One: We Have More Body Angst Than You Realize...
...but we'll never have a serious conversation with you about it. Look at the standards we have to measure up to: If we're fat, we're labeled as beer-guzzling couch potatoes. Too thin, and we're deemed wimpy. We can have too little hair on our heads or too much on our backs. And maybe worst of all, we can be too big in the backside of our pants yet too small in the front.

Now add the fact that our mental struggle has two layers. "A man thinks, 'Not only does it bother me that I'm fat and my hair is thinning. It bothers me that it bothers me, because I'm not supposed to feel this way,'" says Thomas Cash, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. "The thinking is that it's like a woman to worry about looks."

Two: Instead, We'll Joke About Our Bodies
We make fun of ourselves to cover up what we're really feeling—frustration, embarrassment and anger that we're not perfect.

But other people's jokes sting. Mark Meador, 37, of Westerville, Ohio, returned from a trip to Disney World with photos of himself. "Man, you look like Big Pun," Meador's friend said, referring to the obese rapper who died of a heart attack. Meador laughed off the comment, not letting on that it hurt. That same weekend, his daughter said, "Dad, you look like you're having a baby." Fortunately for Meador, the gentle pokes inspired him to change. He dropped junk food, started Tae Bo, and lost more than 40 pounds.

Three: We're Worried About Our Bodies Because We're Competing For You—and Against You
With more people both marrying later and getting divorced, it's a competitive environment for finding mates. And since this generation of women can support themselves, they're freer to pick a man for his cute butt. Lynne Luciano, Ph.D., who has researched body-image issues at California State University at Dominguez Hills, says women are tired of being objectified and have turned the tables on men. "They don't like a man to be overly vain," she says. "He shouldn't care too much about the way he looks, but on the other hand, he should look good."

At the same time, men are also shaping up because they're seeing that people who are fit are more successful at work. "Women are very good at using their looks for competition," Cash says. "So men think, 'I'd better clean up my act.'"

Four: We're Not Just Checking You Out
We're a visual gender. We like the way you look. A lot. But that doesn't mean we don't compare ourselves to other men the way women compare themselves to other women. I notice the way men look on the beach, at work, or simply walking by. Maybe it's male competitiveness or primal instincts, but we don't just want to have better bodies to attract you. We want better bodies to improve our position among ourselves.

A scary thought that proves the point: When Luciano interviewed doctors who perform penis enlargements, they reported that the main reason men undergo the surgery isn't to improve their relationships, but to be more impressive in the locker room.

Five: We Want to Look Like We're 25
It used to be that our mythical heroes had wisdom, experience and maturity. Think Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Now our heroes are baby-faced with six-pack abs. Think Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man.

"The youth movement has been cruel to men," says Luciano. "The Cary Grants have fallen through the cracks. Today's ideal is younger, buffer, more muscular. A lot of men in their 40s and 50s have trouble trying to emulate that." So men, like women, are swimming against the age current. That might explain why from 1997 to 2001, the number of men who had cosmetic surgery increased 256 percent. (Last year more than 800,000 men—and north of six million women—went under the knife.)

Six: Desperation Makes Us Do Desperate Things
Delusion makes us do nothing. I can't remember the last pair of pants that fit me well. If I buy size 38s, they fit around the waist but suffocate my hips and butt. If I go to a 40, they're roomy where I need it but gaping in the waist.

Several years ago, I tried on my wife's post-pregnancy size-20 jeans to see if they were cut differently. The jeans fit me perfectly. I wore those jeans for six months, and I felt leaner every day I wore them. My wife asked me why I didn't just buy a big pair of men's jeans and have a tailor alter them. My answer: Why pay for alterations when I know that tomorrow I'm going to start an exercise routine that will change my body shape forever? It's been my mantra for two decades.

Seven: Men's Body Image Problems Can Be Just As Dangerous As Women's
For some men, poor body image can lead to anger, anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction and steroid abuse. Doctors may fail to recognize eating disorders or muscle dysmorphia (the need to constantly bulk up), even though it's estimated that eating disorders affect one million men.

Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School and coauthor of The Adonis Complex, says secrecy reinforces the patients' sense of shame. "I've treated men who would tell people they were alcoholics, but they'd never admit they were bulimic," he says.

Eight: We Don't Blame Anyone
(Except maybe Tiger Woods and Taco Bell.) But we'll be grateful to anyone who makes us feel good about shaping up. We know what it's like to be bombarded with images of perfect bodies. We see the men in commercials and on magazine covers, the bigger-stronger-better mentality that dominates our culture.

"Look at Tiger Woods. The best golfer in the world has an outstanding physique. Golfers used to be everyday men," says J. Kevin Thompson, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. "Basketball players used to be skinny. They're all muscular now." Hell, even our president runs sub-seven-minute miles.