As the parent of a beautiful boy, you’re probably hyper-aware of all the barriers to adulthood he could face. But one you might not have considered is anorexia. I know, it doesn’t seem fair does it. But it is the case – boys are as susceptible to anorexia as their sisters.
While it is less prevalent, the ratio is 10:1 girls to boys. While this is a pleasingly low number, it could simply be that we don’t look for anorexia in boys in the way we do with girls. To date, there are no studies which have identified the real numbers just a general sense among professionals there may be more cases than we know about.
Puberty and teenage years are angst-ridden for boys too
The passage from boyhood to young manhood is just as hard for boys as it ever is for girls. Boys have the same pressures to fit in. They are experiencing changes in their bodies, and they are becoming aware of the standards demanded of men.
There is a noticeable increase in the number of weight loss advertisements aimed at boys and young men. The ideal is of the ripped muscular men, who are perfectly groomed and look ‘manly’. This might be at complete odds with the teenager who has suddenly developed an oily skin, a complexion that is fighting against him as well as dealing with the biggest feet he has ever had. Boys can be just as sensitive as girls.
For anyone who has no sense of control, eating is one place where they can gain a sense of autonomy even if it is at a cost. Being able to control how much and what type of food goes into your body is one of the very few ways in which adolescents can display any control over their world at all.
Everything else is under the control of others. Someone else controls their schedule, free time and to an extent even with whom they spend time. In boys, anorexia and other eating disorders, tend to start a little later than it might in girls, having some are of control might be exactly what they are looking for.
The triggers may be different
While the pressure is on girls not to be fat, boys are under pressure not to be fat and at the same time to be athletic. Athleticism opens all sorts of doors for boys which intelligence does not. Being an athlete automatically gives a boy a tribe. Without that sense of identity, boys can have just as hard a time finding where they fit in.
The effects are very similar
Research would suggest that the effects of anorexia on male bodies are much the same as it is in a female one. Osteopenia is the result of bones not getting enough nutrients, and can over time lead to osteoporosis. The stresses on internal organs are the same and the risks are equivalent too.