Bigger Muscles Won't Necessarily Attract Women
WebMD News Archive
Could it be that the Austrian women chose the less muscular
build so as not to look shallow? Pope doesn't believe so. "They answered in
privacy with complete anonymity," he says. "If anything, they could
have answered with their fantasy wishes for a big, strong hulk. They
So why do men keep striving for bigger and bigger muscles,
sometimes to the point of obsession? As with anorexia, Pope says, the media and
advertising are to blame for muscle dysmorphia. He notes that over the last 30
years there has been steadily increasing pressure on men to be leaner and more
"The most masculine movie stars from 30 years ago, such as
Gregory Peck or John Wayne, looked like wimps compared to modern action
superheroes," Pope says. "Even [the toy] G.I. Joe has bulked up."
While muscle dysmorphia may not be as life-threatening as starving, Pope says,
its victims are likely to take other risks with their health, such as using
steroids or other body-building drugs.
According to Pope, a man with muscle dysmorphia can be
identified by the following features:
- He is preoccupied with the idea that his body is not lean and
- He spends long hours lifting weights and pays excessive attention to
- This preoccupation causes major distress or impairs his social or
professional life. The man may forgo important social, work-related, or
recreational activities. He may avoid situations where his body will be
- He continues to work out or diet even when he knows it could hurt his
- He is most concerned about being too small or not muscular enough, as
opposed to being fat.
Pope, who has written a book about male body-image disorders
called the Adonis Complex, says there's nothing abnormal about the great
majority of men who work out in the gym. "The problem is, some men go over
the edge and it becomes a compulsion which undermines their occupation and
social lives," he says.
Charles I. Staley, MSS, vice president of program development
for the International Sports Sciences Association and a formal Olympic
weightlifting coach, says he's noticed the disorder not just in weightlifters
but also among track and field athletes. "Body-building can be a way for
people with low self-esteem to call attention to themselves," says Staley.
"Their whole self-image gets caught up in their body."