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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 12:21 GMT
Men's beer belly 'days are over'
David Beckham
Men said David Beckham had the physique they most aspired to
The days when a man's beer belly was shown off as a symbol of his manliness are over, if a study is to be believed.

It suggests men are as body-obsessed as women - a third of respondents said they hated their stomach and a quarter had issues with their entire body.

The phone poll of 500 men, for Norwich Union Healthcare's "Mr Vain" study, found men felt pressurised to measure up physically to their sporting heroes.

And one in four said their partners put pressure on them to keep in shape.

Men need to understand that it's all about being in tune with your own body
Dean Hodgkin
Fitness expert

The survey says men are now aspiring to the male celebrity physique seen in so many lads' magazines.

According to the study, the body most men aspire to is that of England football captain David Beckham.

Actor Brad Pitt and Welsh rugby hero Gavin Henson follow close behind.

The survey suggests pressures on men to look good are so extreme that they can end up fooling themselves and others about their levels of fitness.

A quarter of those surveyed said they lied to their partners or friends about how often they exercise.

And a third exaggerate how much they can lift, while one in five lie about their weight.

'Body confidence'

Health and fitness expert Dean Hodgkin said that, by putting pressure on themselves, men can be unrealistic about their fitness levels.

He warned they could be doing themselves more harm than good.

"Men need to understand that it's all about being in tune with your own body, not comparing yourself with others or trying to look like somebody else."

He advises men not to focus on their looks but on their health as a whole.

Norwich Union Healthcare spokesman Dr Doug Wright said: "Men clearly feel pressure from all sides to look good, and this is resulting in them becoming very critical of their own bodies.

"Men need to regain their body confidence and remembers it's about developing a healthy body both inside and out, and not about living up to anyone's expectations but their own."

Eating disorders

The president of the Men's Health Forum, Dr Ian Banks, said men were now experiencing the same pressures as women, with the result that they were increasingly body-obsessed.

He said: "It is often easier to get through to men using image than it is to get through to them on health.

"But there is a danger with the way that we highlight issues that it can skew perceptions of risk."

He added that about 10% to 20% of all eating disorders were suffered by men.

"We don't know if it is increasing because of body image issues or just because we are urging men to go to the doctor and report their concerns."

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