Of anyone who should seem to be unsatisfied with their body, elite athletes would seem to be last on the list. But many, both men and women, seem unhappy with their physique, according to a recent survey of college athletes at Ohio State University.
“Men are having more issues with their body image,” says author Jennifer Carter, a psychologist at Ohio State University. Carter presented her work at the annual meeting of American Psychological Association in Toronto. For her study, 882 athletes from her university discussed their eating habits.
While the women surveyed said they wanted to lose weight—on average 6.8 pounds, men said they wanted to beef up. One out of five believed that they are not muscular enough. On average, men wanted to gain 3.2 pounds.
Carter attributes this to a growing popularity in male fitness, and men placing more unrealistic expectations on their image, even for students whose bodies have brought them to such an elite level.
Sports where it is helpful to be lean, such as gymnastics, cross-country, track and swimming, buck this trend. Both men and women tended towards weight loss. For males, 17.5 percent showed symptoms of eating disorders, binge-eating and purging, for example.
Carter is concerned that more men are developing unrealistic expectations about their bodies. “Body image for men, all men, is going to be a concern,” says Carter.