More and more teenagers, especially boys, are spending hours on end in strenuous workouts at the gym and looking for high-protein diets. The goal? Get “big”, “monster”. This wave has grown to the point that specialists have already coined a term to refer to it: “bigorexia” (big in English means big, in Portuguese the word vigorexia is used).
Social networks help young people to find influencers who invest in hard training and food focused on the goal of “growing”. And these same networks become the favorite stage for the youngest to show the results achieved. TikTok, which predominantly talks to teenagers, is the platform of choice for this crowd.
An interesting discussion about bigorexia was the subject of this week’s article in The New York Times. Bigorexia has been seen by psychiatrists as one of the manifestations of a body dysmorphia (distorted perception of the body), more common in men, characterized by excessive bodybuilding, constant worry about not looking strong enough and a focus on diets that lead to loss. weight and muscle mass gain. The result can be an obsession with appearance.
The search for muscles
Seeking stronger bodies is not exactly new. Men of earlier generations who wanted to be buffed were inspired by photos and videos. After some time, most of them realized that becoming “giant” is a goal for few and depends on genetics, dedication, persistence, diet and a lot of time involved.
For today’s young people, 100% connected, social networks act as a kind of stimulator of this search. As the body grows, so does the number of followers. Thus, the audience can be perceived by them as an incentive to get bigger. This relentless search for recognition and reward implies a risk of loss of control, with behaviors that can become obsessive.
In the same way that anorexia is a body image disorder, in which people feel that they are overweight (even if they are not) and want to lose more and more weight, bigorexia can become a distorted perception about body size and body size. muscles, which creates a desire to want to grow more and more.
Instead of studying, friends and dating, training and food, which ends up limiting the youth’s living experience and imprisoning him in an ungrateful and daily struggle to, always under the pressure of the search for “likes”, continue working out and eating.
Rite of passage
Social media may be escalating boys’ devotion to a strong body to levels never seen before. In a youth culture that values super-bomb superheroes and online games of fight and power, going “big” can become almost a rite of passage for many of them, who fantasize about subscribing to an idealized world of men. desired and desirable.
Of course, this unbridled pursuit takes its toll. It is not uncommon for most people to not reach their goals or not be able to maintain the desired results, which can impact their self-esteem. As a consequence, frustration, anguish and anxiety.
The works that discuss the impact of social networks on the behavior of young people, in general, focus on how they can be harmful, especially for girls, leaving boys aside. Thus, this risk is little discussed.
Social networks also impact how appearance is evaluated by others. The more boys perceive their bodies as objects for the public, the more they fear being negatively evaluated, which can lead to compulsive behavior. This pressure can compromise the feeling of well-being.
self-esteem in check
The search for a muscular body can actually mask a low self-esteem in relation to body image and the permanent fear of not being well evaluated by others. Pursuing a supposed perfection ends up imprisoning the boy in a trap that is difficult to disarm.
A study published last year in the The Journal of Adolescent Health, evaluated nearly 4,500 men aged between 16 and 25 and found that 25% of them were concerned about not having enough muscle, and that 11% of them used supplements and hormones to increase muscle.
The pandemic further aggravated the situation. Social isolation, disruption of daily school, food and physical activity routines, more time in front of screens and social networks may have made many young people more exposed to these idealizations and less likely to talk about it with others. .
The boundary between being physically fit and obsessing about getting stronger is not always clear to very young boys, inserted in this still sexist culture that associates muscle and strength with power and admiration.
So, what starts out as an attempt to improve the body and be admired can become a real torment. That’s why it’s so important to deconstruct patterns of masculinity and beauty in the human body and be aware of harmful and harmful behaviors for the physical and mental health of young people.