Body Image in Men (December 2020)
There is quite a bit of press speaking about body image challenges that exist in cisgender women, cisgender men, the LGBTQ+ Community and the transgender community. People seem to be surprised when I share with them that my clientele is approximately 40% male. Many of the cis-gender men that I see have body image issues, eating disorder diagnoses, and/or medical conditions.
In my book The Eating Disorder Trap, I share some interesting and shocking statistics. For example, did you know that 0.1 percent of cisgender men suffer from anorexia nervosa? Or that 0.5 percent of cisgender men will struggle with bulimia nervosa during their lifetime? And 2 percent of cisgender men will develop binge-eating disorder? Men have the same struggles with body image and eating disorders that all genders struggle with.
A study in 2018 showed that 440 British men between the ages of 18 and 85 years of age completed questionnaires to assess their levels of positive body image and other characteristics.
Results indicated that men with a more positive body image reported a lower tendency to compare their appearance with other men. Appearance comparisons have been found to play a key role in causing negative body image and eating disorders. Men with a more positive body image also reported being more physically active and had lower levels of eating disorder symptoms.
It was also found that heterosexual men reported having a more positive body image compared to sexual minority men.
Sexual orientation and positive body image comparisons typically falls into the same challenges that cisgender women experience. This is correlated by the messages of “diet culture.” Sexual minority men reported higher levels of appearance comparisons and endorsement of appearance ideals compared to heterosexual men, which in turn was related to a less positive body image.
The bottom line is that the human experience of struggling with body image, self-view, and relationships with food and exercise do not discriminate. Regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc., anyone can be impacted by this.
It is well-beyond time that the stereotypical ideas of who can and cannot have a disordered eating or body image issue are released and a new belief takes hold – one where we believe each individual’s telling of their personal experience and meet them there to help them.
To support a cis-gender male with body image struggles, it is best to not comment about his appearance, weight, muscle development, movement regimen and begin having conversations on topics that are not focused on body and food.
In fact, these are not bad guidelines to follow when interacting with and supporting anyone!
- Goldberg, R,. The Eating Disorder Trap., Booklogix, March 2020
- Arcelus et al., “Mortality rates n patients with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. A meta-analysis of 36 studies,” Archives of General Psychiatry 68, no. 7 (July 2011): 724-731.
- Hudson et al., “Prevalence and correlates of eating disorders.”
- “Statistics & Research on Eating Disorders, “ National Eating Disorders Association, accessed December 20, 2019, nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders.
- Alleva, J. M., Paraskeva, N., Craddock, N., & Diedrichs, P. C. (2018). Body appreciation in British men: Correlates and variation across sexual orientation. Body Image, 27, 169-178.
- Carper, T. L. M., Negy, C., & Tantleff-Dunn, S. (2010). Relations among media influence, body image, eating concerns, and sexual orientation in men: A preliminary investigation. Body Image, 7,301–309.
- Gillen, M. M. (2015). Associations between positive body image and indicators of men’s and women’s mental and physical health. Body Image, 13, 67-74.