Shirtless men

Almost every male fitness advertisement features a muscle-bound man without a shirt on. The unspoken implication is clear: do this workout and you will look like me.

Logically, you can’t look like him. You can only look like a fitter version of yourself. But in a visually-stimulated culture, the subliminal message gets through — “I’m inadequate unless I look like him.”

This feeling of inadequacy can lead men to obsess about their bodies. It’s called “The Adonis Complex,” as pointed out by Leslie Heywood and Shari Dworkin in their book, Built to Win:

“… Harvard medical researchers recently coined the term “the Adonis complex” to describe the kind of body obsession in boys and men that used to characterize only women: exercise compulsion, binge eating, and a nearly 50 percent dissatisfaction rate with physical appearance (a full 38 percent of men surveyed said they want bigger pecs). According to these researchers, ‘the Adonis complex’ names the ‘secret crisis of male body obsession; arising from ‘the media’s powerful and unrealistic messages emphasizing an ever-more-muscular, ever-more-fit, and often unattainable male body ideal.’ Men can no longer get by on their achievements, as has long been the case, their appearances less important than their activities. Goodbye to all that. Boys just gotta be hot.”

Body weight, body fat percentage, and lean muscle mass are all worthy metrics to be concerned about. Before and after photos are more or less silly.

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