By Steven Mair
Keto, paleo, vegan, IIFYM, intermittent fasting, high-protein, low-carb, diet teas, diet pills.
If you’re one of the two-thirds of Brits that are on a diet for a vague ‘summer body’ this year, there is a high chance you will have seen most of these terms bandied about on the internet from time to time.
Usually endorsed by Instagram fitness models, the act of simply trying to live a healthier life becomes a gauntlet run of disinformation, shame and sadness. It’s no wonder most of the diets we go on are over within a week of them starting. In the age of information, it’s ironically harder than ever to get to solid advice on how to create a sustainable habit of staying fit and eating well.
In March last year, I lost a full stone in weight. It took around 10 weeks. I received compliments from my girlfriend, family, friends, even at work. It felt amazing, it replenished my levels of self-confidence which had been running on fumes for years.
Shortly after I hit the one-stone landmark, I was away on holiday at a music festival in Croatia. I loved being able to walk around in just swim shorts, happy with how I looked. It probably got to the point of being obnoxious, but I didn’t care. I thought to myself: “I’ve done it. I’ve achieved the summer body.”
One year later and the weight is back with interest added on.
Without wanting to go down the ‘woe is me, a straight white male’ narrative, there is now an amazing body acceptance movement among women that simply doesn’t exist among men.
Radio host turned body positivity activist Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh campaign has amassed an Instagram following of 650K. It started with Jamil sharing one post.
She said: “I weigh: lovely relationship, great friends, I laugh every day, I love my job, I make an honest living, I’m financially independent, I speak out for women’s rights, I like my bingo wings, I like myself in spite of EVERYTHING I’ve been taught by the media to hate myself about, fucking KG.”
Women across the world now share similar messages to celebrate their own lives and their own being, rather than the number on their scale or their body fat percentage. If us guys will be honest, if we can suspend our ingrained habits of taking the piss for a few moments of critical thinking, we could do with some of that too.
Rather than fit teas, body wraps and Kim Kardashian-endorsed appetite suppressant lollipops, the male version seems to be supplements designed for muscle growth. ‘Ultra-mass gainers’, creatine, whey protein – these all serve a purpose for the right person. But they’re not for everyone.
Not every guy can smash the weights five times a week. So when these products with their hyper-masculine marketing pop up everywhere, it’s inevitably going to push people down a difficult road.
In 2017, eating disorders among men were found to have risen by 70% since the turn of the decade. Men experiencing feelings of body dysmorphia, a bracket I personally feel like I fall into, is also on the increase.
Us men are doing a good job of dismantling our in-built defence mechanisms when it comes to talking about our feelings and being open about mental health.
Could we do the same for dismantling the shame about having different-looking bodies from one another?