Body image anxiety has always been a huge thing for me. I devote my life to helping others feel better about theirs, but here I am struggling to upload this photo of myself. I feel vulnerable and gross, to be quite honest. Regarding the relevant research, I don’t seem to be alone.
Men have reported disordered eating behaviours as early as the 1600s. Males binge eat just as much as females (1). 15% more adult males think they’re overweight compared to females (1). The ideal male body is perceived as very lean and muscular (1). This is important as it highlights several behavioural disorders and social pressures that men experience.
Body dissatisfaction among women is well documented and discussed (2). Though, little attention is given to males regarding this topic (3). This post aims to highlight the prevalence and severity of body image disorders among men.
A study from 2009 reports that the clinical relevance of disordered eating among males is underappreciated because more women report their eating behaviours than men (3). One in ten men say that they checked their body size “very often” in the same study over 3 months (1).
Even males as young as five want to appear “toned” and muscular (3). From my own experience, I can remember wanting to look fit most of my life. I was influenced by cartoons, comic books and pro-wrestling. All the males were strong, big and lean.
I was fat, didn’t have many friends and was afraid to speak to girls. I wanted to be strong like my heroes on TV but I felt worthless because I’d just get picked on about my body. I am 25 now and I can still remember what it felt like to be the overweight 11-year-old who was afraid to go to school.
Men are sensitive about their bodies (3). Surprisingly, in my readings, I found that men are very misinformed thinking that muscle will, “turn to fat” as they age (3).
Men are afraid of getting fat (3). Once I lost 50 kg from ages 11 to 14 I was petrified of ever getting fat again. I meticulously counted my calories. Worked out religiously to the point where it was unhealthy.
Males seem to want to maintain control of their bodies. Becoming overweight appears to mean a loss of something they think they have control over (3). Being masculine and in control might be related in some cultures (5). Letting your physique “go” and “losing control” might be emasculating for some men.
Boys at the age of eight reported exercising to avoid getting fat (3). Males think dieting is feminine and would rather workout to inhibit fat gain. Boys as young as 16 felt pressured into being lean and muscular (3). They thought it would help them fit in. I did too.
There aren’t many large scale studies on EDs in men (4). 25% of men meet all the disordered eating criteria (4). That means one in four of your mates might have an ED. Chances are, they wouldn’t tell you though. Most men probably meet the partial criteria. Men that are actually diagnosed with an ED is under 10%. This would be a gross underestimation.
From the research, it would appear that men under-report and struggle with their body image and disordered eating behaviour. Males shouldn’t be afraid to speak about how they feel about their bodies without feeling like they’re going to get ridiculed. Hopefully, this post helps shed light on body image disorders among men of all ages.
1. “Eating Disorders and Obesity, Second Edition: A ….” https://www.amazon.com/
2. “Gender difference in the prevalence of eating disorder ….” https://
3. “Body Image – SAGE Journals – Sage Publications.” http://
4. “Prevalence of eating disorders in males: a review of … – NCBI.” https://
5. “The Interaction of Masculinity and Control and its … – NCBI.” 1 Apr. 2009, https://