I was alarmed to read about a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders suggested that eating disorders and other weight control methods such as dieting, diet product use, and vigorous exercise, rose among male adolescents between 1995 and 2005. The Academy for Eating Disorders (which publishes the International Journal of Eating Disorders), writing about the study, noted: “The increase in weight control behaviors among males indicates that the social pressure for men to achieve unrealistic body ideals is growing, putting young males at an increased risk of body dissatisfaction and developing an eating disorder, according to the authors.”
It seems, then, that the ultra-thin super-models that drive adolescent girls toward anorexia and bulemia, have their counterpart for males in ultra-fit/ultra-muscular boxers, soccer stars, basketball players, martial arts movie stars, and infomercial fitness gurus. While eating disorder prevalence among females still outstrips that of males (the study, for example, revealed that 53.8% of adolescent females dieted, compared to 23.8% males), the rise of eating disorders among males is particularly problematic, according to the authors of the study, since males are less likely to seek treatment, and since preventative measures have up until now largely ignored males. Yet males go through puberty, experience rapid shifts in body image, become acutely self-conscious, and look to their peer groups (who look to mass media) for cues as to how they need to physically appear in order to be cool.
The rise in nutritional supplements, weight training programs, fitness centers, and even well-publicized steroid use among sports heroes, all represent social influences that combine with these biological and psychological developments in young male teens to create the kinds of eating and weight problems we’re seeing on the rise. For information about teen body image and self-esteem, go to the Nemours Foundation website. For information about steroid use among boys, see an article in the March 11, 2007 issue of Science Daily, and a journal article in the March 3, 2007 issue of Pediatrics
For more on developmental issues in adolescence, see my book: The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life
This article was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
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