Body image issues are often at the heart of eating disorders. According to Bradley University, research shows that the body image issues of males and females share some of the same features, although males may be affected by body image issues less severely than women. However, in one study, participants rated their body image reactions- negative or positive -to a series of statements, such as “When I am with attractive persons of the opposite sex” and “During certain recreational activities.” The study found that men and women are equally insecure with their bodies in social situations.
How Body Image Issues Differ Between the Sexes
Male body image issues are distinguishable from female body image issues in a few ways, according to Bradley University:
- Men tend to be quieter about their body image issues than women.
- Men seek treatment less frequently than women do, and this is largely due to shame.
- Women internalize their body image issues and feel more body shame than men do.
A study published in the journal Sex Roles found that for women, the relationship between contingent self-esteem, or the self-esteem gained from the approval of others, is often driven by weight and body shape concerns, while for men, it’s more often driven by concerns about muscularity.
Body Checking and Avoidance
Body checking and body avoidance are common behaviors that accompany body image issues and eating disorders. Body-checking behaviors include stepping on the scale and trying on clothes to see if they fit. Body avoidance behaviors include wearing clothing that hides the shape and size of the body.
A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that around one in five women and around one in ten men reported checking their body size “very often” during the past three months. More than 11 percent of the women in the study reported avoiding checking their body size or shape, compared to just over four percent of the men.
The bottom line is that both men and women experience body image issues, and these can lead to disordered eating. Addressing body image issues through therapy can help prevent an eating disorder resulting from body image. If an eating disorder has already developed, treatment can help end the disordered eating and improve body image for greater happiness and well-being.