Body Shaming Makes Teenage Boys Depressed, More Likely to Use Drugs


It’s easy to frame body shaming and eating disorders as primarily a female problem (because beauty, in our culture, is so often treated like women’s sole utility, whereas men are allowed to fall back on stuff like “ideas” and “assertiveness” and “sense of humor), but that doesn’t mean that men are exempt from oppressive body standards. To the contrary, fat men are shamed and reviled with plenty of gusto by anti-fat bigots, and 16-inch airplane seats don’t care what gender your ass is.

According to a new study, the effects of our current “war” on fat people are revealing themselves in teenage boys, who are now estimated to make up 1 in 10 eating disorder sufferers. While I don’t believe that body standards are used to confine and control men’s lives the way they are women’s, male pain is every bit as acute and worthy of attention.

Male eating disorders are less likely to manifest as severe food restriction and purging, and more often take the form of dangerous supplements and unhealthy exercise habits to bulk up. Depression and drug use are also common.


Overall, though, young men were more likely to be focused on muscularity and that concern increased with age.
Between 2 percent and 3 percent were concerned only about their thinness. Those young men were more likely to develop symptoms of depression later on.
“We think about a lot of disorders and diseases that look different in males than females,” Field said. “This is another example and we need to remember that.”
“These are not likely to be healthy behaviors,” Dr. Evelyn Attia said. She is a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
“The overwhelming number of people – often young men – who are thinking about needing to change their body by using some of these supplements is certainly something the family should know about and we as clinicians should be aware of,” Attia, who was not involved in the new study, said.

The more we focus on body acceptance being just a “women’s issue,” the easier it is to push to the fringe, and the more men will continue to be in unexamined pain. All bodies are good bodies, patriarchy hurts men too, lather, rinse, repeat.

Image via Igor Stepovik/Shutterstock.

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