Written by Philippa Walsh
Whether we like it or not we live in a society that is obsessed with body image. The concept of the body beautiful is nothing new - but the rate at which this concept is reinforced by the media has become increasingly alarming. In a digital world, we see perfection everywhere.We are sold the idea that to be less than the images portrayed is to be a lesser person.
We have unqualified, unregulated 'experts' telling us on YouTube how to lose weight fast, how to live 'cleaner', how to bulk up quicker, how to get rid of blemishes, how to make our hair thicker and how to get more likes on social media...the vlogs are unrelenting and are unfortunately going nowhere.
Wherever we turn we are being spoon fed the idea that the only way to feel good is to look like a fitness model and be 'liked' or followed by an infinite number of people we don't actually know and will certainly never meet. Whilst body image issues used to be considered something of a female problem, research tells us otherwise.
Over the last few years, the fuller figured female has been 'welcomed' (albeit rather reluctantly) into the fashion world - but where is there a place for the plus sized male? Our male population are constantly being told both overtly and covertly that they should be fit, strong, muscular and to 'man up' or 'be a man', whilst at the same time, are being asked to get more in touch with their feelings and encouraged to show their ' feminine' side. These are genuinely confusing times.
Maturing into adulthood against a backdrop of free online porn and apps such as Tinder and Grindr may have the benefits of instant gratification; but I can't help question their darker side. When sexual prowess and the body beautiful is promoted to the exclusion of all other qualities, what does this do to the esteem of men that may lack the physical attributes being promoted as essential in order to prosper in relationships?
Anabolic steroid use has exceeded one million users in the UK alone and it is thought that one in ten male gym users may be suffering from a condition called muscle dysmorphia. This is characterized by:
- Spending an excessive amount of time weightlifting
- Preoccupation and panicking over not being able to attend a workout
- Over-training even when injured
- Disordered eating, using special diets or excessive use of protein supplements
- Steroid abuse
- Compulsive comparing and checking one's physique
- Significant distress (which may include suicidal thoughts) or mood swings
- Putting workouts above all other areas of life
- May also have some distress over other perceived body imperfections, including penis size, hair or skin.