Is your man risking his health to look good?

Published Friday, Mar 11 2016, 20:00 GMT  |  By  |  Add comment
New research suggests more men than ever are damaging their health in the quest for physical perfection

While women have long lived under pressure to reach impossible standards of beauty, there is a growing rise in the number of British men who are feeling the strain to measure up.

Nathan Turvey is a model so feels pressured to look good

© Reader's own

As a model, he's under pressure to look good

Whether it's a model-perfect washboard stomach or action movie-inspired bulging biceps, guys are risking their health – physically and mentally – to achieve a certain look.

Recent research conducted by menswear retailer Jacamo, polling 2,500 British men, revealed almost half of those in the survey desperately wanted to lose weight. Many said films and TV programmes were to blame for featuring unrealistically attractive men.

It's no wonder there's been a steep rise in the number of men turning to illegal steroids to bulk up. The 2015 Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 60,000 men a year were using the drugs – risking heart attacks, strokes, mood swings, hallucinations and depression in pursuit of the perfect physique.

And, although eating disorders are often thought of as a female-dominated problem, one-fifth of all cases are male. Alarmingly, there's been a 27 per cent rise in men being diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia over the last decade.

Here, two men speak openly about the struggles they face with their body image…

Nathan Turvey, 21, a model and assistant manager from Manchester, says,

"I'd always been a fan of TV shows like TOWIE and Geordie Shore. The stars had the kind of body shape I wanted – strong, masculine, toned. They lived up to the flawless male bodies that were constantly popping up on my social media newsfeed.

I thought that was what all girls wanted in a boyfriend.

At 18, I was in good shape. I started competing with a colleague to see who could lift more at the gym and stick to the strictest diet.

But I still wanted more definition.

Nathan Turvey relied on diet pills and growth hormones

© Alyson Blanchard

Nathan used diet pills and growth hormones

So I started taking diet pills and growth hormone tablets. Within two weeks, I could see a huge change in my shape. I was buff and toned. It was so easy.

When I started modelling, aged 19, the pressure grew. If you didn't have the perfect body, you didn't get the job.

I didn't tell my girlfriend, Jane Turner, 21, until she caught me knocking back some pills and asked what they were. She didn't understand why I wasn't happy with the body I had.

Although I was feeling more agitated, at first I was able to hide it from Jane. But when she fell pregnant and we moved in together, my mood swings meant we bickered constantly. I got annoyed about things that would never have mattered to me before, like Jane leaving a cup in the sink.

Our daughter, Ava, was born in April 2015, and in the first few weeks, when I was supposed to be enjoying family time, I just felt so pent-up and annoyed. As a result, my relationship suffered, too.
It was the pills – I knew that. Between cycles of growth tablets, the mood swings disappeared.

Eight months ago, when Ava was eight weeks old, I stopped taking the growth hormones altogether.

But I can't give up the diet pills so easily. I take them in the lead-up to a shoot, to stop me bloating. They don't affect my mood, but do disrupt my sleep pattern, so I know I should stop.

I want to be a better father and partner, but it's hard to ignore the pressure every time I look in the mirror."

Dennis Dix, 29, a TV extra from Nottingham, says,

Dennis Dix now he has stopped using steroids

© Doug Marke

He wanted to bulk up to get 'tough guy' roles

"All the guys I know have huge, rippling muscles, so I've always felt under pressure to look good. But, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get muscles as big as them.

At 17, I started weight- training. I realised my friends were using performance- enhancing drugs, and I began taking steroids myself in 2002, aged 19.

Keen to get into acting, I wanted to look the best I could. Without steroids, I wouldn't get the 'tough guy' roles I wanted.

The pills cost £25 for 100 tablets. To begin with, I took three a day – I was wary of the side effects. Within weeks, I was taking 15 pills a day and working out six days a week.

Within a month, I looked much bigger. The testosterone boost also gave me more power and determination.

Six years later, I moved on to steroid injections. I'd heard they worked better. Although I was aware of the health implications, I believed it was worth the risk. Injecting twice a week only cost me £16.

Embarrassed and ashamed, I didn't tell my friends and family.

Dennis Dix used steroids to look good

© Reader's own

His toned body didn't make up for his mood swings

By 2010, the drugs were making me very aggressive and violent.I barely recognised myself and didn't like the person I'd become. Friends became wary of me, as I'd flip at anything.

I knew the steroids caused my mood swings, and finally I had to stop. Yes, I miss my old body, but it wasn't worth the negative effects.

It's not just women who have to deal with these issues. Many guys feel the pressure to look a certain way, too, and sometimes we're willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve it."

By Paisley Gilmour, Joe Mellor and Kim Willis

For exclusive competitions and amazing prizes visit Reveal's Facebook page NOW!