Body Image and Fitspo: The Male Perspective

By Amanda Vogel, MA
Feb 3, 2015

Body image concerns have long been associated with women, but men also feel societal pressures to look lean, fit and, especially, muscular. “While it’s not talked about much, body image issues are becoming more prominent among men,” says Ryan Halvorson, director of
team training at Bird Rock Fit in La Jolla, California. “And fitspo
isn’t helping.”

Written before the age of fitspo, the book The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession (Free Press 2000) covers various body image issues that men struggle with, including body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, steroid abuse and muscle dysmorphia. Muscle dysmorphia is a “muscle” subtype to body dysmorphic disorder, which is characterized by intense concern with the appearance of a certain body part, such as the nose, ears or legs. A man displaying features of muscle dysmorphia might constantly worry that his body
isn’t defined or muscular enough. He might frequently compare his muscularity to that of other men (Pope, Phillips & Olivardia 2000).

For men, viewing muscle-centric fitspo images on Facebook, Instagram and other networks can exacerbate worries about “adequate” muscle size and definition, and/or trigger an urge to make comparisons with others. “To further complicate matters,” says Petya Eckler, PhD, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, “men also face the stereotype that body problems and uncertainties are ‘a woman’s thing,’ which makes it even harder to deal with the issue.”

Bri Wilson, owner of Koru Personal Training in Victoria, British Columbia, observes that men on social media seem to be just as engaged in “fat-shaming” and body obsession as women appear to be. “If you check out the comments from males on images of popping muscles and ripped abs on Instagram, you’ll notice the same feedback and questions that women tend to post. For example, How did you lose body fat? How much protein do you eat? You are ripped! I wish I were that big. What’s your workout routine? Do you do cardio? How did you get your quads so big?”

Be aware that body image concerns may be just as real for some men on social media as they are for some women.

For more information about social media and body image, plus a much wider discussion of the topic, please see “Social Media and Body Image: A Complicated Relationship” in the online IDEA Library or in the January 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

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Amanda Vogel, MA

Amanda Vogel, MA, is a fitness professional and the owner of Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for fitness professionals. She writes for IDEA, Health, Prevention, and Self, and has co-authored books on postnatal fitness and yoga. With a master's degree in human kinetics, Amanda has worked in the fitness industry for more than 15 years, including time spent as a program director and vice president for a chain of all-women clubs in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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