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First Posted: 8/12/2013

That sexual attractiveness and health are related is an idea that is widespread among many Americans. If a man or a woman is attractive, they must be healthier, so the reasoning goes. Moreover, a person often sees the idea of “attractiveness” as a result, in part, of “good genes” – inheritable genes that jive well with overall health and attractiveness.
But, according to research published a few years ago by the American Psychological Association, this assumption is not true, at least in the case of men.
To understand why is to understand the different aesthetic expectations that are placed on both men and women. Women, generally speaking, who are considered the most attractive, have a low Body Mass Index (BMI) within a normal range (18- 24), proportionate faces, and low height-to-weight ratios. In other words, they are, simply put, thin. An attractive man, on the other hand, has a classic “V-shape,” with muscle and body fat deposited on the upper half of his body.
By most health standards, this irregular body mass distribution in men is not considered healthy.
Because this specific trait is not expected of women, and “thinness” is, attractive women are considered healthier, whereas attractive men, who possess the abovementioned physical attributes, are not. The only physical cue that predicts both health and beauty, according to this social science research, is waist-to-hip ratios and weight in women.
So, if a bulky, muscular man-body is – in the long run – not healthy, than what sort of body is?
“If the healthiest male bodies were most attractive,” the authors of the study write, “men who are thin (low in fat and muscle) would be considered the most attractive.”
In other words, thin women and thin men, ideally, would be considered most attractive because both would possess the sex-specific hormonal markers, proper proportions, healthy BMIs, and other objective measures that constitute good health.
Media content in the form of fashion magazines, broadcast news and entertainment, movies, and television all reinforce aesthetic stereotypes for both men and women, and, although the expectations set on women are particularly disturbing, they are no less virtuous for men, either – a problem with less attention and awareness given to it. In fact, similar research has revealed that steroid use among adolescent boys occurs at the same proportion as bulimia and anorexia in adolescent girls (although bulimia and anorexia do affect men, too).
Translation: body image stereotypes, whether it be for overly thin women or big bulky men, are absorbed by the population and can cause harm. In the case of men, the image of a big muscular body may bode well for shirtless days on the beach, but, over time, carrying around lots of weight isn’t good. Finally, the solution, I propose, for being both sexy and healthy, is for men to stick to a clean diet with lots of cardio and some resistance training. The process will produce lean, mean bodies, male bodies that are both desirable to a potential partner and healthy, too.