Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

When the chips are down, men aspire to look like Beckham

Perfect image: David Beckham

It seems that men are coming over to the dark side of weight obsession at a fast and furious rate. According to a new book, The Adonis Complex, men are starting to be as obsessed as women with body image.

The quest to achieve a perfect body, which induces feelings of inadequacy in every woman I have ever met, is now apparently weaving its way into the male psyche.

New research shows that almost one-fifth of people with anorexia and bulimia are men. Over-exercising at the gym and not eating enough to keep your body fuelled are common causes.

The Adonis Complex claims that men who seek physical perfection are worse off than women, because they are unwilling to discuss how they think and feel. Apparently, men are suffering in silence to achieve Adonis-like beauty: secret dietary rituals, hair transplants, cosmetic surgery and abuse of steroids, ephedrine, fat burners and diuretics.

One of the most alarming disorders for men is 'bigorexia', the inverse of anorexia. It's a condition where men continue to think they are tiny even when they are alarmingly pumped-up.

While women look longingly at models with thighs like toothpicks, men are drooling over Calvin Klein models and Chippendale dancers with six-packs and bodybuilder muscles. Harrison Pope, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the book, says: "We're seeing more and more eating disorders of all types in men. These conditions have probably become more common among men in response to changing societal body image.

"The ideal male body in our society has not only gained muscle, but has also lost fat over the past few decades."

It seems the days of the happy, chubby man are over. They all want to look like David Beckham and Ronaldo in tight underpants.

But as many footballers have only 12% body fat – an almost impossible achievement to your average man – it's a tall order.

It's a bit like women sticking photos of Gisele on their fridges. All it does is depress you (believe me, I've tried it.)

It's certainly true that the paparazzi are now taking a lot more photos of men in their togs on the beach. Alongside the cruel photos of female celebrities putting on and losing weight, male celebrities are now also being subjected to scrutiny of their body shape and size.

So what are the signs to look out for in case a man, or indeed boy, you know might have the Adonis complex?

As well as compulsive over-exercise, clues to look for include mood swings, cold hands and feet due to poor circulation, eating smaller portions of food than normal, and a growth of fine, downy body hair – a sign that the body is not getting enough nourishment.

In an era where communication is becoming almost solely based on images and visuals – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, 'selfies' – it's no surprise that boys as well as girls feel they aren't good enough. No teenage boys I knew looked like Justin Bieber, or the guys in One Direction. The pressure for boys to look fit is much greater nowadays. Image is everything and a muffin top, saggy moobs, or a double chin just won't cut it.

Women are used to being bombarded with images of perfect bodies, but for men it's a relatively new phenomenon.

If women could give men one piece of advice, it would be this: you will never look like David Beckham, just as we will never look like his stick-thin wife, so enjoy your chips.

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