WRITTEN BY: LIVITY
Our image-obsessed society that worships youthfulness and physiques resembling Greek gods and goddesses has resulted in a insecure, self-absorbed, and self-conscious society. Americans spend billions on weight loss products, gym memberships, workout videos, and cosmetic surgeries. Hollywood and the media unfairly present females as the sole participant in this journey of unattainable perfection. In reality both, males and females are equally insecure, with men suffering in silence, unsatisfied with their body image.
Men compensate for their supposed inadequacies in various ways. The main method is the accumulation of wealth and power. In a capitalistic society, accumulating wealth solidifies one’s manhood. The dynamics of our society do not allow most men to experience wealth and power, so they may take other measures like plastic surgery. Yes, men get plastic surgery, not just Hollywood stars but everyday citizens. These procedures include liposuction, nose jobs, eyelid surgery, male breast reduction, hair transplants, face lifts, and penis enlargement surgery.
For those without the means for expensive alterations, the gym is where majority of America’s insecure men toil for hours with the hopes of molding their bodies into what Hollywood has told them they should look like. These fancy dens of vanity really groom mental illness.
Dysmorphia is the scientific word for ‘manorexia’, the obsession with bulking up, the opposite of anorexia. I personally can speak of my own struggle with manorexia and the negative effects it had on my body and my psyche.
Young men of all races in America are bombarded by images that illustrate the ideal body image for the ‘alpha’ male. The unrealistic male image can be easily identified in the body images of Superman in the 20th century compared to the ‘Man of Steel’ in the 21st century. Being an avid television consumer in my younger years, my brain was molded to mimic the images it receieved. Like most teenagers I struggled with insecurities, but my gravest insecurity was my weight. My skeletal frame derived from strenuous hours of basketball training coupled with minimal eating. My failure to eat wasn’t due to unavailability of food, I just wasn’t interested in eating often. After graduating college, where it was impossible to keep on weight due to the strenuous workouts of a Division 1 athlete fueled by diet of junk food, I entered dungeon of manorexia.
My plan was efficient, effective, but unhealthy. Avoid activity that would burn calories, engage in gluttonous eating, endure strenuous workouts, and take a cocktail of protein and creatine. The average meat-head at the gym follows this same unhealthy regime, of heavy weight exercises coupled with a high-calorie diet. I attained the body image I so desired, muscle and praise for my physique, but the bulging muscles never remedied the insecurity that led me to look like a freak.
Men receive and are affected by the same prototypes of beauty that affect women. Women are tormented trying to replicate the look and fashion of some celebrity or model who, despite having a trainer, dietitian, chef, and stylist, is still insecure. The viewer, on the other hand has a 9-5 job, a spouse, children, and real life to deal with.
In 2012, I learned about the marketing tactics of the fitness industry and the fashion industry that keep the consumer insecure, always willing to purchase the next product that is supposed to remedy their insecurity. One example of this is ‘Men’s Health’ magazine. The cover always features the new guaranteed method to get you buffed and ripped, with a picture of someone with their shirt off. What the customer does not know is the person trained strenuously for the shoot and does not look like that for 99.9% of the year. This is coupled with Photoshop, which is used to increase the definition of the cuts and increase mass through contrast manipulation. The person whom we want to emulate is not real.
Victims of manorexia are unaware that their strenuous and unhealthy lifestyle is unsustainable. Men at the gym endure numerous injuries and ailments from the heavy weights lifted along with the unregulated consumption of synthetic powders and pills that provide energy for workouts and growth to muscles. Neither the manufacturer or the consumer know the long-term effects of the science projects sold in GNC or Vitamin Shoppe. These people whom society worships are not healthy. They consume large quantities of meat and other processed foods that are detrimental to the body. Excess weight means more work for one’s heart. We must understand that health is not muscles but the operation of one’s body. Yes, physical activity benefits one’s health tremendously without the vain pursuit of a body image rivaling a Greek god.
To all those struggling with manorexia, please understand that you will never reach the illusionary image you’re trying to capture. You will never be satisfied, and you only hurt yourself mentally and physically in your futile pursuits. Please adopt a healthier lifestyle, implementing exercise and a diet high in fruits and vegetables, focusing on health instead of body image.