Male body image is somewhat of an overlooked topic. Female body image is discussed at length and the damage that an unrealistic view of your body can cause is well known. This affects men in exactly the same way and there is a growing trend of younger males being very image conscious. Men feel they are meant to ‘man up’ in this area but research shows body image issues are almost as widespread among men as among women.
Body image can be a motivating factor to improving your fitness level but more commonly it is becoming an obsession that is having a negative effect on the overall health of men. There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight to look better or gain some muscle. The problem lies in the obsession with body image and often the people with the ‘best’ looking bodies are the ones worrying the most!
The biggest factor influencing male body image is the various types of media; magazines, tv shows, movies and the internet forms mainly social media. The front cover of every male magazine has a guy with a huge and ripped body, photo shopped and tanned up. There is a huge expectation that if you are ‘fit’ you must look like a mythical superhero as well. If you don’t have a sixpack are you even fit? It is important to remember that media representations are not reality and your life is much different from the people portrayed in different media sources.
Performance enhancing drugs have become more common in recent years. There are more and more types of drugs available and more people than ever are using them. Often this is for sports, especially bodybuilding but it is also very commonly used among people for purely recreational reasons. Many of these people defend their drug use as having no negative consequences but the truth of the matter is that any drug use that is not necessary has the potential to cause you harm long term! If you choose to use these drugs I cannot stop you but consider whether it is really worth the potential health risks to simply have bigger muscles?
Is this body realistic?
There are many factors involved in making a male look like a movie performer. Pictures and videos are taken in peak condition that is often not maintained for more than a few weeks of the year. These photos are also taken with specific lighting and then photoshop is added to the mix. Then add the hours of dedicated training, drug use, genetic potential and tailored eating plans. It is not worth trying to get the body of a specific person as even with endless effort you are unlikely to look the way they do!
Are we all bodybuilders?
The fitness industry is dominated by the bodybuilding and supplement industries. The idea of what ‘fitness’ is has become very skewed and is almost entirely related to how somebody looks rather than how fit they actually are. The ‘you do not need cardio to be ripped’ mentality of many fitness professionals shows how far away fitness has gone from actually being fit! If you want to really be a bodybuilder and enjoy it then go for it. If you do want to be then there is no need to follow the diet and lifestyle of bodybuilders.
Ineffective supplements wasting your money
Supplement companies try and give the image that their supplement products will help you to achieve the body of your dreams. The products are covered with muscled up guys who are meant to look like that as a result of using this amazing product! At best they will provide about 1% increase in performance and at worst they can damage your long term health. Add to this the huge amounts of money they cost and supplements are generally not a worthwhile avenue to pursue. I have seen people spending $5k+ on supplements every year. You would be much better spending that $5k on wholesome food, gym gear or membership and training services as they will take you much further!
A better way to exercise
There are better ways to approach exercise. Exercise should be something that is enjoyed, it may be difficult at times but overall you should enjoy your exercise routine. Keeping health in mind is another big part that often gets overlooked. Many men will basically force fed themselves to get bigger or deprive themselves of food when trying to become very lean. This is not a fun way to approach food and makes things unsustainable long term. Freeing yourself from the mental need to be as muscular and ripped as possible will likely make you a lot more relaxed and healthier overall.
Working out to look better is not always a bad thing. It can form part of a range of motivations that men might have towards exercising and staying healthy. When this becomes an obsession to achieve a certain body that is probably not possible or requires sacrificing your mental health, it is time to re-evaluate your situation. Place your health including that of your mental health first and don’t get sucked into the neverending pursuit of the ‘perfect body’. The perfect looking body may not be as healthy as it seems!
Have you noticed male body image issues becoming more widespread?