Boys’ Body Image

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Low self esteem and body dysmorphia has long been plastered as a woman’s issue, and while eating disorders among women are astonishingly high, a different statistic is overshadowed by this misconception. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, approximately ten million men and boys will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime in the United States alone.

  “I think male body image is a topic that our society doesn’t really talk about, which is pretty dangerous…most men we see in the media have six-pack abs, are super tall, etc In reality, they represent a very small portion of the population, but if we think that everyone looks like that and we look different our confidence drops,” said Fr. Irie Sentner.

The misrepresentation in the media is cause for alarm. Movie stars, professional athletes, and even action figures are increasingly portrayed as the social norm, effectively blurring the lines between what is considered healthy and overweight. To give some perspective, the average NFL football player is 6’1”, 260 pounds, while the average American 20 year old male stands at 5’9” and is a little over 195 pounds, according to a report by Business Insider.

Even sports on a local level can encourage serious problems with body image. Dr. Valerie McKinnis trained in family medicine and noticed an influx in boys, specifically in wrestling, whose sport pushed them to unhealthy extremes.

“The wrestling boys definitely have a tendency to get some eating dysfunction and bad habits, where they will not eat for days before a meet or they’ll try and go on some drastic diet” said McKinnis.

Teasing from peers also remains a large factor when it comes to low self esteem.

“Often the littler boys will be bullied…they’ll come in because they’re small, and they’ll get bullied or picked on by other kids, and so sometimes they’ll end up in the office because they’re feeling depressed… so then their parents bring them because they don’t want to go to school and they’re tired of getting made fun of,” said McKinnis.

However, some would argue the lack of conversation about boys’ body image is simply because there isn’t much to talk about. David Vogt has been a high school football coach for eight years, and previously played football in both high school and college.

“For me it was just trying to get stronger and faster so I could get better, there wasn’t really a body image thing, I don’t know any guys that have that,” said Vogt.

Still, for many, the issue strikes a personal cord. Aaron Coates, a personal trainer and owner of Illete fitness in Durango, remembers a time when his self esteem played a huge role in his life.

“When I was a freshman and sophomore I was like 5’2”, 115 pounds and I was definitely self-conscious, just because all the other kids were growing so much more, and getting a lot bigger. I just felt small and insignificant,” said Coates.

It’s a tale familiar to many young boys, especially those involved in sports and other physical activities.

“I definitely feel like those kids struggle more. They just have a hard time keeping up with bigger kids,” said Sr. Jackson Steigelman, a lacrosse player for DHS.

There is no doubt that not fitting the mold of what is considered attractive or physically ideal can have lasting, and sometimes negative effects, and the issue remains one that should be vocalized.

“What happens to you as a teenager has this really strange affect, that even once your acne goes away and you grow up to be a normal looking adult, often people don’t see themselves that way. Whatever defined you in highschool has this bizarre power over people, that will sometimes last a lifetime,” said McKinnis.