Men and body image issues
Originally Published: May 16, 2003 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: January 25, 2008
I am a male, 24 years old, height 5'10", and currently I weigh 143 lbs... When I was 17 or so, I weighed a hefty 190 lbs... at that time, that really had a negative effect on my self image, and now at 143, I still don't think I'm thin enough... I have lost all my weight 100 percent through diet and running about 20 miles/week... but I don't eat enough and I always worry before I leave home if I "look ok"? Do I have serious issues?!?
Occasionally worrying about how you look is normal, but if you are constantly thinking about food, your body shape and size, and your appearance, and they're getting in the way of your normal or regular routine, you may have a more complex body image and/or eating problem.
Men may think that they are not at risk for an eating disorder since it is considered "a woman's issue" but you'd be surprised at how untrue this statement is! In fact, men may have varying degrees of disordered eating, body image disturbances, eating disorders, and other related issues. Many keep it secret, but it can be seen in their behavior(s) or heard about in their casual comments. Estimates suggest that as many as 10 percent of those with eating disorders are male.
One such eating disorder is anorexia. Some symptoms of anorexia include restricting food, or exercising excessively. People with anorexia may also experience other symptoms including a refusal to eat, or a preoccupation with food and weight. Check out Eating disorder vs. normal eating or the National Eating Disorders Association for more information.
One way to monitor your weight to make sure you aren't losing too much or becoming unhealthy is to check your BMI. BMI stands for body mass index and it is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A very low or high BMI can be associated with certain health problems, so it's a good idea to monitor this number. There are many online BMI calculators you can use, or ask a health care professional to calculate it for you at your next visit. The ranges are:
- Underweight =< 18.5
- Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
- Overweight =25-29.9
- Obese >30
A healthy, balanced diet may be a good way to make sure you are getting all of the nutrients you need, including a healthy amount of calories. A balanced diet includes eating food from all of the different food groups, and eating at least three meals a day. A balanced diet should not include a lot of sugar or fat, although some fat is necessary in any diet. For more information about the food groups, and to help figure out how much you should be eating, check out MyPyramid.gov where you can figure out an eating plan that will work for you.
Since you are already wondering if this may be an issue, it's a good idea to talk to someone about food and body image, just to be sure you're on track for a healthy relationship with food and exercise. If you are a Columbia student, you can make an appointment with the Eating Disorders Team, a multidisciplinary team of health care providers specializing in eating and body image concerns, by calling x4-2284 or logging on to Open Communicator. If you're not at Columbia, you can start by discussing your concerns with your health care provider or a counselor.
If you are even the slightest bit hesitant about talking to a professional, you could first learn more about men and eating issues by reading Arnold Anderson, Leigh Cohn, and Thomas Holbrook's book, Making Weight: Men's Conflicts with Food, Weight, Shape, and Appearance. If it's not available at your local bookstore, you can find it through Gürze Books.
You took a big step in writing in about these issues, and that isn't always easy. You deserve to start feeling better about your weight and body image, hopefully some of this information will get you moving in that direction.