Body image for boys

Image from the Beeb

Listening to Radio 1 yesterday morning, something I heard really bothered me. Having to get up as early as I do means that the first part of my morning is narrated by Dev, and slowly I’ve come to enjoy his slightly inane ramblings and bright, chirpy wake-up call. I can’t be doing with gentle in the morning – a noisy awakening is the only thing that will force me out from between those sheets!

My alarm goes of at 6am, so I have 30 mins of Dev’s show before Chris Moyles kicks in. A number of weeks ago, Dev and his producer were worrying about their health – the early starts associated with the morning slot, their greasy-spoon post-show ritual, and not getting enough sleep. Dev felt the strain had started to show – particularly in his formerly flat belly, now “a little bit bulbous”. A listener, also a personal trainer, volunteered his services and as a result Dev has started eating porridge in the morning for slow-release energy and doing a workout – push-ups and the like – in the studio. All good stuff, right? This morning, personal trainer Stuart was taking measurements to check up on his progress, circumference – hips, chest, abs, waist – and body fat.

Dev mentioned his confusion over body fat percentages (because he’s never been particularly flabby) and Stuart explained that this was about checking how much was muscle and how much excess fat. He measured the front and back of his arms, his back (below and to the sides of the shoulder blades), and his love handles, and came out with a body fat measurement of 35mm, which on the chart placed Dev at 14.5% body fat.

Dev asked about averages for his age range and Stuart replied that it depended where he was – in the queue for Macdonalds, for example, it would be distinctly higher (I’m not convinced he grasped the meaning of “average” in this context…) Either way, the healthy “normal” bracket for Dev’s age range (male) he revealed as 18-25%, placing Dev well below “normal”.

What concerned me was what came next.

Stuart: You’re below the normal…
Dev: It’s good – that’s good…
Stuart: …which, if you wanna see a six pack, you’re on the way!
Dev: Good!

Dev’s next question was how much did he need for a six pack. The answer? Below 10%.

“When you get to about 10– 7% something like that, you’re gonna start attracting the ladies.”


I know I write a lot about body image for women, but I have written once before about its effect on men (with regards to Josh Holloway’s abs and love handles) and feel it is equally pertinent. To begin with, this is 6.20am on a weekday. It may seem early to those of us who grew up within walking distance of school, but if my commute has taught me anything it’s that horrible school kids are on the bus anytime from 7am onwards! Which means that impressionable teenage boys are listening at that time and hearing that if they can just get their body fat percentage down to 7% they’re “gonna start attracting the ladies”.

Can you imagine the uproar if someone told a female Radio 1 presenter, say Fearne Cotton, that if she got down to a size zero men would start finding her attractive? And is there anything stopping teenage boys AND girls who know no better from looking at pictures of Dev and deciding their aim has to be thinner than an already slim man? It’s outrageous!

If you want to hear the interview yourself, it’s on the BBC Radio 1 Listen Again pages, for the 9th March, about 2 hours 14 minutes in.


2 thoughts on “Body image for boys

  1. It was not idiotic enough that women though that they had to be a size 0 to attract men, now men think they have to be skinny to attract women.Does the madness never end??

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