The ideal male body image is gaining muscle and losing fat—often to an unrealistic degree. Not surprisingly, this changing representation of the male body is having an unhealthy effect on tweens and teens.
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How to spot body issues in your boy

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The ideal male body image is gaining muscle and losing fat—often to an unrealistic degree. 

Not surprisingly, this changing representation of the male body is having an unhealthy effect on tweens and teens.

Young boys and teens are inundated with advertising and celebrity images of men who have bulging biceps and six-pack abs. Even toys like action figures are bulking up. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat can also have a powerful effect on a boy's body image. Studies have shown that both boys and girls who spend a lot of time on social media comparing themselves to the photos they see may be more likely to develop body image disturbances.

Body image issues are common when boys go through puberty, which tends to occur later in boys than in girls. Puberty is a complex series of transformations that include physical changes as well as cognitive and psychosocial changes. These changes don't necessarily all occur at the same rate. Teens and pre-teens may not be prepared for the changes occurring in their bodies, and this can lead to misconceptions about body image.

Signs that your son may be developing a poor body image can include:

  • being overly focused on perceived physical imperfections in himself or others
  • comparing his appearance to that of celebrities, advertising images or friends
  • spending lots more time in front of the mirror and never being satisfied with his appearance
  • becoming preoccupied with working out and wanting bigger muscles
  • getting upset because his clothes never feel right or look right 

What can you do if you suspect a problem?

  • First, talk with your son. Ask questions and listen without judgment.
  • Because media messages about ideal body image are so pervasive, it's important to discuss these messages with your son and help him gain perspective.
  • Help your son become confident in his physical abilities. If traditional team sports are not his thing, give him opportunities to explore other athletic pursuits: mountain biking, rock climbing, swimming, yoga or dance.
  • Teach your son to recognize his own strengths and unique qualities. What does he do well? Non-athletic skills like playing an instrument, drawing, or writing computer code are satisfying and can open doors to new activities and friends.
  • Encourage healthy habits, like getting enough sleep, eating wisely and getting regular exercise without overdoing it.
  • If your son is frequently upset by how he looks or worried that he'll never have the "right" physique, talk with his health care provider about your concerns.

Sushma Pradhan, MD /uploadedImages/Content/Healthy_Set_Go/Provider_photos/Pradhan_Sushma.jpg https://wellness.allinahealth.org/providers/17643
Sushma Pradhan, MD

Meet the expert

Sushma Pradhan, MD

Sushma Pradhan is a board-certified pediatrician at Allina Health Clinic – Buffalo. She is a vegetarian and the proud mother of twin girls. Pradhan believes it is important to lead by example, as well as to talk with children about balancing activity and appropriate meal portions to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

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