Bodybuilding has never been for the weak of character.
The amount of discipline and commitment it takes just to live a healthy lifestyle- training and eating correctly- is evidently too much for most Americans. And still this pales in comparison to what it takes to be a successful competitor. Yet members of the bodybuilding community are not immune from social pressure and crippling feelings of inadequacy.
Blogger, personal trainer, and part-time model Mathew Lewis-Carter is trying to raise awareness about the unhealthy pressures men face to look certain ways on social media. Mathew put a side-by-side shot of himself in and out of competition to demonstrate something he feels is crucial. In reference to the in-competition photo he wrote:
‘This isn’t fitness…We see washboard abs and rock hard bums and come to the conclusion that this is what you need to be healthy, to be “fit”. ‘We see these sorts of images on a daily basis and are made to believe that this is what fitness should be. The media dictates it, magazine covers dictate it, people tell you how you should be looking or how you should aspire to look…’
He says that he used to think that looking like this would make him happy. Is it possible to be body positive and want to lose weight? Why you shouldn’t be afraid to ask someone to stop eating food that could kill you.
He has an interesting point. Extreme bodybuilding practices can be unhealthy. Pro-bodybuilders often take anabolics to achieve supernatural size, diet extremely to maintain there body, and dehydrate severely to shred down. The young and uninitiated can easily be drawn into believing this is the norm, that onstage physiques are healthy functional physiques. Mathew continues:
“What I believed the fitness industry perceived as “fit” and “normal” couldn’t be further from the truth (strutting around in pants being more orange than I already am). I felt pressured to look a certain way and I never asked myself why. Why do I need to track every meal and train twice a day? Why do I need to miss social events because they don’t have broccoli and cabbage on the menu? ‘For the guys especially who never really talk about the way they look because they’re afraid of getting stick from the lads (it’s often the ones giving the stick who have the most going on), how you chose to look and feel on your journey is entirely up to you. If a Protein World poster tells you that you need to look a certain way, raise your arm and extend your middle finger straight at it.”
It’s an interesting claim and yet one that seems impossible to reverse. Female ‘body acceptance’ trends have been somewhat less than successful. Many of them degrade into praising extremely genetically attractive women with different body structures, or severely overweight women – their solution seems to be to replace one image of perfection with others, some of which are unhealthy. Unfortunately, the most effective answer is probably the least realistic – a trend of self-esteem. Instead of spreading more images, the young should learn to be confident, and understand that they are on a journey not dictated by any trend on social media.