How The Fitness Industry Is Negatively Impacting Teenage Boys - StrongLife

How The Fitness Industry Is Negatively Impacting Teenage Boys


Is the fitness industry negatively impacting teenage boys?

After many months, I’m finally sitting down to write this.

I want to write this following a few talks I done in a boys school in Co. Longford back in May this year.

But more importantly, I’m writing it after a conversation I had with a 13 year old boy and his dad yesterday.

There appears to be more and more pressure on younger lads these days.

And a lot of it seems to be driven by what they’re seeing online from the fitness industry.

The Shock Of A Conversation With Teenage Boys

In May, I spend a few hours each week with a group of Transition Year students.

We talked all things fitness, how to build muscle, nutrition and sports.

But a common theme emerged – they were all conscious of how they looked.

Not only that, but they all wished they looked better.

But yesterday was when it really shocked me.

A teenage boy talking so negatively about his body.

How he needed to lower his bodyfat percentage, how he needed to gain muscle, how he had to get stronger.

It was crazy to hear a 13 year old speak like that.

At 13, I spent most of my days eating penny sweets and doing smelly farts near girls.

(I still do both).

As a man who prides himself as being a perfect blend of manchild and serious, it made me sad.

It made me sad to think of the pressures on youth today.

How social pressures and what they see online is stealing them of a childhood.

And I’ll go into that more in detail later.

So why are they feeling under pressure?

The Pressure Arising From Social Media/Fitness Industry

A question I asked to all of them was – “How many are of you are on instagram?”

Every single kid was.

So I followed up with “Who looks at Instagram first thing in the morning and last thing at night?”.

90% all raised their hand.

As teenagers, we are highly impressionable.

Back in my day, it was by what your friends were doing.

All mothers used ask “if he jumped off a bridge, would you?”.

That was normally after they found out about some stupid stuff we were up to.

But life was much more simple then.

There were no camera phones and no social media.

We didn’t worry half as much.

However, now teenagers are all online, they’ve more social media apps than ever, and they all consume their content in the form of images/videos etc posted by people they look up to.

Every single day when they open their phone they are being subjected to images of male physiques.

They’re being subjected to what could possibly be construed to be how we are all mean to look.

Just click onto any fitness hashtag and you will inundated with pictures of topless guys with lots of muscle and ripped abs.

Then we look in the mirror and we see the opposite of that.

We see no definition on our stomach, no big arms or chest.

We can suddenly feel inferior and negatively view how we look.

And when we try to find out how to look like that, we are met with a world of information.

But more importantly, we are met with a world of lies.

Lies that deceit susceptible people into buying products, training plans or meal plans.

More on that later.

But first…

It’s Not Just The Fitness Industry

Put on any Hollywood film or Tv show these days and you will see a common theme.

Every lead male actor is in incredible shape.

He’s muscular, very lean and is seen as a sex symbol for girls.

Not only that, but all these guys have a hot girl on their arm.

So if you feed that down the line to teenage minds, it’s fair that a few will think “I need to look like that in order to have a girlfriend that hot”.

But let me tell you this, looks only get you so far.

If you’re an asshole when you open your mouth then that’s gonna be a deal breaker.

But it is fair to see films like that.

They film industry has evolved over time.

As humans we are visually stimulated, so of course they look to get that onto the screen.

I doubt there’s any lad that doesn’t look at The Rock and think “jaysus it’d be some craic to look like that”.

Or maybe it’s Tom Hardy (I had a major man crush on him after Warrior).

Regardless of who, we are impacted by what we see.

But there’s a reality behind everything you look at.

Always Appreciate The Context Behind Every Picture

One thing I talked about was context.

When you see a Hollywood star in great shape, look at the context behind it.

They’re paid a very large salary to play that role.

And they were asked to achieve a certain physique to do so.

So with said large salary and the required physique, they have lots of options.

They can hire personal chefs, have the best personal trainers on hand, top of the range gyms etc.

(The Rock has his own mobile gym he brings with him).

And let’s not forget the fact that many will use performance enhancing drugs (steroids) to achieve that desired look.

But let’s pull it back to a more local view – the fitness industry.

On social media, every hour of every day, there are hundreds of photo’s of people in great shape uploaded.

And if you are in any ways feeling poorly about how you look, these can exacerbate those feelings.

So next up is…

The Truth Behind Fitness Photos

If you’re into fitness, no matter where you look you will be exposed to fitness trainers posting pics.

The lads are topless and ripped, the girls are in underwear/very tight leggings.

And they are generally accompanied by a motivational quote or some nonsense.

But before you judge yourself after look at the photo, I want you to consider these things.

  1. The photo you see if merely a millisecond of that persons life. It does not mean they look like that all year around.
  2. How long have they been dieting to look like that?
  3. How many years have they been training?
  4. Are they using any substances to achieve such a look?
  5. Have they manipulated lighting/filters, or altered their pics on photoshop/apps.
  6. Did they dehydrate themselves to just get that one photo?
  7. How many times a day do they train?
  8. Do they punish themselves with exercise after eating ice cream?

