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Suffering in Silence

Why does the general public believe only women are victims of body image and eating disorders? Adolescent to adult males are dangerously preoccupied with the appearance of their bodies. The difference between men and women are men almost never talk openly about this problem. Society has taught them that they shouldn’t be concerned about how they look. But countless numbers of men are sacrificing important aspects of their lives to working out compulsively. This leads to distorted body images, which ties together with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia (Adonis Complex.

The general public usually categorizes these disorders with women only. Women aren’t the only victims; men are suffering too, but just silently. According to Greek mythology, Adonis was seen as the premier model of male beauty and masculinity. According to Adonis in Greek Mythology, Persephone raised Adonis. Aphrodite, queen of the gods, loved Adonis but Persephone refused to give him up. The matter was settled when Zeus, the king of gods, made a deal. Adonis was to spend four months with Persephone, four months with Aphrodite and four months on his own.

It was known that he chose to spend his four months of solitude with Aphrodite. Adonis was portrayed as an icon of male beauty and masculinity; “The body of Adonis presumably represents the ultimate male physique imaginable to the sixteenth-century artist” (Olivardia 6). If we looked at the paintings of Adonis today, there would be a consensus that he looked plump and out of shape compared to today’s body builders. The “Adonis Complex” is not an official medical term; it is used to describe the various secretive body image concerns of males.

This ranges from minor physical implications to self-destructing body image disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa. The media plays a huge role influencing adolescent to adult males to believe that being more lean and muscular equals attractiveness. Whenever I am standing in line at the super market, every magazine cover I see has a model on it. When there is a male on the cover, he is usually flashing his rock hard abdominal muscles or flexing his bulging chest. As a young boy subjected to these images I became immediately envious; even to this day I admit I wish I had those features.

Image what this is doing to the psyche of the male pre-teens and teens. Their ideal body type becomes those seen on those magazine covers. Their perception of the male body becomes skewed. On television these days, it seems as if the models stick together. It is rare to see an over weight person with a lean and muscular person. From my observation, women on television are usually tall and skinny with voluptuous curves. The men are tone with unrealistic chiseled features. I grew up spending a lot of time in front of the television, unaware that I was being subliminally brainwashed.

Television is causing young males and females to develop a negative perception on what is seen as normal. During the earlier part of November, NBC broadcasted the 2001 Victoria Secret Fashion Show: The Sexiest Night on Television. This one-hour event was broadcasted in prime time that featured tall, incredibly skinny, full-featured women elegantly modeling lingerie. But in reality, it was just a tacky peepshow of emaciated women pumped full of silicone flaunting their bodies. It was a full hour of sugarcoated pornography, an hour of women whoring themselves to photographers.

According to The View, a talk show, more than half of people who tuned were teenage girls. They were interested in what the general public deemed as beautiful. What was on television that night was nothing close to realistic. Imagine all the teenage girls who are completely mesmerized these women. To achieve that look, those models have to go through rigorous diets and dehydration. The lighting has to be perfect to glamorize their enhanced features. Also, professionals are doing their hair and make up transforming them into completely different people. Access Hollywood had a special where male underwear models let us behind the scenes.

They admitted they loved the attention they received from the women, but dreaded the photo shoots. They claimed they weren’t allowed to eat or drink anything the night before, so that their stomachs would be flat. Some even admitted in the use of diuretics, rapid water loss pills, to dehydrate their bodies giving them that “ripped” look. To most males, having nice abdominal muscles or a “six-pack” is a must. But what men, especially younger men need to understand is, not even models can sustain the “six-pack” look all the time. Even a bottle of water can make a stomach look bloated and un-proportional.

Having a strong father figure, as a boy growing up, is quite important. Young boys look up to their fathers, older brothers, uncles and even sports figures as role models. These role models or heroes set the tone, “If we choose certain heroes as our heroes, and put their voices in our male chorus, their voices can encourage and inspire their special aspects of our character” (Pittman 184). This can also have a deep negative impact on boys who aren’t able to meet the high standards they set for themselves. From pre-teenage boys to adult males, sports figures have a firm grip on the molding of their character.

