Males represent 25-40% of individuals with eating disorders.
That’s not something people tell us when our boys are babies, and it’s not something most pediatricians mention at well-child checks — despite the fact that males are at a higher risk of dying from an eating disorder than females.
“We have this notion that only a certain type of a person gets an eating disorder,” says Oona Hanson, a parent coach and Family Mentor at Equip, an eating disorder program. But that’s simply not true. People of all ages, races, backgrounds and genders can develop disordered eating or exercise habits. Unfortunately, because anorexia and bulimia have been stereotypes as “white girl diseases,” boys who develop an eating disorder “are even less likely to speak up about it,” Oona says.
Like girls and women, boys and men face a lot of pressure to look a certain way. They are assaulted daily with images and messaging which implies that “real guys” are buff, strong, lean and muscular. Some turn to supplements, excessive exercise and disordered eating in an attempt to reshape their body.
Symptoms of an eating disorder may include:
- Turning away once-favorite foods
- Obsessively reading food labels
- Attempts to manipulate body size, weight or muscle mass via food restriction or obsessive exercise
- “Sneaky” eating or eating in secret
If you see possible signs of an eating disorder, “get curious,” Oona says. Talk to your son about what you see. Listen to his answers. If needed, reach out to his pediatrician, family doctor or an eating disorders professional.
In this episode, Jen & Oona discuss:
- Diet culture
- Boys & body image
- Weight stigma & anti-fat bias
- Helping boys decipher information about nutrition, diets and supplements
- How building boys’ media literacy can improve their health as well
- What to do if you think your son might have an eating disorder
- How parents can unwittingly set their kids up for unhealthy eating habits – & what to do instead
- Boys’ appetite & body development during puberty
- How ADHD meds interfere with hunger cues and eating
- Intuitive eating
- Why you should not restrict your son’s access to Halloween candy
- Finding a healthcare provider who can help your son
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:
OonaHanson.com — Oona’s website
Boys & Body Image — ON BOYS episode
Teen Boys Eat A Lot – classic Building Boys post
Male Eating Disorders are Often Underdiagnosed – and Dangerous — Tulsa Kids article