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Researcher of the Month

Boys’ body image

Professor Charlotte Markey will soon be publishing her fourth book, Being You: The Body Image Book for Boys. December’s Researcher of the Month is slightly different to normal, as the piece of work that we are highlighting is not actually out yet! But we’ve been awaiting it with eager anticipation, and wanted to tell you about it now. Being You: The Body Image Book for Boys, is due for publication on April 7th, 2022, and has been written alongside psychologists Daniel Hart and Douglas N. Zacher. It is an easy-to-read, evidence-based guide to developing a positive body image for boys aged 12+. It covers all the facts on puberty, diet, exercise, self-care, mental health, social media, and everything in-between.

Summary

In the words of the book itself, “Boys will find answers to the questions most on their mind, the truth behind many diet and exercise myths, and real-life stories from other boys. Armed with this book, they will understand that muscles don’t make a man – it’s enough simply being you!”

Body image is an incredibly important issue, for boys as well as girls, and should be given the serious consideration that it deserves. Boys are generally not expected to experience body dissatisfaction, and so parents and educators can often miss the signs of disordered behaviours. However, research shows that 1/3 of teenage boys are trying to bulk up due to body dissatisfaction and that body dissatisfaction is a risk factor for eating disorders in all young people. Boys and men account for 1/4 of all eating disorders. Helping to ease body related worries common to boys is therefore crucial.

We already own and recommend Professor Markey’s Body Image Book for Girls and her new book for boys is set to share the same accessible style and appealing layout, which will entice even the most reluctant teen to take a peek. It also contains lots of retrospective insights from older teens about what formative issues they faced, when they first worried about their bodies or appearance, how they have since coped with these issues and what they might recommend to younger teens. Although these aspects of the book are anecdotal, they really help to normalise the concerns that most young people have.

You can pre-order Professor Markey’s new book here.

Implications

Implications for Parents

Body image is an issue that we should all pay significant attention to, from an early age. It impacts on everything, from our social interactions to our mental health. Parents should reflect on attitudes towards ‘body talk’ and eating in the home. Model that you consider your own body to be ‘good enough’ and try to ensure that food is associated with nourishment, rather than reward.

Body image issues may be more tricky to spot in boys than girls. Watch out for an overwhelming concern with developing muscularity or diet control that impacts on sleep, schoolwork or friendships. Behaviours that at first glance appear to be healthy, may not be! Stress that the idealised bodies often depicted in the media are not realistic goals.

For Tooled Up parents, we have lots of resources in the library on cultivating positive body image, which are relevant for young people, whatever their gender. Take a look at some of the related resources listed here as a starting point.

Resources Created from and Related to this Research

Professor Charlotte Markey, Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University

Professor Charlotte Markey’s research focuses on individual’s eating behaviours, body image and health. Her work has garnered widespread media attention and she has been featured in and interviewed by numerous high profile publications and TV shows, including the New York Times, The Economist, The Today Show and Time Magazine. Her first book, Smart People Don’t Diet, was called ‘possibly the best book about weight loss ever written’ by Scientific American. Professor Markey has long been involved in community efforts to educate parents and children about eating, body image and health. She speaks in schools and has served on task forces charged with improving school nutrition programmes. Her third book, The Body Image Book for Girls, Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless, for girls aged 9-15, came out in 2020.

Link to new book details