Why Boys' Pursuit of the Perfect Body is as Dangerous as Girls'
1 month ago
Effort to achieve the 'ideal' body can become unhealthy obsession.
"For many years boys seemed less susceptible to wanting those unattainable perfect bodies," said Nancy Brown, Ph.D. and education projects manager at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. "But now, we see more of the historically female issues in boys—starving, binging, purging, orthorexia, comparing their prepubertal bodies to the early developing or more athletic peers, and doing bizarre things to achieve things they never will. The preoccupation with their appearance limits their self-perception and identity to the outside, and creates a culture of feeling 'less than.'"
And, like girls, Jessica Drummond, a certified clinical nutritionist and health coach, suggests media, magazines and models can have an unfair influence on boys as well.
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"Men are being increasingly used in advertising messages in ways that were once reserved for women," said Drummond. "For decades, women have been objectified and sexualized in media images with the definition of beauty and power being very singular and narrow. And just as women are beginning to fight back against this, men and boys are being exposed to more images of the tall, muscular, youthful body as being ideal for them. They're being just as harmed by their pursuit."
Despite the fact that supplements and steroids can, in fact, stunt boys' development and pose a danger to their developing bodies—the latter can stop testosterone production--Joel Ingersoll, psychologist and personal fitness trainer, says that for boys, the perceived benefit of attaining 'the perfect body' far outweighs the established risks.
"They may begin to base their sense of self on how they look rather than other important attributes, like intelligence," Ingersoll said. "Many young men believe that their success with dating, making friends, and self-confidence hinges on 'needing to look like that guy' on the magazine cover. What is most troubling is when excessive exercise regimens and use of supplements are overlooked [with] the perception of 'Wow, that's a strong, healthy kid.' It's critical that parents, teachers, coaches, healthcare providers are aware of these risks and are having informed conversations with them about the balance between healthy exercise and appreciating other self attributes."
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