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Body-Image Pressure Affects Guys, Too

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When it comes to body image, it’s clear that girls have a difficult time—both physically and mentally—fitting into the cookie cutter shape that society flaunts; however, what people don’t know is that men are more concerned with their body image than women, according to recent research.

Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs, from the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, conducted a survey that revealed men have high levels of anxiety about their bodies, resulting in compulsive exercise, strict diets and drugs, in an attempt to lose weight and achieve more toned physiques.

More than four in five men (80.7 percent) have anxiety about their body image, compared to 75 percent of women. In addition, 38 percent of men would sacrifice a year or more of their life in exchange for a perfect body– also a higher percentage than women.

But it’s not only older men being affected. Teens are, too–and possibly more severely.

 

Another study published in the journal of Pediatrics reported that 40 percent of boys in middle and high school exercise regularly– and 90 percent at least occasionally– with the specific goal of bulking up. Of those subjects, 38 percent were using protein supplements and six percent of them admitted to experimenting with steroids.

So where is the sudden increase in male anxiety over body image coming from? Ellen Street, a student at Sacramento State currently earning her master’s degree in child development, believes the increase is a derivative from the change in culture, peer influence and media.

“Images that a young man sees in the media are contributors. The opinions and values of his peers, family and culture also contribute to that pressure,” she said.

She’s right. Boys are bombarded daily with images of celebrities– such as guys from “Jersey Shore,” People magazine and the “Twilight Saga–” whose job it is to look good. Daily they are surrounded by friends who brag about how much they can bench press, and coaches who urge their players to gain or lose weight.

But girls are exposed to the same pressure in different forms. So why are men more insecure? The difference lies in gender stereotyping.

 

It’s a societal norm for women to care to about their body image openly, while not so much for men. Men are not only expected to look fit and muscular, but they’re also expected to not be concerned about their body image in public. The combination of pressure from outside sources and not having the opportunity to express that pressure to others, increases anxiety levels in men.

However, there are ways to cope with this.

“The extent to which an individual feels pressure about having a particular body image depends on the individual’s personal values and beliefs,” Street said. “In other words, if physical fitness and romantic appeal is of high importance to the young man, he will definitely be more worried about his body image than a young man whose values are centered around other sources. It really depends on where the individual invests their time, attention, and thoughts.”

There are even more factors involved, Street says.

 

“Another dimension to consider is how healthy and realistic is the young man’s body image. He may be walking around feeling horrible about his body and unattractive to girls when in reality he is in great physical health and shape and girls do find him attractive,” she said.

Lauren Downing, a senior at Vista del Lago, agreed with Street.

“Guys don’t have to be ripped, only healthy,” Downing said. “You have to love yourself before you can love others. If a guy can make me laugh, and has an intelligent opinion, he’s a keeper.”

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Body-Image Pressure Affects Guys, Too