While you’re no doubt familiar with the ways women’s body image expectations are changing, there’s still minimal discussion on how men are affected by societal expectations of height, weight, and muscle tone.
Social media channels have just as many shredded male celebrities showing off their perfect abs as there are female celebrities sharing photos of their small waistlines and thigh gaps. There’s no doubt that men also experience pressure to conform to societal expectations of beauty and desirableness. This stress can lead to mental health issues like depression, and can also trigger harmful behaviors like eating disorders, steroid use, and extreme workouts. A 2019 study showed that 1 in 5 men between the ages of 18-24 reported experiencing eating problems because of their desire for a more muscular body. Some of these men reported turning to extreme diets, dietary supplements, and anabolic steroids to achieve their goal. In the long term, eating disorders paired with too much exercise can lead to lowered blood pressure and bone health issues. Anabolic steroid use has been shown to cause stunted growth and heart, kidney, and liver damage.
Despite the dangers associated with these behaviors, boys and men commonly have a difficult time discussing eating disorders and body image issues, perhaps because these problems are more widely associated with women and girls. If you’re worried about a man or a boy in your life, watch for signs such as sudden weight gain or loss, increased time spent in front of the mirror or on the scale, spending less time with friends and more time working out. These behaviors may indicate a body image issue that can be addressed before physical damage happens.
But how will you know if you, yourself, have a problem with harmful body image? Watch for warning signs such as an obsession with personal appearance and body size. Behaviors like hopping from one diet to another or taking on extreme cleansing challenges are also concerning. Be honest with yourself about the motivations behind your behavior, and if you’re really unsure, talk to your healthcare provider.
Men who want to build muscle in a safe and healthy way should focus on sustainable eating and exercise habits, such as going to the gym on a regular schedule and eating more fresh and unprocessed food. Try to pay more attention to how your body feels when it has proper nutrition and adequate exercise, and avoid emphasizing how many pounds you’ve gained or lost, or how defined your abs are. Finally, make time for physical activity that serves no purpose other than to be a fun way to spend time. Schedule a round of golf with your friends, or a canoeing trip on your favorite lake. Play with your kids, or take your sweetheart on a long, romantic walk. The ultimate goal of good health is to enjoy it!
You should also know that many times when you see a bulked-up celebrity on TV or Instagram, those images don’t reflect the body’s actual reality. Bulked-up movie stars will sometimes purposefully cause themselves to get dehydrated on the day of a shoot so that their muscles will appear more defined. Airbrushing and photo manipulation are also commonly used to make a celebrity look more muscular. Even movie stars don’t have the perfect bodies you see on the big screen!
Men’s Health Week Trivia Contest
Wednesday’s trivia question is: What are the health risks associated with anabolic steroid use?
Each day of the week we will post an article on a topic of Men’s Health, along with a trivia question that can be answered by reading the article. The rules are as follows:
1. You must LIKE our Facebook page to be entered.
2. Articles and trivia questions will be posted at 9 a.m. You will have until 8 a.m. the following day to answer correctly.
3. You can only answer each question once.
4. Each person with the correct answer will be entered into a drawing for a gift card. If you win you cannot win again.
5. The winner will be announced the following day.
6. We will reach out to the winners directly to send them their prize.
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