The pressure of body image has long been seen primarily as a major problem for young girls as unattainably high standards of perfection have flooded movies and media in the form of god-like (often airbrushed) women. But it seems the issue is becoming more and more concerning among young men too.
Images of Hollywood hunk ZAC EFRON on the set of BAYWATCH ran riot over the usual social media outlets this week as Zac showed off his incredibly buff body with the caption: “Blood, sweat and Respect. The first two you give, the last one you earn.”
One thing is instantly apparent, while impressive, it is extreme, the sort of physique that was once the preserve of ultra fanatically honed body-builders. It must have taken an extraordinary amount of work, Zac tweeted: “Nine days of zero carbs and sugar. Only organic grass fed/free range protein and organic leafy greens.”
Now, that seems all well and good, if you’ve got the time and drive needed to work towards such a desired aesthetic then surely that is your right. However, experts fear that with the rise of the ‘gym selfie’, there is a much darker side to the example these men are setting – warning it could lead to serious psychological issues for guys who feel they need to achieve near-impossible body goals.
Dr James Byron-Daniel, senior lecturer in sports and exercise psychology at the University of West England, says:
“There is massive pressure on men now because they see so many body images on social media, which we didn’t see 10 years ago.
“The problem comes when young men are not sure how to attain the body ideals they see but just want to get bigger and bigger.”
“Constantly comparing themselves to others and not achieving unattainable aims potentially leads to psychological issues such as depression and anxiety.
“It’s a big problem – bigger than we realise because men are less likely to share their worries and seek help. It really is a ticking timebomb.”
“We’re seeing younger and younger men joining gyms,” says Dr Ruth Lowry, exercise psychologist at the University of Chichester. “We also have a rise in concerns about the obsession with highly muscular celebrity body ideals.
“We’re seeing men just concentrating on pumping iron instead of cardio health. Then there are conversations about other things, such as steroids.
“Becoming exercise dependent also means prioritising time at the gym to the detriment of other aspects of their lives. They can experience disordered eating patterns. And they can develop muscle dysmorphia, a specific type of thinking which means perceiving yourself as much thinner and less muscled than you are.”
Just take a look at how the physique of one of the worlds most admired heroes has changed over the years. Even James Bond it seems is not immune to the pressures of the ‘bigger is better’ trend.
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