2022 Trend: Toxic Muscularity Comes Clean

How bulging biceps and rippling abs have had a negative ripple effect on male body image—and how the conspiracy of silence around the rising crises of muscle dysmorphia for men and boys is finally being addressed

For a decade, we’ve seen so much forward progress around women’s body positivity in a culture that has long held such unrealistic standards for the female form: You can’t even say “weight loss” now. What’s shocking is how a rising male body image crisis—–fed by an endless stream of perfect, ripped Adonises in Hollywood, across social media, and in fitness culture—–have remained in the closet.

Our 2022 trend, “Toxic Muscularity Comes Clean”, is about how the male equivalent of the conversation about unhealthily thin female models and Barbie dolls is finally happening. The problems of muscle dysmorphia that increasingly plague men and boys globally is starting to get addressed—–even if the movement is still underdeveloped.

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The Trend in the News

What Is ‘Bigorexia’?– The New York Times,
March 9, 2022

This new, in-depth article on the trend explores how a social media diet of perfect bodies is leading to a muscle dysmorphia (“bigorexia”) issue for teen boys. The most popular TikTok and YouTube accounts reveal a landscape dominated by musclemen—and more young men are now becoming obsessed with weightlifting and dieting. It’s a crisis worsened by the pandemic, with all the social isolation and constantly being in front of screens and cameras.

Men in the Mirror: A Closer Look at Body ImageMen’s Health, October 22, 2021

Global Wellness Summit trend author Jamie Millar describes how male body image is a hugely under-reported subject, and how a storm of cultural influences means that the pressure to look ripped and perform better is keenly felt by boys and men, but rarely discussed. Millar argues it’s time for self-reflection (noting that this topic is the hardest one he’s written about in his eight years at Men’s Health)—and he presents case studies of athletes, male models and personal trainers detailing how body image pressures have personally affected them.  

The Open Secret to Looking Like a Superhero– Vox, November 5, 2021

An important, detailed exposé on how Hollywood celebrities and fitness influencers keep quiet about their rising use of muscle-building, fat-burning and masculinizing anabolic-androgenic steroids and other IPEDs. It explores how a thriving industry of these now widely-accessible drugs has created the new male body standard; how they work so well that they’re irresistible; their long-term physical and mental health risks, and how they’re moving far beyond celebrities to use by boys as young as 15 years. 

Eating Disorders in Men Are Not Talked About Enough—and They’re on the Rise 
Healthline, November 23, 2021

Eating disorders are strongly associated with girls/women, but 1 in 3 that experience them are male, with purging and fasting for weight loss nearly as common in men as in women. With eating disorders in boys and men on the rise, this article explains how athletes, people of color and LGBTQ+ people are most at risk; why they’re on the rise for men; how important inclusive language is in diagnosis and treatment; and how treatment can best work for men.

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