Masculinity and Diet Culture


Photo by whoislimos on Unsplash

By Andrea Guerrini

Most of the plus-size, body positive and body liberation movements we see and hear, are targeted to women. Historically, women were the ones who had to “maintain their figure” and endure the torture of diets. But diet culture is insidious, and infiltrates all groups of people because of course, the more dissatisfied with our bodies we are the better… yay! 

The past decades have redefined what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man. Nowadays, girls are encouraged to do anything and to be anyone. Thanks to movements such as Body Positivity, or Beauty Redefined, women are slowly internalising the message that their worth doesn’t rely on their appearance. Yes, women are a power source. The message is quite clear. However, the messages men receive from society about manhood are quite confusing. Boys are encouraged to be caring, express their emotions, be more sensitive, and cry whenever they want to. At the same time, men are also expected to be “real men”. In other words, to be productive, take charge, take risks, be tough, be confident and be strong. And guess who takes advantage of these confusing times for men

Men are heavily targeted by the diet and “wellness” industry. The core message is the same as with women: your body is not good enough and YOU need to do something about it. This manifests as the “epitome of masculinity and fitness” we see in movies, cartoons, magazines, and advertising: a lean, and muscular man.  These unrealistic expectations placed on men and their bodies can lead to body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, over-exercising, consumption of unnecessary (and potentially dangerous) supplements and the development of eating disorders.  

While the classic idea of an eating disorder in women is the pursuit of thinness, men seek to build muscle. Over-exercising and the extreme pursuit of muscle growth is seen as healthy in this twisted dieting culture. The result? There are an estimated 360,131 males with an eating disorder in Australia in 2019, 90% of adolescent boys exercise primarily to gain muscle, and up to two-thirds change their diet to increase muscle mass.

We need to ask ourselves, do we really want to give away our happiness, power, health, time and money to satisfy diet culture’s ideas of beauty? Do we really want to miss out on life by spending hours lifting weights and counting almonds? That is just not right. We all deserve to feel at peace with our bodies: men, women, people of all genders, sizes, and colours. Let’s smash diet culture together because it hurts us all!



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