Over the years, there has been a lot of research conducted about how adolescent girls are negatively affected by the images they see in the media. Images of flawless females in the media are proven to make girls feel the need to change their body image. Less talked about, however, is how the media affects adolescent men.
Chiseled and airbrushed to perfection, male models with six packs strut from magazines to runways to movie screens. Although men are generally less open to sharing their insecurities and struggles with body image— CHS counselor Kate Miller says 99% of the students who talk to her about body image are girls—males have issues with body image too.
It is commonly believed that girls are more likely to take measures to change their body weight through dieting, exercising, etc., yet of 1307 boys and 1486 girls surveyed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 68.4 percent of males—6.1 percent more males than females—said they change their eating habits. The same 2012 study showed that 40.9 percent of middle school to high school boys take to regular exercising to increase their muscle mass.
CUSD nurse Susan Pierszalowski says perhaps the best and healthiest way to change body weight and make exercising most effective is to have good eating habits.
“It is true that consuming more protein leads to the best results when exercising,” Pierszalowski explains, “but this can be done with natural foods and a good diet that is high in protein.”
Some boys, however, feel the need to turn to protein shakes, bars and other supplements. The Pediatrics survey shows that 34.8 percent of boys use such supplements compared to 21.3 percent of girls.
Here at CHS, athletic director and head football coach Golden Anderson believes supplements are not the answer.
“I think recovery drinks are important, not supplements,” Anderson remarks. “Most supplements end up just adding water weight to high school age kids. Research shows that chocolate milk is one of the best possible recovery drinks. We drink two 8 oz. servings of that after our football team works out.”
Anderson also points out kids who workout multiple times a day does not always receive the benefits they are looking for.
“It is not how long or how many times you lift, but what your workouts consist of,” Anderson says. “Proper diet and workouts show gains.”
Seniors Thomas Spanos and his cousin Aram Berberian work out four days a week with a personal trainer, in addition to their after school sports. Both boys have aspirations to play colligate sports.
“I saw how big my friend Jason was. He had cannonballs in his arms,” Berberian says. “I wanted that.”
Senior Jason Cellars works out for an hour and a half every day, totaling more than 10 hours of working out per week.
“My mom was an Olympic tri-athlete, and she always worked out,” Cellars says. “So she got me started when I was 11 years old. I’ve done it ever since.”
Olympians, the most physically fit people in the word, are expected to have muscular bodies, yet the CHS males interviewed say that they notice only one type of male portrayed on TV. This man is generally in very good shape considering the roles he plays.
“It definitely makes me feel like that’s the type of person I’m supposed to be, so I work out harder,” Cellars says.
Berberian adds that those men always “get the babes.” Junior Bryce Bishop agrees, adding that he believes these images make girls expect a certain type of man who is muscular, well dressed and suave. Bishop thinks that the media is not directly pressuring boys to work out, but rather the expectations girls have gained from the media pressures boys to change their body image.
The seniors acknowledge that a lot of their peers work out just for looks and note that a few students at CHS take large amounts of creatine, not to enhance their ability in sports, but to get yoked.
Of their friends who work out, Berberian and Cellars estimate a majority of their friends take supplements that contain a small amount of creatine in them.
“Creatine is possibly unsafe,” WebMD publishes. “There is some concern that it could harm the kidney, liver or heart function. However, a connection between high doses and these negative effects has not been proven.”
Although statistics show a vast number of adolescent males workout to improve their body image—sometimes taking supplements to aid their success—the media does not show any signs of changing the chiseled macho image of males they so often display.