Pressures to have the ideal body: It’s not only women

Throughout the years it has been women who have faced relentless pressure to mimic increasingly thin models that fill magazines and television shows. But recently, that pressure has shifted to men’s shoulders. Ohio State University college-age men share their thoughts about the demands to be muscular.

Jason Kaplan, a 22-year-old Ohio State University senior, counts repetitions for his friend who’s trying to make his triceps bigger. Kaplan is one of hundreds of young men who work out at OSU’s newest recreational facility every day.

Kaplan, who sports large biceps, said he thinks men in their 20s and 30s feel pressure to be muscular. And he attributes some of that to what men see in the media.

“I think because of all the fitness magazines, you got Flex and Muscle Development, those magazines only show massive guys who are probably on steroids which is not really realistic. And so that’s what regular guys see. There’s really nothing else, that’s all they see. And to them that’s power, that’s respect,” Kaplan said.

Tracy Tylka is an assistant professor of psychology at OSU’s Marion Campus. Tylka, conducted a study that shows an increase of society’s objectification of men. She said when someone’s body is looked at as just a sexual object, then that person begins to treat themselves as objects.

“That then predicted their dissatisfaction with their body shape meaning their dissatisfaction with their muscularity and body fat. That dissatisfaction predicted their using certain behaviors such as thinking about steroids or being preoccupied, spending hours at the gym gaining muscle and restricted eating,” Tylka said.

Tylka’s study looked at 285 college men. 83 percent of them were dissatisfied with their body fat and 72 percent were not satisfied with their muscularity. Just two percent of them never felt they had to be muscular.

Those statistics carry over with some of the young men at OSU’s main campus. 21-year-old Tyler Ragor is a senior. Ragor, who’s been involved in sports all his life, suffered an injury and can no longer play football. So he turned to weight lifting. Ragor said he feels like he has to maintain the same muscular build he had in high school.

“Right now I’m on a pretty high protein diet. I wake up in the morning and have ten egg whites. For snacks I eat cans of tuna in water. And usually just stick to like turkey or chicken for dinner. So I’m on a pretty lean diet right now,” Ragor said.

Not only is Ragor on a strict diet, he takes multi-vitamins to get the nutrients he doesn’t get in his diet. But he also takes athletic supplements that are supposed to help him build muscle and loose fat.

Ragor, however, certainly is not the only young man taking these supplements which are for the most part FDA approved. But Tylka said some men take their desire to be muscular to extremes.

“For some men they just say, OK I’ll work out an hour a day and be OK. But I think other men who might receive a lot of pressure to be muscular, or men who have certain personality characteristics like emphasizing perfection and so forth, that might put them over the edge and just really, it consumes their life, like with women,” Tylka said.

Bo Eberle is an 18-year-old freshman at OSU. Eberle works out about three or four times a week for about an hour at a time. He generally works out his upper body trying to get more defined muscles. Eberle agrees that men are expected to be bigger. He thinks that’s because athletes are larger and stronger. But he does not think it’s a bad idea.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing at all. Obviously if you abuse steroids and stuff like that it can be negative. But overall it’s very positive to your health and I don’t see a downside to it,” Eberle said.

Eberle said he is not on a strict eating regime, and would not begin to consider changing his diet to have a bigger body.

John Katsares coordinates personal training at one of OSU’s recreational facilities. Katsares said he sees men who have developed body image disorders.

“I see a lot of guys in health clubs that have unrealistic expectations of how big they want to get. Or have what’s called dysmorphia just like many females in our society do. Women will feel like they are overweight and heavy. Men can lift weights and even get to the point of elite body builder status and still see themselves as smaller,” Katsares said.

Katsares said young men, especially, constantly compare themselves to body builders. He said that type of comparison is unhealthy because of what it takes to become someone of that size.

“As a personal training staff, our staff has to remind those men, or the male patrons, that come in wanting those expectations to drop it down a notch or two and understand, you’re a hundred and some odd pounds and five foot six, we can improve you to a certain point obviously without using those performance enhancing substances,” Katsares said.

Tylka said men and women need to realize there is more than one body size.

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