During my talk in Houston last week an interesting topic came up: the comparison between male & female body image. I’m specifically referring to eating disorders in males and females, which is almost at an even statistic. Unfortunately many parents are alarmed when they realize their young male is making negative comments about his body, because people think that only girls look in the mirror and make comments about their appearance. Why you may ask? To put in simplest terms, men are expected to be strong and independent. Females are thought of to be insecure, quiet and more vulnerable as they grow up, which you and I may not agree with but many people still have that unrealistic and sexist opinion of about women. The media plays a major role in facilitating negative body image and body dysmorphia for boys and girls because the minute you walk outside, into a store or even into a book store people see so many different pictures of celebrities, athletes and public figures who have been airbrushed and retouched to look “perfect” in whatever campaign they’re appearing in- and many don’t realize that any of your favorite celebrities or athletes don’t wake up looking like that!
According to psychiatry.org,
Eating disorders are the third most common diagnosis in adolescent females; they are far less prevalent in young males. Limited evidence has previously suggested some sex-specific differences in patient history and presentation. The study assessed differences in a sample of adolescents admitted for treatment of eating disorders.
In a study done at Brown University, a teacher uncovered that the males that face eating disorders have higher amounts of depression and anxiety than the females did after the study was completed. Eating disorders are terrible to battle and can put anyone into a deep depression. I was surprised to hear about the result of the study because I would have thought that the statistic about depression following an eating disorder would be even in males & females.
We have to be careful about young men who show signs of body dysmorphia or an eating disorder because any eating disorder is hard to treat but men are more likely to avoid discussion of the topic with the fear that they’ll be considered “weak” or stupid. I truly wish every (young/old) person knew that they didn’t have to be ashamed to admit they have an eating disorder or body image disorder. It’s not something you can escape or try and push away. If we were to create a healthier perception of body image in the media, like pictures of MEN who DON’T have abs, don’t you think young men wouldn’t be so ashamed of themselves after they spend hours in the gym and still don’t feel like they’re going to look like the guys they see on TV?
Instead of focusing on educating your young female about her body, consider sitting down with both of your kids to openly discuss body image. From what I’ve seen lately the media plays a very big part of the body image issues young kids are facing, so there is overlap when talking about body image with a girl or a boy. If you see signs that your son is spending too much time examining his body in the mirror or saying negative comments about his body at the dinner table or after a sporting game TALK WITH HIM! Tell him that he is perfect just the way he is, and that the people he is seeing in ads and on magazine covers are airbrushed and don’t wake up looking like that.
Also, I know all boys wants abs but I always wanted abs too. And then I realized I’d have to let my eating disorder act up again if I wanted to get abs and I don’t want to give any more power to my eating disorder- I gave it way too much power when I was younger. You’re perfect just the way you are!