the street shows that gay men tend to be in better shape than their heterosexual counterparts and take care of themselves better as they get older — youth and beauty are fleeting but a gym membership is for life — so it would be interesting to see a similar study of the “average” gay male body. Do you think the results would be much different?



USA v. Japan

USA-FranceUSA v. France

USA-NetherlandsUSA v. The Netherlands

All_Countries_SideAmerica’s got that junk in the trunk


h/t: The Atlantic | Photos: Nikolay Lamm

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  • Fitz

    I think that this is a great project– time to get real, weather the goal is realistic acceptance or a clear headed decision to change.

  • the other Greg

    As so many comments on The Atlantic article discussed – if an overweight guy’s friends are all similarly overweight (or more so), he’s going to consider himself “normal.” That’s unfortunately what has happened to straight American men since the 1970s & ’80s.

    So yes, the “average gay male body” would definitely be less fat because there is still some social pressure in the other direction. I suppose there will be some Queerty commenters, as usual, who’ll see the mysterious, sinister “gay culture” at work in this! But hey, not all social pressure is automatically “bad.”

  • avesraggiana

    @Fitz: I agree. Just came back from breakfast at my hotel. A middle-aged man waddled in, experiencing some difficutly with walking because of his weight, ordered the “ALL YOU CAN EAT!” breakfast buffet, topped off with a “large DIET coke” – about the worst thing you can drink if your objective is to lose weight.

  • erikwm

    I don’t get the point of this. Growing up, I too was bombarded with images of the perfect male physique. Did it make me look negatively at my body? Yes, because I looked absolutely nothing like my He-Man, GI Joe, or Thundercat action figures, LOL. I always dreamed one day I would…

    There was a problem. I had no athletic ability. I did not have natural body coordination. I couldn’t kick, shoot, or throw a ball to save my life. So I decided I would leverage what I did have — intelligence — and use that to my advantage. I studied exercise science like crazy. I strategized and schemed. I searched for patterns. I eventually found my way.

    In short, I worked really hard and my dream came true. That’s how life works. Why settle for average? Be your best.

  • petensfo

    The average American is 5’9″, 39″ waist and BMI of 29? That doesn’t seem possible.

    Anorexia, body dysmorphia, & lack of acceptance about body image are all increasing among gay men.

    I have a friend that doesn’t open fashion mags so as not to be confronted by unrealistic images… not a bad idea.

  • kurt_t

    I ate pie for breakfast.

  • tookietookie

    The other countries have better diets and/or institutionalized athletics and team sports. It’s a different way of life. Additionally, food production methods, such as dwarf wheat, have made food the average American consumer can obtain less nutritious and healthy. On top of that, demands upon the average American worker are ridiculous and abusive, e.g. the amount of hours they work, sedentary working conditions, etc.

    The same government that pays lip service to BMI, exercise, and eating healthy initiatives also turns a blind eye and approves corporations that load food with salt, sugar, and addictive, unhealthy substances. That same government supports factory farming pumping cows full of hormones and feeding chickens to each other. That same government permits the sell of tobacco and cigarettes and policies that exploit other countries so Americans can have their illegal drugs.

    I don’t judge people based on their weight because that’s cruel, idiotic, and unhelpful. I do judge sheeple who point the finger at each other than at policies and people who support policies that enrich them at the expense of the poor and middle class.

    We have no real food education in this country. We have neighborhoods where the poor don’t have a place to buy vegetables. We have industry working people to the bone for low wages with no health benefits. We have restaurants that dump tons of food into landfills. We have politicians and churches fighting against responsible family planning and do nothing to curb overpopulation.

    But the outrage is directed at ol’ fat Joe down the street because it’s easy to do and lets you feel powerful in the face of chronic, widespread social problems. That person is probably depressed and doesn’t have adequate health benefits to go get help, or when he tries to get help, he visits some hurried doctor who wants to pop him full of meds with weight-gaining side effects, because that doctor had lunch with the pharmaceutical company rep and ka-ching ka-ching, who gives a crap what’s good for the patient. That person may work too much at some office grind and have no time left for exercise.

    And fellow gays get real, you’re all going to get old, and you’re skin is going to sag, and your waistline will expand, and cruel you-right-now will be online posting about what a tragedy you are. So try to be more compassionate.

  • Pistolo

    Just go into a Gap or Old Navy and look at what America considers a “medium”. It’s pretty bad. I think our problem is that there is so much dieting and nutrition and exercise talk and crap out there. At the end of the day, it’s just a matter of shutting your mouth and not stuffing your face.

  • erikwm

    @tookietookie: That was quite the rant. Yes, everyone will age, but muscle loss and weight gain are not an inevitable side effect of aging. Research has proven that. It’s a consequence of a more sedentary lifestyle, which many assume as they get older, and is entirely avoidable.

    All of us will have expanding waist lines? Not as long as I can walk. As long as my central nervous system can send impulses to my peripheral limbs, as long as I can stand on my own two feet, that will not happen. My mom has been physically disabled my entire life, so I do understand it’s just not possible for some people.

  • tookietookie

    It seems many formerly overweight people seem to have a view similar to yours, which strikes me as quasi-religious in its tone, the “church” of weight management. I subscribe to a moderate view regarding weight, not espousing morbid obesity, but I do think padding is normal and fine, and also a normal mentally sane (and non-hypocritical) approach to adulthood and the aging process. People who insist on being thin or cut are obsessive about this area of their life, which points to control issues, and it’s just not optimal to be obsessive about something like that.

