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What is ‘starvemaxxing’? Men call it ‘satire’ but experts worry about ‘harmful’ meme

Health experts are speaking out against the hazardous new fad of starvemaxxing, in which young male health nuts try and reshape their faces by drastically curbing their food intake.
Health experts are speaking out against the hazardous new fad of starvemaxxing, in which young male health nuts try and reshape their faces by drastically curbing their food intake.

Play in these social media Hunger Games and you might get hurt.

Another day, another hazardous health fad circulating TikTok: This time, health experts are speaking out against “starvemaxxing,” in which young male beauty nuts try and reshape their faces by drastically curbing their food intake.

“When this [restricted eating] gets to an extreme, then they might be suffering from an eating disorder,” Elizabet Altunkara, director of education at the National Eating Disorders Association, told Yahoo News.

A so-called starvemaxxer flaunts their skinny face. X/@kcalboys
A so-called starvemaxxer flaunts their skinny face. X/@kcalboys

Starvemaxxing is a subset of “looksmaxxing,” where cosmetically-obsessed young men and teens strive to streamline their faces via weightlifting, water drinking and even surgery.

Allegedly inspired by male model Jordan Barrett, the goal is to have hollowed cheeks, pursed lips and downward titled eyes, which they claim is too alluring to resist.

The trend has been associated with the “incel” — involuntarily celibate — community, who blame women’s supposed superficiality for issues that span well beyond the male victim’s love life.

Starvemaxxers also aim to achieve this skinny-faced ideal by minimizing what they eat.

“I starvemax,” one TikTok user captioned a video of them flashing their alarmingly gaunt face to the camera, per a Twitter screenshot.

Of course, many so-called starvemaxxers claim they’re just being hyperbolic about normal dieting while a slew of alleged starvemaxxing TikTok videos are satirical.

A TikTokker mocks the trend in a video. TikTok/@johandrumev
A TikTokker mocks the trend in a video. TikTok/@johandrumev

“Day 69 of trying the Jordan Barrett diet (I eat water),” quipped one TikTokker in a video of him sucking in his cheeks to mock facially-obsessed fasters.

Nonetheless, health experts are warning that this trend is perhaps more alarming than portrayed as online. “Any kind of restricting is harmful to the body and it can put people at risk of developing an eating disorder,” Altunkara declared.

These, in turn, can lead to a host of health problems, including nutritional deficiency, constipation, heart problems and even death.

Now, even so-called lookmaxxers are speaking out against the fad.

“Make sure you eat a lot and exercise a lot,” Brazilian model Francisco Lachowski, who’s often seen as the looksmaxxing poster boy, said in a video PSA from December 28. “Don’t do the whole starvemaxxing thing. That’s kind of weird.”

TikTok — a wellspring of dangerous online trends — is also doing its part to counteract “starvemaxxing” and similar trends by hiding some related videos from users.

Francisco Lachowski, a Brazilian model and looksmaxxing poster child, speaks out against the fad. TikTok/@motivationalimprovement
Francisco Lachowski, a Brazilian model and looksmaxxing poster child, speaks out against the fad. TikTok/@motivationalimprovement

For instance, when users type “starvemaxxing” into the search box, they are greeted by a cartoon heart image and a positive message instead of a relevant clip.

“You are not alone: If you or someone you know is having a hard time, help is always available,” it reads.

The platform also includes resources for those struggling with body image problems and eating disorders, including the phone number for the National Alliance for Eating Disorders.

Unfortunately, young men often take a backseat when it comes to eating disorders, which are more often associated with their female counterparts, Yahoo reported.

This is unfortunate given that males comprise over 25% of eating disorders, per a study from the Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

To make matters worse, male patients are often only diagnosed after their condition has deteriorated, which experts attribute to poor screening and the fact that men tend to underreport the ailment.

In July, scientists found a disturbing link between male eating disorders and pornography.

According to the study, authored by Israeli academics Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan and Zohar Spivak-Lavi, the more problematic a man’s relationship with porn tends to be, the more likely he is to be dissatisfied with his body and, ultimately, more vulnerable to developing various eating disorders.