In the year following the 2006 film 300, Google Trends shows a 300% increase in searches for the term “six pack abs.” Many magazines promise to relay the secrets of the “Superman workout” or the “Thor workout” or the “300 workout” or the “Insert-name-of-pumped-up-movie-hero-here workout.” What is often left out is the explanation of how these physical transformations become tightly controlled labor camps for the actors, and how the muscle gains and rippling midsections are fleeting.
This media pressure can lead to muscle dysmorphia (colloquially known as “bigorexia”), which is an obsession with not being muscular enough. Listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it strikes primarily among men who are already lean and muscular, compelling them to quest for even more muscle mass and ever lower levels of body fat. It can lead to compulsive exercise regimens that decrease quality of life, as well as disordered eating. Sometimes, anabolic steroids are sought out to quench one’s desire to be huge. The supplement industry sure has cashed in on all of this. It’s worth noting that many of those muscle mags are owned by supplement companies and used as vehicles to hawk their mass gaining wares.