When I was younger, I used to look up to my older brother. I wanted to be just like him, imitating everything he did. I forced myself to play the sports he liked: basketball and football. He was a natural athlete and accelerated quickly, but I could never keep up. He became frustrated with my performance, complaining that I didn’t try hard enough. We slowly drifted apart because he was ashamed to take me out. The time we used to spend together soon diminished and I feel into a depression. I felt like a complete failure, I gave it my all and it just wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t sure who to could turn to; this wasn’t something I could talk about to my parents. I began watching a lot of professional football and became fixated with the speed and build of the athletes. I thought that if I was stronger and faster, I’d win the love and respect of my brother. The earliest hints of body image derive from the toys children play with. Studies have proved that the popular Barbie doll toy has become thinner and thinner over the years. According to Olivardia, co author of The Adonis Complex, if Barbie were the as tall as a real woman, she’d only have a sixteen-inch waist.

Scientist believe this sends the message to little girls that being thin is beautiful, which leads to deadly eating disorders and a distorted body image. Boys on the other hand, tend to play with more violent and exciting toys such as G. I. Joe action figures. They were featured in two different versions. G. I. Joe introduced their first eleven-inch figure in 1964, which lasted until the early 80’s. In 1982, they were replaced by four-inch figures. As the years rolled on, new figures were produced. By 1991, the eleven-inch figures were brought back, and both are available today.

Olivardia and his team conducted a study where they examined the annual sales in Playthings magazine, an industry publication in the field, to find out the top-selling toys over the past few decades. G. I. Joe was definitely among the top-sellers, they choose a figure from each decade and examined the changing body types. If these figures were all real men, their dimensions were measured according to a five-foot, ten-inch tall man. The first figure from 1964 would have a thirty-two inch waist, forty-four inch chest, and twelve-inch biceps. The second figure from 1974 showed sufficient changes as he grew more lean and muscular.

His biceps measured at fifteen inches, about three inches bigger than the average man. He also developed defined abdominal muscles, embarrassing the last decade’s figure. But in 1991, the figure examined put both of these figures to shame. His waist shrank to a mere twenty-nine inches and his biceps beefed up to sixteen and a half inches. He sported picture perfect abdominal muscles, just like the models on muscle magazine covers. In the mid 90’s, G. I. Joe came out with a new line of figures called G. I. Joe Extreme. The figure evaluated was full sized, measuring in with a fifty-five inch chest nd twenty-seven inch biceps.

The evolution of these toys is evident. Many boys are exposed to these toys at a very young age, before they are old enough to distinguish reality from fantasy. Thus forming a distorted image of what a realistic man’s body should look like. G. I. Joe was the premier toy in my household. My brother and I used to collect these figures religiously, putting them on display all over our room. I idolized the defined muscles each figure had; they were the ultimate model of masculinity to me. They were tough, strong, muscular and fought against the common evil. What kid growing up in America wouldn’t idolize them?

On my quest to become more muscular, I began to do push-ups and sit-ups each night. I can remember asking my brother for advice on how to become more fit, he suggested modifying my diet. I believe that was the beginning of my unhealthy cycle of crash dieting and extreme workouts. No matter how many push-ups or sit-ups I did, I was never satisfied as I never saw results. For children growing up, it is imperative that they are given the ample amount of love and nurturing from their parents. Parental affection helps build the confidence and security of a child. In most cases, parents are the foundation in molding the character of their children.

Having a strong father figure is extremely important, especially when it comes to raising young boys. If a boy grows up without a positive male role model, he’ll never realize how important it really is. “It is possible to teach men a different model of masculinity, to free them of their shame and isolation, to share their vulnerability with other men. At the heart of the matter of masculine excess is a great longing for the love and approval of a father… ” (Pittman 44). The bottom line is, there is a big demand for good fathers. Men who take on the responsibilities of fatherhood, instead of walking out, will raise good sons.

Their sons will grow up to be good men, and the cycle will continue. In a case study conducted Pittman, author of the book Man Enough, he worked with a patient named Arch. Arch was a big and handsome man who grew up in the slums of Detroit. He lost his father at an early age, and his mother was always working so he grew up on his own. He excelled in athletics and landed a scholarship for college. During his second year of college, he began using steroids to enhance his performance. The steroids took over his life; he experienced uncontrollable, violent mood swings.

