Promoting Self-Acceptance And Positive Body Image Among Boys

By Caitlin Tino, Lower School Faculty
I recently attended an informative lecture by Dr. Roberto Olivardia that delved into the topic of body image in boys. With over 30 years of experience treating boys with various body image needs, Dr. Olivardia brought a wealth of knowledge and insight to the conversation. The lecture shed light on an often overlooked and misunderstood issue: 1 in 4 boys beginning as early as age 8 struggle with body image concerns.
These findings prompted me to reflect on my experiences as a Physical and Health Education Teacher and the broader implications for our Crescent community, especially for our Lower School students.

Discussions surrounding body image have historically focused on girls and women. However, Dr. Olivardia stressed the importance of recognizing that boys also face significant societal pressures and unrealistic expectations related to their bodies. His presentation highlighted the many manifestations of body image issues seen in males today, ranging from disordered eating to body dysmorphic disorder, and anabolic steroid use. Additionally, Dr. Olivardia addressed the impact of sociocultural and social media promotion of idealized male bodies, emphasizing how these influences contribute to body image struggles and cautioning against the credibility of the information being shared. He underscored that body image ideals in boys are often tied to societal beliefs about masculinity and stressed the complexity of this issue.

Dr. Olivardia provided practical strategies for promoting self-acceptance and positive body image among boys. Specifically, he suggested implementing the following strategies deliberately and purposefully, at as early of an age as possible:
  • Fostering a non-judgmental space where boys can feel comfortable discussing their feelings about body image.
  • Equipping boys with the vocabulary they need to talk about body image concerns and struggles.
  • Shifting conversations about the body to focus on functionality rather than appearance and understanding the natural process of growth spurts.
  • Monitoring social media engagement and providing guidance on discerning between real, attainable images and unrealistic portrayals.
  • Being mindful of how adults speak about their own bodies, as our young boys are listening and internalizing these comments.
In conclusion, Dr. Olivardia's lecture deepened my understanding of body image issues among boys and inspired me to take concrete action within my professional role as a Physical and Health Education teacher. By sharing these insights with my colleagues and implementing strategies for fostering positive body image within our community for our youngest learners, we can create a more supportive environment for boys to thrive emotionally and mentally. It is my hope that we can ensure that boys develop healthy attitudes towards their bodies as they navigate the challenges of adolescence.