That women and girls often struggle with body image issues is a well-known fact.
Surrounded by stick-thin celebrity role models and fashion icons, we are confronted with unrealistic ideals that leave girls underweight, dieting to extremes and even worse: literally dying to be thin.
But an article published by Douglas Quenqua in the New York Times suggested that boys as young as middle school age are facing extreme ideals just as severe as women. Instead of being thin, however, boys are being told to bulk up with muscle.
In the article, the Journal Pediatrics reported that “40 percent of boys in middle school and high school said they regularly exercised with the goal of increasing muscle mass. Thirty-eight percent said they used protein supplements, and nearly 6 percent said they had experimented with steroids.”
Strength training and weightlifting should not be confused, says the Mayo Clinic Website. Strength training is okay for children, because it is controlled and builds muscle endurance, but weightlifting puts excessive strain on the muscles, bones and joints.
The L.A. Times concurred with the Mayo Clinic’s statements, saying resistance training is safe as long as guidelines are followed.
Strength training might be safe, but what about the supplements some boys are taking? Most supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and contain ingredients that have not been evaluated.
Also, even if these do having dosing instructions, they are aimed at grown men and not young boys.
Steroids are dangerous regardless of age, but since these change the hormone levels in a person, it could do even more serious harm in developing boys.
In addition, anabolic steroids can cause prostate cancer and depression. Teenagers are already prone to mood swings and depression and the drug can aggravate these.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse website says that depression
"can be life threatening ... users may suffer from paranoia, jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.”
Males are generally viewed by society to be strong invincible creatures, but they are subject to the same feelings and pressure as women.
While society will continue to place emphasis on our appearance, what is truly important is self-acceptance.