It became very obvious as got bigger over a couple of months. He was soon expelled for violating the substance abuse policy. Moving on with his life, he got married very young to a physical therapist that made enough money to support their three children. Arch spent more money than he made. He bought loads of materialistic things but his wife put up with it because he was such a great lover. She grew up fatherless too, and wanted their children to have a father regardless of his flaws. Arch felt insufficient not being the bread winner, so he took up a traveling job. It paid fairly well but it took him away from his family.

He felt he could contribute more to the family and make up for nothing being there by making more money. He then picked up a job in South America, totally isolating himself from his family. His family began to complain that he didn’t spend enough time with them. Arch doesn’t deal with conflict to well because he raised himself, so he just avoided coming home at all. Instead of talking it over like a reasonable man, he ran away from his problems and had scandalous affairs with random women. I believe that Arch’s behavior stemmed from growing up fatherless and with little guidance from his mother.

The desire to indulge himself in materialistic things came from living in poverty most of his life. The use of steroids came from the desire of wanting to be the best. If he had his father there to educate him on the risks and dangers he would less likely use steroids. Once he started his family, he felt the need to support them. I feel he didn’t want to let his family down; he wanted to be there for his children. The problem was, he was there the only way he knew how, the way his mother raised him: through monetary support. When nagged by his family to stay home, he ran away because he was used to doing things his way.

I feel if he had stronger adult role models growing up, he’d be a totally different person. He would be more secure with himself and his communication skills would be better. Why workout hard consistently when you can shoot up steroids and workout sparingly and get better results? This is a question faced with males ranging from all ages. The dissatisfaction of their bodies is the main reason men seek drugs. Researchers Arthur Blouin and Gary Goldfield have found out that the main reason athletes used steroids was to enhance their appearance. The use of steroids has deadly side effects both psychologically and physically.

When a person is using steroids, they become very easily irritated and violently aggressive. When they attempt to get off the drug, they become severely depressed. Some can become addicted and continue to use the drug even though it causes them to go through psychotic episodes known as “roid rage. ” In most cases, men who get of steroids go on abusing alternative drugs offered in gyms. The physical side effects of steroids are a lot more deadly. According to Cowart, co-author of The Steroids Game, the use of steroids can cause: heart disease, stroke, prostate cancer, liver toxicity, infertility and cosmetic changes such as severe acne.

The most common tell that can be noticed by a man using steroids is he breaks out with acne. Other signs are pattern baldness and breast enlargements. The violent mood swings endured while on steroids is known as “roid rage. ” Cowart reported a case of “roid rage,” while driving the man got cut off. He became so irritated pursued the offender and ran him off the road. When he got out of the car, he smashed his windshield with a crowbar. In another case reported, a man who worked as a prison guard was a model citizen before using steroids. He had no past criminal record or psychiatric implications. He was described as shy and well mannered.

When he began to take steroids, his confidence level shot up along with his temper. During one of steroid cycles, he took a little more than the recommended dosage. That same day, his car broke down and he went inside the store to ask to borrow the phone. The clerk made a comment on how everybody seems to be asking to borrow her phone, and that she should start charging. He left the store furious and later came back and dragged her out the store and into his car. As he was driving, he had to slow down for construction. The woman attempted to leap out the car but not before he pulled out his gun and shot her.

She was paralyzed from the waist down. He had served several years in prison before Cowart evaluated him. He was now described as a quiet and mild-tempered model prisoner. Since that one incident, he had no other outbreaks of aggression. The only explanation could be that the steroids took control and caused him to become violent. Eating disorders can arise because of many problems. One reason why teenagers are inclined to resort to anorexia or bulimia is because of what media imposes on them. The television is filled with thin women and well-built men who are successful, powerful, and most importantly happy.

