Body image is a huge focal point. There is a lot of pressure put on us in daily life to chase the “perfect” body and that nothing less is acceptable.
Not all, but elements of social media lure us in to believing training has to be orientated around looking a certain way; ‘this is the best exercise for this part of the body’ or ‘do this 3 times a week to get the best butt possible’.
Before I go any further, this is by no means having a dig at any individuals who train purely for aesthetics, especially in the world of competing as the level of dedication and discipline is astronomical; their lives revolve around looking a certain way, continuously working to fine-tune their physiques to beat the next guy/girl.
On the flip side there is also a world of young males (a particular focus in this article) under the age of 18 who train in similar ways but not to compete and be judged by a panel, but to judge themselves in front of the mirror everyday as they’re not happy with the size and shape of their bodies.
A recent BBC article suggests out of 1,000 males aged between 8 and 18 years old, 230 believe there is a perfect male body – that’s almost 1 in 4! Also 55% of those polled said they would change their diet to look better and the same percentage felt dieting and extreme exercising were gender neutral issues.
This shows there is a high amount of awareness amongst a younger generation towards body image and dietary problems, but also a lack of awareness amongst parents and teachers which possibly could be down to the fact 55% of the boys struggle to talk to their school teachers and 29% with their parents.
Whether you are a professional competitor or a general gym-goer chasing the dream of perfection, regardless if the drive behind it is career based, enjoyment or insecurity, the vast majority of us aren’t happy with our physiques.
An important factor to bear in mind is looking a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean ‘natural’ or ‘clean’. Chemical enhancement such as steroid use is a big problem and with the substance becoming more and more accessible, it doesn’t take much to get hold of these days, which is alarming enough in itself let alone people actually using it! The world of film and photography also present us with a distorted perception of perfection with photoshopping and enhancement to alter physiques to ultimately make them more appealing to the human eye, causing the chase for that iconic look even more impossible!
Striving to create something that will never be precisely yours is a dangerous game which can ultimately lead to depression, insecurity, broken relationships and even suicide.
We need to think outside the box and strive to be content and comfortable within ourselves. A high number of us are conscious about our body composition and wanting to make improvements to that, but rather than eating to better our body image, we should think about eating to improve our health and wellbeing. If your body is functioning better and your hormones and energy levels are balanced, your body composition will reflect this.
Don’t let social media and opinions of others dictate your path. Train hard but smart. Consider setting goals based on movement quality and functionality gains as opposed to chest gains. Focus on nutritional value when choosing foods and enjoy it without any unnecessary restrictions and your body will thank you for it from the inside-out.