Men's health * Healthy living

One in three men would give up a year of their life for ideal body

One in three men would give up a year of their life for ideal body Beer bellies and man boobs cause most concern

More than a third of British men would choose to die early if they could have the “perfect” physique.

A shocking new study, which reveals men are becoming increasingly obsessed with body image, found more than 35 per cent would sacrifice a year of life to achieve their ideal shape or weight.

Four in five men regularly engage in conversations about their bodies and most say they are unhappy with their “beer bellies”.

More than 60 per cent are dissatisfied with their muscularity and want more defined arms and chest. As a result, as many as one in five is on a high protein diet, while almost one in three use protein supplements.

Over half - 58.6 per cent – admit that talk about “ideal” male bodies among friends and in the media affects them personally, mostly in a negative way. In some cases it even prevents some men from going to the gym, because they feel so self-conscious about their looks.

The research is a collaboration between experts at UWE Bristol’s Centre for Appearance Research, the Succeed Foundation and Central YMCA.

Central YMCA chief executive Rosi Prescott said: “Historically conversation about your body has been perceived as something women do, but it is clear from this research that men are also guilty of commenting on one another's bodies and in many cases this is having a damaging effect.”

She added: “The high levels of body talk that we have found in men are symptomatic of a growing obsession with appearance. The fact that one in three men would sacrifice a year of life to achieve their ideal weight and shape is a worrying sign and suggests that men are placing more value on their appearance than on other things, including life itself.”

The study mirrors similar research in women, which shows that listening to just five minutes of so-called ‘body talk’ can lower overall body confidence.

Among men the most commonly discussed body issues are “beer belly”, six-pack and “man boobs”.

Dr Phillippa Diedrichs of the Centre for Appearance Research said: “This really demonstrates that body image is an issue for everyone, and that we need to take a collaborative approach towards promoting an environment that values diversity in appearance and promotes healthy body image.”

Karine Berthou, founder of UK-based eating disorders charity The Succeed Foundation added: “Negative body image is a serious issue in our society and is a key risk factor in the development of eating disorders.”

She noted that 17.4 per cent of men fear gaining weight every day, 17.8 per cent feel “fat” every day, while 31.9 per cent admit to having “exercised in a driven or compulsive way” to control their weight. Smaller but still significant numbers of men report making themselves sick at least once (4.1per cent) or using laxatives (3.4per cent) as a means of controlling their weight.

Berthou said: “This sort of disordered eating and exercise behaviour is deeply concerning and highlights that men must be included in eating disorder and body image programmes.”

This article was published on Fri 6 January 2012

Image © Knut Ekanger -

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