Eating disorders aren’t just about society or food. So why do we assume they’re only a “girl’s problem?” Feelings of imperfection and guilt can affect everyone. Yes, even guys.
Although a majority of eating disorders sufferers are women, about 10-15% are male. This statistic could also be higher because men are less likely to seek treatment.
Instead of ridiculously thin models, boys see muscular and buff men plastered over the media. This trades one unattainable body image for another. Striving for rippling biceps and clear-cut abs may seem like health, but often at the expense at excessive exercise and disordered food habits.
Male athletes especially are susceptible because sports idealize the perfection of the human body. EDNOS (eating disorders not specified) are prevalent for men, making diagnosis even more difficult. They don’t fit into a clinical definition anorexia or bulimia, causing many people to fall through the cracks when seeking treatment.
Studies say men are more satisfied with their weight than women, but does that mean they’re more satisfied with themselves? After all, eating disorders are never just about weight. Telling young boys to “man up” might cause they to feel worthless and internalize emotions. And emphasizing leaning down or even bulking-up to achieve a tough and athletic “look” can be as bad as telling a young girl she needs to lose a few pounds.
In fact, there’s a thing called “muscle dysmorphia.” Masculinity has become so linked to bodybuilder images, men are at risk of disorder eating habits from trying to gain muscle. In one aptitude test, boys’ drive for muscularity correlated with low self-esteem.
Anyone—male or female—can fall into the trap of comparing themselves to media images. Both boys and girls need positive encouragement. Instead of telling boys to “toughen up” or achieve physical perfection, we need to change our dialogue to focus on developing the person, not the looks.
Fuel for Thought: Do you think eating disorders are as big of a problem for boys as they are for girls?