Boys bulk up for the ‘per­fect’ bod

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS - VANESSA MARSH

A TROUPE of mus­cle men tak­ing over movie screens and so­cial me­dia is lead­ing to a health epi­demic among Queens­land teens.

Boys as young as 15 are re­sort­ing to ex­treme lengths to em­u­late un­re­al­is­tic body im­ages, turn­ing to steroids and ex­ces­sive gym and eat­ing reg­i­mens in a bid to get big.

Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land an­thro­pol­o­gist Mair Un­der­wood said while the dan­gers of young women fall­ing vic­tim to eat­ing dis­or­ders such as anorexia and bu­limia had been well doc­u­mented, the spot­light was shift­ing to teenage boys who feel “im­mense pres­sure” to bulk up.

“They’re pre­sented with com­pletely un­achiev­able and un­re­al­is­tic ideals,” Dr Un­der­wood said. “Look at to­day’s ac­tion fig­ures and car­toon char­ac­ters – they’re be­com­ing so mus­cu­lar you can’t even achieve that ap­pear­ance with the use of steroids. These young men have grown up with that and haven’t ever known any dif­fer­ent.”

In a so­ci­ety where Dwayne “The Rock” John­son – 120kg of pure mus­cle and al­most 2m tall – is one of the high­est-paid ac­tors in Hol­ly­wood, it’s easy to see why boys, some who haven’t even reached pu­berty, strug­gle with feel­ings of in­ad­e­quacy.

“Look at the Wolver­ine ac­tion fig­ure – his chest mea­sure­ment is the same as his height,” Dr Un­der­wood said.

“Just from so­cial me­dia we are see­ing 15-year-old steroid users and it doesn’t seem to be such an anom­aly any­more.”

Uni­ver­sity of Melbourne re­search fel­low Scott Grif­fiths is a key in­ves­ti­ga­tor of body dys­mor­phia, a men­tal ill­ness where suf­fer­ers ob­ses­sively fo­cus on a per­ceived flaw in ap­pear­ance, and one that is in­creas­ingly be­ing faced by young men.

“It’s clear there’s an in­creas­ing num­ber of boys and men … cross­ing the line and hurt­ing them­selves to achieve a cer­tain body im­age,” Dr Grif­fiths said.

“There’s noth­ing in­trin­si­cally wrong with be­ing in the gym and fol­low­ing a diet and car­ing about phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance, but it is a con­cern when they get to the point where they can’t come off steroids.”

Psy­chol­o­gist Rachel Co­hen said the un­re­al­is­tic and un­achiev­able body ideals be­ing pre­sented to young men were caus­ing “sig­nif­i­cant” emo­tional harm and “can reach ex­treme lev­els YOU’RE never too young to learn healthy habits – that’s the case at St Lau­rence’s Col­lege where a new state-ofthe-art gym is one of the most pop­u­lar el­e­ments of the cur­ricu­lum.

Since April, stu­dents at the South Bris­bane all-boys school have had ac­cess to a high­per­for­mance ex­er­cise cen­tre and ded­i­cated staff who are help­ing them get fit and learn healthy habits safely.

The school’s di­rec­tor of sport, Ed­die Wal­lace, said the pro­gram was about im­prov­ing health and fit­ness rather than fo­cus­ing on looks.

“With this age we don’t like them us­ing big weights, it’s un­safe, so it’s all about im­prov­ing ... flex­i­bil­ity, core strength and co-or­di­na­tion,” he said. Mr Wal­lace said the school worked hard to make sure stu­dents did not feel the brunt of body im­age pres­sure.

Lach­lan Jo­liffe, 12, said: “I do a lot of sports like cross­coun­try, athletics and ten­nis ... so it’s noth­ing to do with get­ting bulky.”

with eat­ing dis­or­ders, over ex­er­cis­ing, de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and even some quite ob­ses­sive be­hav­iours”.

Queens­land Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Evonne Miller said it was im­por­tant par­ents of young men stressed the im­por­tance of char­ac­ter and per­son­al­ity over looks.

Pic­ture: AAP

St Lau­rence’s Col­lege stu­dents Con­nor La Fre­nais, 14, Lach­lan Jo­liffe, 12, and Kieran Ar­mitage, 13, hit the gym, which can be ben­e­fi­cial for boys if they choose health over looks.

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