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Developmental biology - Obession|
Boys/Men Can Be Obsessed With Body Image
The research is published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Eik-Nes suggests many young men are preoccupied with a drive for muscularity: "The problem arises when the bodies of professional athletes like Ronaldo become the ideal for regular young men who have jobs, studies and family. Training has to be your full-time job if you want to look like Ronaldo — one in a thousand of the world's population who make their living from sports. Some people train as if they were on the national team, when only exercising. This difference is what we need be concerned about."
"Girls are supposed to be thin and have small waistlines. Boys should have wide shoulders and big muscles. These are the narrow ideals that young people grow up with today. It turns out that this unrealistic body image is just as challenging for men as for women."
Eik-Nes believes body image challenges facing men have flown under the radar of researchers, parents and health professionals.
Eik-Nes: "We've been aware of young girls and eating disorders for a long time, and how unfortunate it is to grow up with skinny role models. Studies have been carried out on young men too, but they were asked the same questions as girls. Boys aren't looking to be thin. They want to have big muscles. So giving them the same questions given to girls is totally wrong if we want find out how young men see themselves and their own bodies."
Muscles work like cosmetics
Previous studies have shown that boys who are overweight - or thin and lanky - are at the greatest risk for developing body image disorders. This study confirms a man's desire for a muscular body is unrelated to weight.
According to Eik-Nes, muscles become a form of cosmetics for muscle-obsessed men. They're not building their strength to ski faster, or to get better at football or to improve their health: "They're only exercising to build their muscles, without the training having anything to do with muscle function. That's a big difference."
The challenge of being satisfied with your own body is the same across all education levels. Study results indicate highly educated people are no more satisfied with their bodies than anyone else.
Should set off alarm bells
Although exercise in itself promotes health, when training over takes life - it becomes problematic.
Eik-Nes: "This drive for muscularity could be a sign that young men don't have mastery over their lives; they substitute with mastery over a work out. In simple terms girls vomit, while boys become preoccupied with exercise. Parents' alarm bells should go off if they have a youngster who's at the gym everyday, who just wants to eat chicken and broccoli, who consumes protein shakes or supplements all the time. If their whole world is about workouts, parents should talk with them - ask questions about why they're training.
"Culture and role models in the Western world are largely the same. This is the first study ever showing the relationships between a desire for muscles among men and the risks that may entail. Now we have to investigate and study the extent of the problem, its risk factors and treatment options."
The objective of the study was to estimate prospective associations of drive for muscularity measured in 2013 and related health outcomes (depressive symptoms, overeating, binge eating, purging, binge drinking, and use of muscle-building products [e.g., creatine and steroids] measured in 2014.
Trine Tetlie Eik-Nes, S. Bryn Austin, Aaron J. Blashill, Stuart B. Murray, Jerel P. Calzo.
Leadership Education in Adolescent Health project, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Grant/Award Number: 6T71-MC00009 and MC00001; Liaison Committee between the Central Norway Regional Health Authority (RHA) and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway; National Institute on Drug Abuse, Grant Award Number K01DA034753; National Institutes of Health Grant/Award Number: grants HD045763, HD057368, DK46834, HL03533.
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Cristiano Ronaldo, a Brazillan footballer, plays 'forward' for the Itallian club: Juventus. Considered one of the best players in the world and by some the greatest player ever. Credit: Public Domain