Researchers have found that “close to 90 percent of TV characters are thin or average in body build” (Moe 105). We consistently see these characters excel in television, which gives the impression that there is a certain way to look in order to be popular and successful. Also magazines and advertisements promote the motto that “thin equals happiness. “It seems Logical that if a young, maturing Female Looks at the magazine cover of Vogue, Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, or Glamour, and then looks in the mirror, she is going to assume she has to lose weight” (Smith 95). This logic is true for many young females, and unfortunately for males too.

They envy the models in various magazines and thrive to look like them at any cost. Diet advertisements are another reason why teenagers are prone to develop eating disorders. They want the quick fix to their weight problems and many of these diet plans guarantee they can do that. These diet plans also known as “fad diets,” the improper way f losing weight. These plans ultimately lead to eating disorders. According to studies, “eighty percent of people with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa began their bout with these disorders after going on a diet” (Barrett 203).

These fad diets use eating rituals and various supplements that can lack many nutrients the body needs. These rituals become part of a daily routine for many teenagers and symptoms of eating disorders can occur. Although these fad diets are eventually health threatening, many people do not worry about the risks. People want to lose weight quickly and want the easiest solution. As children we are taught that beauty is only skin deep. That what is inside is what really counts. But the “number of diet articles in women’s magazines [have] increased by 20% between 1969 and 1978 over the preceding ten year period” (Moe 205).

Plus the numbers are rising. If we are taught that inner beauty is more important, then why are we bombarded with advertisements that advocate outer beauty? I feel that this is contradictory and these conflicting views confuse many teenagers. We see Barbie dolls with an unrealistic body shape and we see super models with every luxury because of their thin bodies and cannot help but envy them. Girls and boys alike, learn at an early age that outer beauty can bring happiness and material possessions. Victims of eating disorders come from all ages and from all cultures.

Eating disorders affect all minority populations as well. Minorities may not be able to receive the care and treatment in order to cure the eating disorder and I feel that this is a big reason why many are not reported. They have inadequate health care and do not get help if they could because they feel that they are alone. Because not many cases of men, or inorities suffering from eating disorders are reported, they feel they can’t relate to others and feel secluded. Many times a teenager can develop an eating disorder because of the lack of self-esteem and the misperception of themselves.

Many researchers feel that eating disorders and depression go hand in hand. These inner problems can cause serious issues in dealing with food. “It’s difficult for teenagers to get a handle on their body image [because] the cultural image of beauty contrasts greatly with the food their culture is offering” (Smith 183). This confusion leads many to develop a strong fear of becoming obese. They often feel guilty about enjoying food and feel that if they were thinner than they would be happier. They have a distorted image of themselves and do not see their real selves in the mirror.

Due to low self-esteem they cannot see their own good traits, especially when they constantly compare themselves with others, which can lead to depression and self-hate. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by extreme weight loss, distorted body image, an irrational almost morbid fear of weight gain and obesity. People with anorexia nervosa typically see themselves as fat even though they are extremely thin. The discrepancy between actual and perceived body shape is an important gauge of the severity of the disease.

The term anorexia implies a loss of appetite, however, denying one’s appetite more accurately describes anorexic behavior. According to Boskind, author of Bulimia/Anorexia approximately 1 in 100 Caucasian girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen years old suffers from anorexia nervosa. The high amount may be due to the tendency for these young females to be diet conscious. Many account for only about five to ten percent of the cases of anorexia nervosa, partly because the ideal image conveyed for men is big and muscular.

Bulimia nervosa (bulimia meaning “great hunger”) is characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by attempts to purge usually through vomiting. Some alternative methods are taking diuretics, hyper gymnasia (exercising more than is require for good physical performance in a sport; excessive exercise), or using laxatives. People with his disorder may be difficult to identify because they keep their binge-purge behaviors secret and their symptoms are not obvious. A growing number of male athletes have just recently reported these practices.

Especially those who participate in sports that require making a designated weight classes, such as wrestlers and boxers. Other activities that may foster eating disorders in men include swimming, dancing, and modeling. Women may be reporting being victims of eating disorders more so than men, but that doesn’t mean that men aren’t suffering also. It is sad that men have to suffer in silence because the general public has thought them to be strong and masculine. Men are slowly crawling out of their shells to seek help, the first step to recovery.

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