July, 2018

Body Image Issues

Negative Body Image


Men’s Health

Fitness for Men

Men Today…The Real Issue

There is a real issue faced by men today, young and old…The one that no one wants to speak about. Seems irrelevant today but has the potential to snowball into a huge problem…Read on.

I know what you might be thinking and lots of people talk about what you are thinking. Well, what no one wants to speak about openly are “body image issues” amongst men. And teenage boys. And young men. And men over 40. It’s all across.

It stares you in the face on billboards. On Instagram. On YouTube. In films. In Magazines. Whether TV ads or films or TV shows or any public platforms which are followed by the audience at large, you see only well-chiselled men with 6 pack abs, lean bodies, 6% body fat and phenomenal well-defined muscles. As if anything less than this is not acceptable. Most followed youth icons on social media like Farhan Akhtar, Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan, SRK, John Abraham or any other star worth their salt is uploading photos of such super fit bodies that a normal guy would look at himself in the mirror and might be embarrassed at what he sees. Millions of young men want to be in films. And what is being subliminally fed to them through pop culture is that more than talent, the first thing they need to get is ‘6 pack abs’. No 6 packs; no chance! Can you imagine how this must be messing up the minds of young men? And here starts their journey of not being happy with how they look and then developing a negative body image in due course.

Body Image Issues

The popular definition for ‘Body Image’ is this: It refers to how people see themselves. It is a person’s perception of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings, positive, negative or both, which result from that perception.

Whilst problems associated with having a Distorted Body Image are well chronicled in women, no one really addresses this in men. And I want to speak about it today but keeping the context purely focused on fitness and what it really means for me. In today’s society that promotes unrealistic body ideals portrayed in pop culture that I spoke of earlier, it is challenging to not get caught up in comparing oneself to these unrealistic standards. As a result, many men today may experience depression, anxiety, helplessness and even self-loathing when it comes to their body. In addition to affecting an individuals view of self, it may also result in avoidance of social situations and may interfere in developing healthy social and personal relationships.

No 6 pack abs, no lean body, no rippling muscles equal no fitness. Is this really true? And what does fitness or being fit really mean? I will speak about 2 diverse personal experiences here before I delve further into the subject…

There was an “Aamir Khan Transformation Video” that surfaced on YouTube during the release of his movie ‘Dangal’ in which he is shown transforming from a fat thick obese man to a lean rippling muscle machine. It seemed he achieved this transformation in 3 months. The first time I saw it, I was mesmerised. But then as I delved further into it and spoke to fitness trainers myself on what it takes to get this transformation, the true underbelly emerged. Of expensive supplements, steroids, customised nutrition and nothing else but a single-minded focus on fitness. Well, that was his job so he did that. But can you pause to think what it does to millions of young men who follow him and to their idea of fitness? One only has to research this subject on the internet to find out how many young men DIE in the process of using dangerous steroids to get this kind of body. It is unrealistic. I wish Aamir would have also spoken at length about what it took to transform like that in that small time frame and the kind of expensive ‘help’ he took to achieve the same.

The second incident was personal. I met an old friend after a couple of years who follows me on social media and regularly sees the boxing training videos that I put up. When he met me, instead of exchanging pleasantries, the first thing he tells me is, “You workout so much still how come you do not have a flat tummy. Pet kyun nikla ha abhi bhi”. I wanted to tell him that dude, I am probably in the fittest and strongest zones of my life. I ran a half marathon 5 months back, I climb up 16 levels of stairs twice a week, I workout 3 times a week with intense drills, I run 4-5 km thrice a week and do 500 punches and 50 pushups at least 4 times a week and play competitive cricket once every alternate week! I can give any young man a run for his money on fitness workouts. I didn’t say all this. But because I don’t have a lean, thin, ‘abbed’ body, I was not ‘fit’! I walked away with a smile but was thinking about the popular idea of perceived fitness again. Flat muscled stomach equals fitness.

The above two incidents really portray the unrealistic expectations from men about bodies today and what it can do to them. I would assume most men would not take to fitness seriously only because they are scared of not being able to achieve these unrealistic goals. Or must be giving up since they were unable to achieve these unrealistic goals. I want every man reading this post (and woman) to understand that fit bodies are not just about having the obvious synthetic metrics…I have seen in my office young men unable to climb one flight of stairs without panting and huffing and puffing for breath…These are men who have “gymmed up” fit bodies but walking half a kilometre to the cutting chai stall leaves them out of breath…What good are six pack abs if you cannot even do basic activities without any stress? Aren’t these points to ponder on?

Media’s Contribution

Wherever you go, we see men with unrealistic bodies. Whilst there are now a few ads, movies etc where ‘real’ women are portrayed and even celebs speak about this movement abundantly giving hope to young women worldwide, there seems to be a complete silence on the impact of this on young men and future problems that could arise out of it. Even as we speak, cosmetic fitness is at the forefront than anything else.

Soccerdad’s Mantra

Fitness is not just about muscles. It is holistic. It is about the mind and discipline. It is about picking up an activity and sticking to it come what may. It is about being able to do the ‘everyday’ things with great gusto and enthusiasm. To look active, to look as if you mean business. Leave the “I want a ripped body” business to the glamour professionals, it’s their business after all. The day you want to make it in showbiz do get those 6 pack abs with zeal, hell if someone pays me 10 crores for a movie and wants me to build a chiselled body for that, I will too. Sharing a few of my fitness tips that have worked for me since the last 2 and a half years… Yes its been 30 months of me committing to a healthy lifestyle and not yet having ‘six pack abs’ but I am getting fitter and stronger by the day and that’s what counts for me…

  1. Drop the colas, tetrapak juices, processed foods & desserts (I was addicted to them so I had to let go entirely for a long time). There was a time when I needed a cola at every meal. If I can give this up, so can YOU. Remember ‘If it comes in a packet, it should remain in the packet’.
  2. Reduce the red meat. I am in love with mutton, can eat it at every meal. But I have reduced my consumption to about once a month now (I gave it up completely for 18 months).
  3. Figure out a diet that suits you. Please consult a nutritionist who will guide you. DO NOT do this yourself, fitness is mostly about ‘what you eat & when’ than about what you burn in a fitness activity.
  4. I don’t like to workout in a gym and hence decided to learn boxing. I recommend that you hit the gym or pick up a sport that you love. Whatever it is, train hard and commit to it. 3 hours a week should be good enough to roll with.
  5. Respect your body. Focus on ‘being fit’ THAN ‘looking fit’. If you take the former seriously, the latter will follow.
  6. Do not fall prey to the external world’s perception of fitness. Be the master and commander of your own ship. Your definition of fitness should be defined by you, don’t let anyone do it for you or even discourage you by their insensitive comments.
  7. Remember this – Celebs get paid to get those ripped muscles in a short period of time. It is their profession. Fitness is a long journey and with a moving goalpost. Stay the course…

And last but not the least…
Tension nahin leney ka…Ekdum mast fit rehne kaa 🥊