  • tardis

    Well, to quote a wise philosopher, “You want a hot body, you better work, bitch!”

  • GayTampaCowboy

    FINALLY, data-brought-to-life! You only have to log on to any of the gay social media and/or “hookup” sites and then start scratching your head when you read so many profiles where a guy with a 36″ waist describes himself as “average.” I mean, if you’re 6’8″ a 36″ waist might be “average,” but in most cases these guys are between 5’8″ and 6’1″…at least NOW i have an explanation AND continued motivation to maintain my 5’8″…155lbs..31″ waist body. And to all the “thin/lean/fit” guy haters out there, i work really hard at maintaining my body. I’m no gym rat, but at 50 years old I look and feel great. Oh, and guess what! I eat whatever I want – just in moderation!

    Look. If your build reflects the “average man” displayed in this article and you’re happy with that. Great. But, please, stop posting commentary bemoaning how so many guys don’t give you the time of day because of your build. For many of us, average is just that. Average. I didn’t settle for average in my physical build, my professional career or in my 4 year LTR. While i know perfection may not be attainable, settling for just “average” wasn’t an option!

  • Niall

    Of course the average gay male is probably fitter. Gay men(or maybe just males in general) are superficial and shallow, put more than one together..

  • erikwm

    @tookietookie: Am I obsessive about it? You bet. My obsession has also delivered ridiculously low cholesterol, blood pressure, and resting heart rate. When I had an echocardiogram recently, after watching and listening to my heart for a minute, the nurse administering it asked me — “are you an athlete?” I said “I just run a lot.” Her response — “I can tell.”

    It’s not just what’s on the outside. My obsession with fitness delivers tangible health benefits that will help me maintain a high quality of life even as I age.

    In short — I’m built to last.

  • Fitz

    First off— even that image, the guy isn’t that fat.. He isn’t a walking heart attack, and (IMO) he is highly screwable (except for the flat crotch and cartoon face). I just think it’s important to be honest about how you’re doing. If you don’t like it, change it.. or accept it and worry about other parts of life. I can’t stand seeing people measuring teaspoons of salad dressing and then getting french fries. Just be honest about your priorities.

  • Greg Garavani

    Why all the fat phobia? Regardless if an individual loves to eat and is comfortable being in their body (regardless of weight), we don’t need to criticize them by showing them other people from countries to point out were ‘unhealthy’. We KNOW were unhealthy because people practice the ‘western diet’, but these comments are ridiculous. I’d rather have my man meaty than a bag of bones, men with only a BMI of 25+ please.

  • Alan down in Florida

    The easiest way to look like you’re losing weight is to hang around fatter people. I recommend Golden Corral and any Chinese buffet.

  • frshmn

    “The Dutch are generally taller — averaging 6-ft — thanks in part to their exquisite prenatal and early childhood care, and they have a slightly more slender 36-inch waist with a BMI of 25.2.”

    Pre-natal and childhood care leads to taller heights?? I think genetic background is far more important, barring severe malnutrition.

  • maxdadmark

    I’m most amazed that it seems that most men have large hips, which is wonderful if they are in proportion to the rest of you. The “V-shaped” torso with slip hips is a Madison Avenue icon. Healthy guys can be big, and skinny guys can be genetically predisposed to hypertension and hypercholestremia. Just do your best to stay healthy, physically and mentally.

  • sideout

    This article does say average, not healthy average – overweight is overweight. They should have done % body fat. BMI is next to useless without factoring in height and muscle mass.

  • Rockery



  • Bingbing

    I’m scared to ask what their definition of “American” is, to see who they’ve surveyed or include in the statistics.

  • Stefano

    I’m thin compare to the average Frenchman. Americans are soooo fat.

  • Stefano

    Mexico and Egypt are the new world champion category of overweight people. No need to worry, my friends…LOL

  • Sister Unity

    except that if you average all men.. He will be a lot browner than any of these models. HELLO!!!

  • unreligious

    @frshmn: Actually there is a more truth in the authors statement than yours. Immigrants to the US have historically been much shorter than their children. The children grow up here where food is plentiful. This ensures proper nutrition during their developmental stages. The Dutch were not historically the tallest country, in the world. That along with their bicycle system is a relatively recent phenomenon.

  • Ms Urethra Johnson

    YEAH… I’m 5’9″ and 1/2 and I have a 32 inch waist, 44 years old and DO NOT exercise EVER…. And eat to my heart’s desire ( foie gras, lobster, huge steaks with homemade french fries and tons of chocolate and ice cream…

    Better than average… hehehe…

  • masc4masc

    “America’s got that junk in the trunk”

    but who really wants that “junk” if it comes with a 39″ waist? just plain disgusting. looks like the average american male also has bitch tits.

  • Zeedraak

    @frshmn: True, apparently the Romans noted us to be a tall people nearly 2000 years ago. Funny thing is that also children of immigrants tend to be taller, so it must be genes and diet.

  • lkeels

    @Fitz: weather?

  • lkeels

    @masc4masc: Get used to it…that’s average!

  • Dusty Lee

    39inch waist?! That’s really sad.

  • Joe Kinney

    Ha!,I feel great now @ 6ft &a 32/33 inch waist!

  • Justin Vanstechelman

    Wow that’s both surprising and sad. I self shame for being 5′ 11″ with a 32″ waist.

  • Danny Chang

    Cristina Horton me no basic

  • Dean Long

    Dad bods lol

  • Kris Anasuya

    I find this hard to believe. 39?!

Comments are closed.