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The media pushing the muscle-bound man - but is this what women want?

MensHealth.jpg So-called lads' magazines have spawned a generation of men obsessed with their bodies, according to new research.

Publications such as Men's Health, FHM and Loaded featuring muscular and impossibly good looking men can lead to readers developing a compulsive obsession to exercise.

The symptoms of the condition - dubbed "athletica nervosa" - include spending excessive amounts of time in the gym, running or swimming.

Previously, womens' magazines have come under fire over claims that they trigger the slimming disease anorexia by using images of slim, beautiful "size zero" women.

Winchester University psychologist David Giles has found that the malady is closely linked to men reading "laddish" magazines - and aspiring to possess the perfect male physique displayed by male models with "six-pack" stomach muscles on their pages.

"We found that the more such magazines a man reads, the more likely he is to be anxious about his physique."

Together with his co-author, Jessica Close, he interviewed 161 men aged between 18 and 36 and asked them which male magazines they read, and for how long.

In addition they assessed their diets, amount of exercise they take, and how they feel about their looks, in their study, entitled "Exposure to 'lad magazines', drive for muscularity in dating and non-dating young men".

Dr Giles said: "Men who read the most lads' mags seemed to internalise the appearance ideals portrayed by them.

"Models in these magazines are impossibly good-looking and seeing them can make readers anxious about their own bodies."

It is claimed that the magazines also trigger anxieties by saying that superb physical fitness is the only way to snare a good looking girlfriend.

The condition is most serious in single men, according to the researchers.

Dr Giles said: "All men who read these magazines were affected, but non-dating men much more so than those in stable romantic relationships.

"It could be that they become less anxious or it could be they just have less time to get to the gym when they have a partner."

At the same time lads' mags are spawning insecurity in young men, computer games featuring excessively muscular heroes is prompting young boys to worry about their bodies, further research claims.

Scientists at the University of Illinois has found that boys as young as eight who read video game magazines felt an urge to build their muscles.

The researchers, Kristen Harrison and Bradley Bond said: "Exposure to video gaming magazines predicted a significant increase in a drive for muscularity."

Athletica nervosa sufferers can damage their hearts, joints and muscles through excessive exercise.

People with severely affected by the disorder will exercise compulsively - even if they are feeling ill.

Fortunately, the disorder is treatable in 80 per cent of cases. Therapists try to re-establish a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

By COLIN FERNANDEZ - The Daily Mail -26th March 2008

Reader Comments (17)

I hate overly muscular men. It's like seeing a guy in a big, fancy car going well over the speed limit with music blaring. I either think "Wow that guy has some ISSUES". Or "Damn, sorry about your penis".
While it's good that men's version of body image issues encourages them to be healthier physically (unless they are using steroids), it is sad that their mental health has to suffer.
May 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjuju
This brings up a very good point. Men are people too, and regardless of the way many (straight) men think, they are just as susceptible to body-image issues as the women are.

I, personally have never liked the "Arnold Schwarzenegger" look. I find it overdone, ridiculous and most importantly, damaging to the psyches of men who are not athletically inclined by nature.

For one thing, there is a difference between the long, lean "ripcord" look of a guy who strength trains (higher weights, fewer sets and reps at a slow speed) and a guy who bodybuilds (lower weights, more sets and reps, done at a faster speed). I have never understood why the "bodybuilder" image is promoted as the one that women supposedly "want." Men are told that women supposedly want this, and we women are told we're supposed to pick guys that look like "the Governator," which is absolutely stupid and ridiculous.

What if we women prefer guys who have muscles, but do it the "ripcord" way: Higher weight numbers, but fewer reps and sets, at a slow speed? Or what if a woman falls in love with a man who is physically fit but more inclined to spend time singing in a music studio or on stage than in the gym trying to fit a certain "ideal"? Or what if we women fall in love with physically fit but otherwise geeky scientific guys who have more logic and common sense in their little finger than all the bodybuilders in the world combined? It's one thing to be physically fit in order to be healthy and live a long beautiful life and age VERY gracefully. It's another thing altogether to seek physical fitness SOLELY to fit one's body into someone else's impossible ideal, especially since, like women, not all men's bodies are the same.

In fact, I know of a guy on whose short, slender frame a hefty bodybuilder's physique would look downright freakish. This guy I know of is MEANT to look slender and slight, albeit physically fit. That's his genetic code. He might have filled out a bit over the years as he's aged, but he's never been overweight by any means. He would STILL look ridiculous trying to sport a bodybuilder's physique.

Not only that, he is a very confident and talented musician who, while physically fit, knows that he does not need to conform to what society tells him he should look like. And in 1993, he managed to find and fall in love with a woman to whom he has been married for the last 17 or so years.

And he did that without looking all "ripped."

My boyfriend managed to find me and hook up with me without looking "ripped." In fact, when I met him, he had a bit of a belly on him, and still does to some extent. Yes, he works out, and his belly has decreased by half. And yes, this makes him more attractive, overall, but even when I first met him, I found him sexy.

Why? Because I looked on the inside first, noticed how loving and compassionate and humorous he was. THAT is what makes a man sexy, in general. Okay, a guy who's ripped looks good, but in my mind that doesn't matter if the guy's a jerk. You can't cure stupid and it's almost as difficult to cure willful ignorance and cruelty.

So, to the gentlemen reading this: rest assured that the lady-loves worth having in your lives will have chosen you for you, not for any strapping biceps you might be boasting. Take care of yourselves, sure; keep yourselves healthy and fit, yes! By all means do what it takes to age gracefully like a fine wine and not have to visit a doctor as much in your later years. But do it because YOU want to treat your body like a temple for your Spirit-spark to live in, not because of what society says you should do to look a certain way.
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November 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdults Love To Shop
My husband is pretty petite for a man. Or is he? 5 feet 9 inches, he wears a 30/32 in pants. And for the past two years, he CANNOT find pants in labor-proof material anymore. He is an industrial worker, and NO ONE is making that sort of clothing in his size.....He can still find regular pants, since manorexia is on the rise in fashion, but just as obnoxious is the rising trend to stereotype the manual labor field as muscular OR obese. I'm going to have to take him to a tailor, but just as an aside, yes, size is a rising issue for men as well.
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