It started innocently enough when my son Toby asked if he could cut his beautiful long curly hair.
I thought I would help him decide on a new style by showing him some photos, but the more we looked, the more he began wishing for ‘cool’ hair like some of the boys online or one of his friends.
A few months ago, he requested that I buy him some ‘trendy t-shirts’ and as someone who doesn’t mind retail therapy, I was happy to oblige his newest interest. More recently and more worryingly, I noticed that he started to weigh himself on the bathroom scales and when I asked why, he said he was hoping to get ‘bigger and stronger’.
Toby is beautiful to me because I am his mother. I look at his eight-year-old face and I still see those chubby baby cheeks just underneath. Between him and his little brother Leo, their two faces are my favourites in the whole wide world and it upsets me that he wants to change anything at all.
When I was his age I realised that my thick ginger hair, freckles and big front teeth did not make me one of the ‘pretty girls’ at school. It was a lesson that took years to come to terms with, and while I never suffered anything more than teenage angst and dissatisfaction, I want to make sure that my sons, do not fair any worse.
To help me understand more about boys and the body image issues they are dealing with in 2018, I spoke to Dr Scott Griffiths, a National Health and Research Council academic based at The University of Melbourne. Scott has focussed a lot of his research on body image and specifically muscle dysmorphia in boys and men.
“I began my studies looking at people with vision disturbances which lead me into the world of body myth and eating disorders. While research into anorexia nervosa and women with disordered eating patterns has been around for hundreds of years, research into boys’ body image issues, and specifically muscle dysmorphia, is very new.”