The relationship between the reading of fitness magazines and conceerns with leanness and muscularity among college men : dissertation / Magdala Peixoto Labre. - Gainesville : University of Florida, 2004
The purpose of this dissertation was to gain a better understanding of the relationship between the reading of men’s fitness magazines and concerns related to leanness and muscularity. Previous research had found an association between the reading of these magazines and internationalization of the fit ideal, body dissatisfaction, and eating disorder attitudes among college men. However, little was known about the nature of this relationship.
The dissertation combined a quantitative content analysis of Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness magazines published from 1999 to 2003, with qualitative, in-depth interviews with 13 male undergraduates. Findings suggest that fitness magazines disseminate only one type of male physique as healthy, fit, and attractive: the lean and muscular physique, characterized by chiseled abdominal muscles. Dissemination of this ideal may have the positive effect of promoting involvement in healthy activities, such as exercising with weights. However, the ideal is an extreme, unrealistic representation, which may contribute to body dissatisfaction and engagement in unhealthy, appearance-driven pursuits. In fact, few men can achieve the ideal without doing so.
Interviews with college men suggest that they may be internalizing the ideal and engaging in behaviors designed to attain it, such as limiting carbohydrates and/or fat in their diets, increasing consumption of protein, exercising (particularly with weights), and using performance-enhancing supplements such as whey protein, creatine, caffeine, and ephedra to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass. Some of these behaviors, particularly the use of supplements, could lead to serious health problems.
Overall, the interviews did not suggest that exposure to the magazines was a significant factor in motivating either men’s acceptance of the lean and muscular ideal or their involvement in behaviors linked to the pursuit of that ideal. Rather, findings suggest that other influences, such as previous involvement in competitive sports or interactions with friends who engage in these behaviors, may contribute to an interest in body change that precedes the reading of fitness magazines. More research is needed to determine whether—and if so among which readers—exposure to fitness magazines may serve to reinforce existing concerns related to achieving a lean and muscular physique.