By Tanima Banerjee:
‘Anorexia’, ‘Bulimia’, ‘Diet control’, the ‘Perfect Body’; these are terms one usually understood to be concerns of women. We constantly hear of girls working out or on crash diets to fit themselves into those skin-tight jeans and body fitting dresses. It is an accepted fact that women are more worried than their male counterparts about their appearances, especially their bodies. But little do people realize that men are equally conscious of their body image like the women, if not more. Body image is the way you perceive, think and feel about your body. Poor body image is a huge male problem today, with around half of all men feeling unhappy with their body shape or size.
In age where everything is grounded on competition, can appearance be far behind. Getting the perfectly toned ideal body, the chiseled muscles, the six pack abs; the David-like figure is a dream almost every man wants to realize. It’s estimated that about 45 per cent of Western men are unhappy with their bodies to some degree. The increasing concern with the appearance of their body has forced men to invest millions of dollars in gyms and exercise machines. Statistics show that in America, around $4 Billion is being spent by men on exercise equipment and health club membership. Even though men don’t talk about their fetish for the ideal body image, the interest in enhancing their physical image has gripped men of today in an obsessive way. This is rooted in the fear to be judged according to appearance.
“Men are still taught as boys that the body is something that is designed to be a perfectly performing machine, not something to be cared for and nurtured,” said Michael Addis, professor of psychology at Clark University and author of “Invisible Men.” “But men base self-esteem on body image and weight.” He reported to have observed a changing trend in men regarding their consciousness of their physique in college. He has seen more of them spend time in the gym, focus on their appearance and monitor body mass nowadays. It can be clearly observed all around that the desire to get that superman body has obviously increased, leading to millions of men getting prey to eating disorders, fad dieting and dependence of exercise.
Research shows that today’s college men are reporting greater levels of body dissatisfaction. Males associate their attractiveness with increased muscle definition, and are concerned about body shape (as opposed to weight) and increasing their muscle mass. There is a great emphasis on looking good, being well-groomed and in good shape. This is reiterated through movies, sitcoms, advertisements and magazines. Most of the actors we see nowadays on cover pages of fashion or film magazines exhibit that perfect body which is tall, lean, agile and fit. The idea behind the growing obsession is to look healthy and confident, as a good, fit body replicates masculine prowess, as well as boosts their self-confidence while appearing in public.
Some psychologists and trend watchers said the male muscle obsession only grew during the last few years. As the economy struggled, men were sent looking for aspects of their lives they could define and control. Body image is, at times, the only thing. “Men can’t control how much money they make or their employment situation, but they can control how they look. It can create this obsessiveness,” said Sarah Toland, senior health editor for Men’s Journal.
The problem here lies not in the desire to be healthy and fit, but with the fatal consequences it could bear if the desire turns into an unceasing obsession. The idea coming across while trying to look as well-proportioned and fit like models and actors like Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds, John Abraham and Hrithik Roshan to name a few, has made people get far too conscious and even embarrassed about their body structure. The engagement with obsessive feelings of inadequacy, unattractiveness, and failure has led to propagating eating disorders and disordered exercising behaviors. Low self-esteem, anxiety and depression is the result in case their body doesn’t match up to that fit look. Not only could this obsession lead to several internal health problems, it could end up making him neglect the bigger issues of his life beyond the looks.
If one loses confidence in him, and fails to realize that being healthy is more important than being the muscle-man, it could be extremely fatal. One should not strive too hard, going against nature, to embody, quite literally, the Adonis figure. One should know the limits of his body, and eat well and lead a healthy lifestyle. One must not be depressed for how he looks, and accept himself for who is. There is a need to understand that masculinity does not lie in muscle power. It premises itself on how he respects others, as well as himself. If one can’t treat his body according to its actual needs, how can one treat anyone else well? This is not to say that working out for a fit-looking body is a dispensable thing. But one needs to make sure it doesn’t cross the thin line towards obsession. One should appreciate his body, ideal or not, and not punish his body for what it can’t bear. One must understand that no matter howsoever he looks; if he is healthy, happy and confident, his talent and social behavior could over-rule the fact of not being able to be the modern day David, and that is all that matters.