According to the Boston Medical Center, approximately 45 million Americans diet each year. For some dieters, losing weight is a health imperative. For many others, however, dieting has to do with body image, and can lead to unhealthy results, especially for women. One study found that images of fat women illicit a reaction in the section of the female brain associated with “unhappiness and self-loathing.” For homosexual men and women, a trait for femininity increases the risk of developing an eating disorder, whereas masculinity is protective against development of an eating disorder. But, men are not immune to societal pressures, and struggle in progressively larger numbers with body image issues.
Current research indicates that many men are becoming increasingly preoccupied and dissatisfied with their bodies, most often associating increased muscle mass with attractiveness. The desire for additional muscle is linked to masculinity. Thus, most men want more muscle—and a lot more. Indeed, popular media portrays unrealistic images of the ideal male body as perfectly toned and significantly more muscular than the average male (the equivalent of the size-zero female model).
Thus, for an overweight man, the challenge is two-fold. The man must lose weight, and gain muscle. However, while gaining muscle is seen as a macho activity, dieting is not. So what do men who want to lose weight do? They drink Dr. Pepper Ten! The ten-calorie drink is marketed as “Not for women!” and serves as a reminder that men do not diet, they drink manly chrome-colored cans of low-sugar beverages. I’m not sure how I feel about the marketing scheme. On one hand, I am sympathetic to an overweight man’s desire to make healthy choices, and am disgusted by the ad. On the other hand, I wish there were more anti-dieting ads, perhaps directed towards young females. …Or maybe I just wish the ads were promoting health, and portraying realistic body images.
Either way, it seems that women are no longer alone in their struggle to win the body-image race.