What does an ideal male body look like? The answer depends entirely on the one doing the looking.
For some, it’s the overwhelming presence of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or the bulked-up chest of Drake. Others gravitate to the sinewy abs of Brad Pitt in Fight Club, a body that’s turned into a TikTok fitness trend.
Cut, ripped, jacked, swole—or even average, pudgy, or somewhere else on the spectrum—the notion that every man should aim for the exact same body standard is preposterous.
That applies to famous men, too. The physical expectations that male stars face can be absolutely brutal. Fortunately, men are publicly talking about the pressures and shame around their bodies more and more.
From Robert Pattinson battling Batman-sized judgment of his pecs to Zac Efron pointing out unhealthy fitness goals that took their toll on him during Baywatch, these guys have reminded us that it’s okay to relax and let go of obsessions about what a male body should look like.
Robert Pattinson has contended with silly comments on his appearance since his Twilight days. Now he’s going on the offensive. The generally slim 36-year-old Brit took heat online when he was first cast as Batman, drawing inevitable comparisons to Christian Bale and Ben Affleck that perhaps didn’t do him any favors.
“It’s crazy,” Pattinson said in an interview of the struggle to match a certain body image. He knows all too well the pitfalls of stars pursuing ridiculous training routines for roles.
“And it’s very, very easy to fall into that pattern as well, even if you’re just watching your calorie intake,” he added. “It’s extraordinarily addictive—and you don’t quite realize how insidious it is until it’s too late.”
Pattinson touched on the backlash when he dared to say that he was “barely doing anything” to prepare for The Batman in a GQ profile. “I got in so much trouble for saying that I don’t work out, even from my trainer, who was like, ‘Why would you say that?’”
Except Pattinson’s statement then wasn’t exactly true. Of course he was working out to become Batman (it’s probably in his contract). But it should also be fine that, like Michael Keaton before him, he doesn’t need to look like he could bench-press Bane.
Pattinson admitted he is not immune to body pressures, and he’s tried “every fad you can think of.”
“I once ate nothing but potatoes for two weeks, as a detox. Just boiled potatoes and Himalayan pink salt. Apparently it’s a cleanse… you definitely lose weight,” he said. “And I tried to do keto once. I was like, ‘Oh there’s a diet where you just eat charcuterie boards and cheese all the time?’ But I didn’t realize that you can’t have beer.”
Hugh Jackman is game for rigorously packing on pounds of muscle to embody Wolverine. But the 54-year-old Australian actor has countered speculation that he resorted to using steroids in order to achieve his mutant physique.
“No, I love my job. And I love Wolverine,” Jackman said in an interview on Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace. “I’ve got to be careful what I say here, but I had been told anecdotally what the side effects are of [steroids]. And I was like, ‘I don’t love [Wolverine] that much.’ So no, I just did it the old-school way. I’ve eaten more chickens—I’m so sorry to all the vegans and vegetarians and to the chickens of the world.”
If you’ve been following the rollout of Sam Smith’s latest album Gloria, you’ve probably noticed the fat-shaming online regarding Smith’s weight.
Nevertheless, at 30 years old, Smith sounds confident despite the hate.
“I’m happier in my own skin on Gloria,” the singer said in an interview with The Sunday Times. “I feel liberated, released from pressures I felt when I was young… My mum says that, as I’ve got older, I’ve stopped caring what people think as much. She tends to be right.”
They (Smith uses they/them pronouns) noted their struggle with body dysmorphia as they came up the ranks of the industry at a young age. “When I was 25, I came off tour exhausted. I looked to role models in the body world. Every time I went to the pool I felt self-conscious, but I forced myself to take my top off,” they added.
“It paid off because I now have the opposite of body dysmorphia. I look fabulous. I’m finally getting a tan. I’m burnt in places I’ve never been burnt.”
Over the course of his career, Zac Efron has been compared to a human Ken doll thanks to his chiseled mug and statuesque musculature. But apparently his body goals took their toll.
In a Men’s Health interview, Efron opened up about how training for 2017’s Baywatch led to declines in his physical and mental health. In addition to taking diuretics that remove water and salt from the body, Efron was reportedly overtraining, not sleeping enough, and eating the same monotonous three meals every day.
“That Baywatch look, I don’t know if that’s really attainable. There’s just too little water in the skin. Like, it’s fake; it looks CGI’d,” he said.
The 35-year-old added that he’s not interested in pushing himself to that level for a role again. “And that required Lasix, powerful diuretics, to achieve. So I don’t need to do that. I much prefer to have an extra two to three percent body fat.”
During Baywatch, Efron said, “I started to develop insomnia. And I fell into a pretty bad depression, for a long time. Something about that experience burned me out. I had a really hard time recentering. Ultimately they chalked it up to taking way too many diuretics for way too long, and it messed something up.”
When 50 Cent popped up during the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show alongside Eminem and Mary J. Blige, some commenters online took swipes at his size. The rapper wasn’t having it, though, responding by saying he saw nothing to be shamed about.
Fiddy shared the headline to his Instagram and said in the caption: “I call this teasing me, They’re just teasing me because they know i can drop the weight. that’s why i laugh with them. Fat shaming only applies when your ashamed of your fat. LOL 🤷🏽♂️😆.”
The Magic Mike movies have been successful due in no small part to the celebration of extremely fit men who strip down. But Channing Tatum has said the realities of achieving the abs-flexing perfection of his central stripper character weren’t so pleasant.
“That might be the reason why I didn’t want to do a third one, because I have to look like that,” Tatum said in 2022, responding to a picture of himself in Magic Mike XXL. That third movie, Magic Mike’s Last Dance, came out in February of 2023.
“It’s hard to look like that. Even if you do work out, to be that kind of in shape is not natural,” the 42-year-old star and former model explained. He underlined the fact that, to satisfy demands for awe-inspiring visuals, actors tend to cut down their size by quite a lot. “That’s not even healthy. You have to starve yourself. I don’t think when you’re that lean, it’s actually healthy.”
Adding that what he missed most while training was salt—excising it is key to a lean look—Tatum joked about the impracticality of working toward that body type for the normal person.
“I don’t know how people who work a nine-to-five actually stay in shape because it’s my full-time job, and I can barely do it,” he said.