All right, fellas. Moment of truth. Does the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition ignite your muscle-building, fat-burning machine? When you flip through Maxim, are you instantly compelled to increase your run mileages from 5 to 10 miles in an attempt to improve your physique and therefore, your chances, at scoring your dream woman? If you’re thinking sheepishly, “yeah that’s me,” then you’re not alone.
According to a report in Personality and Individual Differences, the body images portrayed in “lad magazines” such as Maxim, Esquire, Loaded and Nuts may affect how men look at themselves and increase their desire to become more muscular.
Researchers at the University of Winchester and Coventry University in the UK asked 161 men between the ages of 18 and 36 how frequently they read men’s magazines and correlated this information to their attitudes towards appearance and their drive for muscularity. They found that the more often men read these kinds of magazines, the more influenced they, especially those not involved in a relationship, were by the imagery found inside. This extended to considering anabolic steroids and incorporating protein and energy supplements into their food and exercise schedules.
It’s not just the scantily-clad women in these magazines, but also the shots of well-chiseled men that may influence male readers. According to Dr David Giles at the University of Winchester, “the message in typical lads’ magazines is that you need to develop a muscular physique in order to attract a quality mate. Readers internalise this message, which creates anxieties about their actual bodies and leads to increasingly desperate attempts to modify them.”
If the sample population here turns out to accurately represent a wider male population, this could indicate a serious problem. Body image and eating disorders are commonly thought of as affecting women, but these illnesses are not sex-exclusive. Men can suffer as well. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, males suffering from disordered eating may often have muscle dysmorphia, a disorder where one is overly concerned with building up muscle mass.
With obesity an ever-growing problem in developed nations, it’s true some people may need a bit of motivation to exercise, eat healthy and stay fit. As we all know, sometimes it comes down to whatever gets you going. But, shouldn’t the stimulus be rooted in sound health? Swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, as this study starts to illustrate, leads to excessive exercise motivated by unrealistic and unhealthy body image goals. To me, that scenario doesn’t sound like the best grounds for a successful, long-lasting relationship. Besides, I’d take Average Joes over Globo Gym, any day!
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