Body image issues just as hard on boys as girls

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Millions of girls feel the pressure to have what they think is the perfect body. Usually that means being skinny, but what about the pressures for boys?

“There is a difference between our daughters and our sons,” Indiana Youth Institute CEO Bill Stanczykiewicz said. “Our daughters may try to radically lose weight. Our sons, when it’s an unhealthy situation, radically try to gain too much weight, try to gain too much muscle mass.”

“The prescription of the way [boys] need to look is muscular, husky, big, athletic,” Marriage and family therapist Neelu Chawla said.

Chawla said about 10 to 25 percent of those who seek help for eating disorders are male.

Stanczykiewicz said boys are influenced by the media just as much as girls. Just as the idea of a perfect body for girls has changed, boys too are trying to keep up with what they think society wants them to look like.

“If you look at these guys in the NFL in the late 70s and early 80s, and they’re frighteningly skinny,” Stanczykiewicz said. “You think if they played today they’d be broken in half. Or the baseball players or the hockey players, you look at them from the late 70s or early 80s and you go really? This bulking up of the athletes is something that has happened in the last couple of years.”

Chawla and fellow family and marriage therapist Dr. Cricket Steinweg said the family can be a good influence or part of the problem.

“We have people coming in who are themselves overweight, but their families are double overweight than they are,” Chawla said. “That certainly influences their anxiety and their shame around their own bodies.”

“It is the families’ job to both insulate children from these unreasonable expectations, as well as help children understand that, that’s advertisement,” Steinweg said.

Steinweg and Chawla said changes in body weight is obviously a red flag for an eating disorder. However, other things like increased anxiety, depression and changes academically can be a sign of an eating disorder as well.

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