As a teacher, I was used to seeing kids of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions. I had kids with anxiety, ADHD, and everything in between. It’s possible that I’ve even taught kids who were secretly struggling with an eating disorder, but those symptoms aren’t as easily detectable and often go overlooked by parents and teacher alike. A common misconception is that only girls are affected by eating disorders, or only a small percentage of boys are affected. However, this may not be entirely true. Though most physicians agree that eating disorders are more commonly seen in girls and women, that doesn’t mean boys and men are entirely unaffected or that it’s uncommon for boys to engage in unhealthy eating habits.

A recent study has revealed that more boy struggle with eating disorders than you would think, but for the most part they aren’t worried about being thin, they’re concerned about muscularity. The researchers at the Boston Children's Hospital conducted a study using 5,527 teenage boys in order to find out just how often boys struggle with eating disorders.

Through the collected data, it was found that 17.9% of adolescent boys are concerned with their weight and physique enough to engage in risky eating behaviors.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Alison Field, from Boston Children's Hospital Adolescent Medicine Division, says that "males and females have very different concerns about their weight and appearance." What she means is that more often boys were concerned about building muscle, not being thin, and this causes some boys to start “bulking up” in dangerous ways. Often adolescent boys who desire to put on muscle will take steroids, unhealthy supplements, and even growth hormones to achieve the body shape they believe they should have.

During the study, it was found that that 9.2% of males reported having concerns about muscularity, 2.5% were concerned with thinness, and 6.3% were concerned about both. To determine these percentages, the participants in the study filled out questionnaires every 13 to 36 months. The study started in 1999 and lasted through 2010. Over the last few years the data was compiled and analyzed before being published in JAMA Pediatrics on November 4, 2013.

It was also found that boys who engage in risky eating habits to become thinner or build muscle are also more likely to become depressive, binge drink, and do drugs.

“Clinicians may not be aware that some of their male patients are so preoccupied with their weight and shape that they are using unhealthy methods to achieve the physique they desire, and parents are not aware that they should be as concerned about eating disorders and an excessive focus on weight and shape in their sons as in their daughters," says Field.
Source: Boston Children's Hospital (2013, November 4). Eating disorders more common in males than realized. ScienceDaily.