The “cult of celebrity,” social media, and antiquated machismo ideals have men across the pond embarrassed to admit they are dieting. In a study conducted by the UK’s Canadean Custom Solutions (CCS), researchers found that one third of British males were on a diet—nearly 10 million. Out of that large swath, CCS found only 21 percent of the dieting men felt confident buying weight loss products at grocery and health stores. The feeling of shame was bloody-well present in the 18-24 demographic, where 67 percent of young men felt emasculated while dieting.
Young Brits have good reason to diet—17 percent of them are obese. But the manner in which weight loss products are being branded doesn’t speak to young men. Michael Hughes, Research Manager at CCS, said, “The dieting market is predominantly associated with females because of the way in which products are positioned and the celebrities used to endorse products, brands and dieting regimes.” He claims that if pro athletes were used to market diet products, males would be more likely to purchase them, as that strategy has worked to encourage guys in the UK to get regular health screenings.
Social media is having a negative affect on the self esteem of men in the UK. On a platform in which everyone tends to project their most idealized selves, males in the UK are especially unlikely to share dieting stories. “[Social media] means consumers social lives are more exposed than ever before, exacerbating concerns about appearance and body weight,” said Michael. He believes that social media creates even more pressure for young men to look a certain way, and sharing those feelings of insecurity “compromises their masculinity.”
A network in which people feel comfortable to share in an open dialogue about weight loss is vital to a dieter, so the radio silence is hindering a healthy approach.
Though Hughes claims, “Young US men will also feel particularly embarrassed about being on a diet,” our country’s tendency to encourage sharing—some would call it over-sharing, seems to paint a different picture. It’s no secret we’re fighting an obesity war in America, and there’s no shame in attacking it proactively. It starts small, with one person—male or female—implementing healthier eating and fitness behaviors. Because what’s more embarrassing, disliking yourself and being too scared to do anything about it, or taking productive steps to feel better?
Hughes mentioned the “retro-style views” UK men have about “proper male behavior” discouraged sharing diet stories. Healthy vulnerability is the new black and machismo is passe—here’s hoping men and women everywhere continue to do whatever it takes to shape a healthier self.