Walking through The University of Alabama student recreation center, the weight station is filled with college men pumping iron to build a Grecian god-like body as seen gracing the glossy covers of magazines like “Men’s Health” and “Men’s Fitness.” New research shows there may be more to men’s desire to bulk up than looking like Ryan Gosling – it suggests masculine and feminine gender roles influence male body image.
Although women are stereotyped as the primary victims of eating disorders, men now account for an estimated 40 percent of diagnoses, a record high. Of the reported men with an eating disorder, 4 to 10 percent of them are male college students. Men are also reportedly less likely to seek treatment because of the perception that eating disorders are a “woman’s disease,” which could lead to more unreported cases.
The study published on March 27 in “Journal of Eating Disorders” examined the relationship between a man’s self perception and his body image concerns. Researchers looked at “bigorexia,” the constant obsession with being too small, and anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder where a person with an extreme fear of gaining weight restricts the amount of food they eat, among 75 male patients.
Male participants with muscle dysmorphia associated themselves with more masculine norms whereas those with anorexia nervosa identified themselves with feminine roles.
“This does not mean that the men with anorexia were any less masculine, nor that the men with muscle dysmorphia were less feminine than the control subjects we recruited,” clinical psychologist and study leader Stuart Murray said in a journal news release. “It is, however, an indication of the increasing pressures men are under to define their masculinity in the modern world.”
With male body dissatisfaction increasing over the past three decades from 15 to 43 percent, unhealthy habits may be forming to achieve the desired male body type. Some turn to steroids while others may turn to dangerous diets and over-exercising. Either way, the outcome could be detrimental.
Not only can bigorexia and anorexia nervosa negatively affect health, they can also destroy a person’s social life. Most sufferers will avoid social situations in which they are forced to diverge from their strict diet or will sacrifice time with friends to put in extra time at the gym.
Women aren’t the only victims of eating disorders or body image dysmorphia. Just as many women feel pressure to look like Victoria’s Secret models, men think they have to look a certain way, too.
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