Unexpected emotional moment caught on video shows the affects of body image on young boys
"You've been on a serious fitness kick with your friends."
When people think of body positivity, oftentimes the image that comes to mind is that of a person that society would place in the category of woman. It seems that men and boys get left behind or overlooked when it comes to these conversations. The focus of teens and tweens developing eating disorders is also very driven by information on girls so it may be difficult to hear that boys struggle, too.
Mom and influencer, Samantha Sophia found herself in an unexpectedly emotional conversation with her 11-year-old son about tween boy body image. The mom vlogs about her life and parenting journey using "gentle parenting" techniques, this means she sometimes catches vulnerable moments with her kids, like this one.
Samantha was starting to record something else when her son walked in and they had a short dialogue about how they were feeling and how they slept. It was typical parent-child jibber jabber until she digs a little deeper into his new fitness journey.
"You've been like on a serious fitness kick with your friends. Y'all have been like...I don't understand why 10 and 11 year olds are so focused on fitness," she says, before correcting, "11 and 12. Why are you guys doing it?"
The mom chuckles through the question until she hears her son's response on why these young boys are suddenly into fitness. Her tween son reveals he and his friends have been working out because one of his friends didn't like the way he looked. Samantha's face quickly changes as she attempts to hold back emotions after hearing this information but that wasn't the end of the conversation.
"What's your face," the boy asks.
"I don't like that he doesn't like the way he looks," Samantha responds.
Her son says that his friend is now feeling more confident about his appearance, but her son confirms that he also doesn't like the way he looks, Samantha can no longer hold back her tears.
"Why?" she asks a few times before saying, "you guys are perfect. Y'all are perfect"
The boy comforts his mom while she picks her broken mom heart off of the floor. No parent ever wants to hear that their child is unhappy with their body, but the openness in which this mom and son are having this conversation could help other parents.
I am sharing this as a reminder that body image concerns also affect boys. I read recently that disordered eating was on the rise among boys. And while my household eats mostly organic and almost no fast food, we are on the heavier side. And while I’ve wanted all of us to eat even more plants and be more physically active and adventurous as a family (because its good for our emotional and physical health), kids counting carbs and calories and working out not because they like the challenge (Sophie does burpees just because and loves it) or to prepare for a sport they love but to have a body they saw on tv, is not going to be a thing I can support. #BlackTikTok #bodyimage #gentleparenting
According to Child Mind Institute, "as many as a third of people with eating disorders are men or boys. But boys are often missed because people think of eating disorders as something that only affects girls. Eating disorders tend to look different in boys."
Boys are driven by different factors when it comes to body image issues and generally focuses on becoming more fit whether it be because they're an athlete and want to lose weight, or they're thin and want to add muscle. Achieving the perfect physique can become an obsession that quickly parlays into an eating disorder.
But when we're talking about tweens and early teens, weight gain before the onset of puberty is normal and should be expected. Bodies are storing up to grow at a rapid rate and having that knowledge on hand may be helpful to parents who's children are having concerns about their weight gain.
It's important that parents and society doesn't forget boys are also affected by negative body image and eating disorders and Samantha is using her vulnerable moment with her son to spread the message. Boys and men are also absorbing information about their bodies that can be harmful and we should also be doing our part to make sure they're included in the body positivity messaging.
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