The reality is that a LOT of online photos are highly edited, with hours spent perfecting that one pose to look that way.

That’s time that could be spent eating good food, drinking nice coffee and having fun.

Now the more important questions.

9. Are they happy in life?

10. Have they a positive relationship with their body, mind and food?

11. Are they enjoying themselves or spending every day obsessing over how they look and what they eat?

12. Are they a nice person?

13. Is their levels of self-worth directly in relation to how many ‘likes’ they get online?

14. Do they suffer with disordered eating?

Unfortunately, there’s a whole host of underlying questions to be asked.

Above are a few of them.

And don’t forget that all these people are doing this for a living.

So the better they look, the more likely they can find people to buy their stuff.

And unfortunately, when money is involved, ethics go out, steroids go in.

It is FAR more common than you think.

They just refuse to tell you because they want you to believe that’s an attainable physique so you buy their programme.


What Teenage Boys Should Focus On

While we all want to look good, we have to also respect the fact that nothing is worth doing if it makes your life miserable.

We need to spend less time trying to impress others and fitting in, and more time being ourselves and having fun.

So for teenage boys, spend more time being a teenager, and less time sprinting to become an adult.

No joke!

As the years go buy, it seems the jump from senseless teen to sensible adult is becoming smaller and smaller.

And with that, youth is being stolen.

Teenage years are the time for you to do daft things without judgement.

You should be out enjoying yourself, playing sports, having fun and just acting the eejit care free.

It should never be a time where you are self conscious of how you look.

You shouldn’t be worrying about bodyfat or muscles (unless it’s causing medical concern).

Trust me, when you get older you soon wish you could go back to those care-free days where you could jump on a bike and just wander off with friends.

And if you do want to hit the gym, then do so because you enjoy it, because you like it and it makes you feel good.

Focus on learning the basics really well – pushups, pullups, squats, lunges, planks.

Do stuff you can have fun with.

Learn about food and stick to eating as much good food as you can.

But just don’t forget about the bonbons.

(I feel sorry that you didn’t get to experience Christy Wynnes sweet shop. How I would love a quarter of apple drops out of there now!!)

Teenage years is a time to have fun and not have mortgages, children, bills, loans, jobs to be worrying about.

So always put fun at the top of your to-do list and let the rest fall into place.

In Conclusion

This has been a shorter version than planned. It will get expanded over the coming year.

  • But ignore stuff you see online, because most of it is fake.
  • Always look for the context behind photos.
  • Avoid buying products/plans based off how someone looks.
  • Focus on doing fun workouts, eating good food and play lots.
  • If you are anyways struggling with body image or how you view yourself, talk to your parents.

There’s never any reason a child should be feeling such a way.

  • If you ever feel poorly from what you see online, simply unfollow/delete it.

This will clear your head up greatly.

Once you remove it from sight it will soon leave your mind and you can focus more on your own happiness.

  • Eat bonbons.
  • Do smelly farts.
  • Spend more time with your friends.
  • Try as many sports as you can
  • Ignore negative people
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things if it means being happy
  • Smile more, be happy and forget the small stuff.

There’s more to life than living the way you thing others want you to live.

Don’t be afraid to fly your own flag.

Nobody ever gets through life and be happy to think you lived on other peoples terms.

Focus on yourself and focus on how you feel.

Always look after your health first and the rest should fall into place.

Step out of your comfort zone as often as you can, it will help you grow as a person.

And at the end of the day, just be yourself.

People will appreciate you more.

Genuine people are always greater than fake ones.


Thanks for reading.



Colm Duignan

Colm Duignan

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Bobby - August 3, 2018 Reply

I appreciate that you didn’t go down the extreme route of fit-shaming or blaming everything on new media.

Fitness can be a tricky thing. I was very conscious of my weight when I was 13 and went through a mild form of anorexia – staying eternally between 6 and 8 stone until I was 19. Then when I got into fitness it helped me manage my weight better.

The other extreme is nonsense like the Body Positivity Movement who preach that “all bodies are good bodies” and try to insist that there’s nothing wrong with being overweight or obese. I knew a guy who was 14 stone at the age of 16 and refused to lose weight for ages – even though it was negatively affecting his health. He eventually got the message and lost three stone but plenty of others won’t.

I feel like we need to educate people on the balance – being super muscly doesn’t make you better than someone, and neither does being overweight. You don’t need to kill yourself in the gym, but you should take care of your body since you only get one.

    Colm Duignan
    Colm Duignan - August 3, 2018 Reply

    Hi Bobby,

    Thanks for taking the time to read it.

    Very glad to hear you’ve come out the other side of things and are managing your weight better.

    There definitely needs to be more health focus rather than visual pleasing focus when it comes to gym and fitness.

    We’re in a small bubble where people put too much value on how they look. Instead, be healthy, happy and live a good life.

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