Fit vs. Fiction's Blog

Think Body Image issues are just a Girl thing? Think again

The mother of a 13 year old boy approached me today to tell me that her son was almost suspended from school recently for calling a girl in his class FAT. The principal explained the rules against bullying and expressed how badly the boy’s comment had hurt the girl’s feelings. What he neglected to mention was WHY her son had chosen to act out the way he had and the reason was an important one.

Knowing her son the way she does, she was puzzled by his comment and asked him to explain. What he told her was that he only called her fat because she and her friends had been teasing him mercilessly for being too SKINNY! They bugged him about his skinny arms and scrawny legs, he fought back in a way he hoped would get them to stop and maybe even feel as badly as they had made him feel. Where was this principal’s concern for this little boy’s feelings?

What most people don’t understand is that it’s not just girls who feel pressure to look a certain way; these days, young boys are dealing with body image issues to a degree that they never have before.

The really interesting thing, is that their pressure is twofold. Either they feel like they’re too BIG and lazy or too small and wimpy. Teen based TV shows and magazines are covered with images of young men with perfectly chiseled six-pack Abs and biceps to kill for, in comparison, your average, healthy, tween or teen boy is going to feel like he doesn’t measure up. Not realizing of course, that many of these “teen” actors aren’t teens at all, but are closer to being in their 30s in some cases!

As part of the version of the Fit vs Fiction workshop I do specifically for boys, I show the students a picture of a male model from the 90s, who was very muscular and then I show them one from the 2000s and this model is extremely skinny and quite androgynous looking. In fact, in a recent interview I read with male models, they spoke about being told NOT to exercise or eat much because the designers like the look of their clothes on pre-pubescent looking boys. yuck.

The next time your in a toy store, take a look at the action figures; long gone are the days of healthy and fit looking GI Joe and Superman, today’s action figures look like they’ve been pumped with steroids! The message to little boys: To be a hero you need to be BIG and muscular.

What kind of impact is this having? A recent study reported that in the last 2 decades the amount of men who admitted to being unhappy with their bodies has TRIPLED and men are having more cosmetic surgery than ever before.

We need to protect our daughters from the negative messages they get from society and the media everyday concerning body image, but lets not forget about our sons. While many girls will talk about their feelings and what they’re struggling with, a lot of boys will choose instead to internalize it and suffer in silence. Just because they’re not talking about it, doesn’t mean they don’t need to.

Which is why I will keep fighting the good fight in hopes of changing the way we see others and most importantly, ourselves.


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