Gay men have a reputation for being super fit. But why? A new study suggests it may have to do with their body-image struggles.
The study found that gay men overwhelmingly preferred bodies with higher levels of muscle. This likely reflects the perception that gay men are less likely to be overweight than straight men, which leads to a greater focus on maintaining a slim, muscular physique.
Another factor is the stress that gay men face in trying to fit in with their community. “It’s very difficult to find a partner when you don’t look the right way,” says one gay man who wished to remain anonymous. In fact, a recent survey of gay and bi people in Australia found that a lack of fitness and appearance was the number one turn-off for potential partners. That’s despite the fact that the same survey found that homosexual men and women were equally concerned about finding someone they could be themselves with.
Finally, gay men are also forced to deal with the recurrence of the “weight gain cycle.” They will lose weight for a few months in an attempt to fit into their community’s idealized image. They will then gain weight, feel fat and ugly, and then lose it again in order to get back into their idealized shape for a big event such as a gay pride parade or a winter vacation.
This cycle of losing and regaining weight is incredibly hard on the body. It can also be psychologically exhausting.