Male Eating Disorders, Body Image and the Pressure to be a Success Symbol

Think Tanks, Labour Party, Conservative Party, Diane Abbot, Jon Cruddas, IPPR, Demos, masculinity crisis, fathers, thinking men, sector gathering,The number of boys in the UK with eating disorders is a timely reminder that we have a body image problem says the host of the Third National Conference for Men and Boys, Glen Poole writing in The Guardian.

According to new research by the Institute of Child Health at University College London, the number of diagnosed cases of eating disorders rose 13% between 2003 and 2009 with the highest rates of new cases found among boys aged ten to 14.

In March, teachers claimed that the promotion of ideal body images in the media is reducing boys’ confidence in their own bodies, a problem estimated to effect 51% of boys.

There’s a well-worn but useful saying in gender debates that while men look at women as sex objects, women look at men as success objects. In simplistic terms this translates into ideal cultural images of men who are strong and successful and women who are sexy and slim.

It is perhaps not surprising then that men in general are known to underestimate their body weight, while women tend to overestimate. As a result we have men convincing themselves “it’s all muscle” and women convincing themselves “it’s all fat”.

Recent research from Australia found that men with a high drive for muscularity, as in muscle dysmorphia of ‘bigorexia’, had a greater preference for traditional masculine roles, whereas men with a high desire for thinness (as in anorexia nervosa) displayed greater adherence to traditional feminine roles.

One study found that men were more likely to feel dissatisfied with their own bodies after they were exposed to pictures of muscular men, while another revealed that men’s body self-esteem was linked to how hopeful they felt about romantic relationships.

Glen says:

“Last week I was invited to the Government Equalities Office with representatives of charities like Men Get Eating Disorders Too to discuss body image and the role of fathers as potential change agents. I look forward to seeing some of those experts at this year’s conference and making sure that these important issues are given a wider platform.”

To read the full article see: Eating Disorders: how do we improve the body image of our boys and girls? 

To book you tickets the the Third National Conference for Men and Boys today see this page.

—Photo Credit: geishaboy500/Flickr

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