boys and eating disorders

Body Image and Eating Disorders: Not for Girls Only

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m completely convinced that my son has an eating disorder. When he was little, he was always a little on the heavy side. At about 11—right when puberty hit—he suddenly started dieting. At first, I was proud of him for taking charge of his own weight. He looked really good and seemed happier with himself. But he kept right on dieting, to the point that he began to look skinny. To make matters worse, he’s talking about wanting to lose more weight. Thinking our son might be really sick, my husband and I took him to our pediatrician, who said he was fine and told him to put on some weight. I asked whether our son could have an eating disorder, but the pediatrician just smirked. What should we do?

A: Two things: First, get yourself a new pediatrician. Of the 30 million people in the U.S. who suffer from eating disorders, about a third are male. As are about half of all those who binge eat, purge, abuse laxatives, fast, and do other extreme things to lose weight. But far too many medical professionals, including your pediatrician, are too attached to the idea that girls and women are the only ones affected.

Second, find a mental health professional who has experience treating eating disorders. As with pediatricians, many therapists have trouble acknowledging that boys and men can be affected. Finding the right mental health person will be essential if your son needs extended outpatient or inpatient treatment. Most eating disorder programs and facilities don’t accept males. That, of course, makes it harder for boys like your son to get the treatment they so desperately need.

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Armin Brott

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Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.

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