For years, women have complained that the beautiful, thin models used in advertisements leave them feeling overweight and inadequate. Now research has shown that men suffer exactly the same feelings of inferiority when they see adverts featuring attractive, muscular males.
Images of "bare-chested beefcakes" or toned athletes promoting aftershave, sunglasses and clothes leave ordinary men increasingly unhappy with their bodies, fuelling eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, excessive exercising and encouraging the use of "quick-fix" drugs such as steroids.
The research examined the responses of 160 men, divided into two groups. The men in the first group, shown advertisements featuring toned male models lifting weights to sell cologne, reported feeling deeply unhappy with their own physiques afterwards.
The second group, who were shown advertisements featuring older men wearing business or casual clothes, were markedly less depressed about their self-image. The commercials were shown at intervals during an episode of a television program, reports smh.com.au According to suntimes.com intentional starvation, cookie binges, vomiting, hospitalization. The details were typical for an eating disorder.
But Jeff Everts might not seem like a typical sufferer. In an era of diet fixation, chiseled underwear models and "a culture of muscularity," some researchers say eating problems among men are getting worse -- even as sufferers face a lingering stigma about having a "women's disorder."
"We're able to hide it much better," said Everts, 43, of Albuquerque, N.M., who is recovering from anorexia and bulimia. "We don't talk about it, where women would." Women are more likely to have eating disorders than men. But men can also suffer from bulimia, binge eating and, to a lesser extent, anorexia, researchers say. "More males are engaged in really abnormal eating behavior in terms of skipping meals, in terms of engaging in purging after eating, and laxative use," Weltzin said.
Everts said his disorder became evident in high school in the late '70s when he began eating less and exercising more to become a better athlete. The 5-foot-10 football player got all the way down to 96 pounds, a hospital room and eventually, a psychiatric ward.
"They just basically said, 'If you eat, you'll get out,'" he said. That triggered a new problem: binge eating. Everts eventually found help, though he still considers himself recovering. He now weighs around 134 pounds -- within the normal weight range for a man his height.
Researchers say people are becoming more aware of male eating disorders and more men are starting to come forward. But not all.
"My male patients also have to struggle with this layer of, Well, does this make me less of a man? Am I gay? What is all of this about?'" Olivardia said.
While there is a stereotype that eating disorders are more prevalent among gay men, Olivardia believes that perception is because gay men are more likely to seek treatment, informs newsday.com