Disordered Eating Among Teenage Boys

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 1999 Volume 10, Number 3
©1999 Gürze Books

Patterns of eating disorders among teenage boys may not be all that different from those reported among teenage girls, according to a group at the University of Minnesota. Among a group of junior high and high school males evaluated in a 4-year longitudinal controlled study, those who reported disordered eating behavior had greater body dissatisfaction, depression, restraint, and poorer self-awareness than matched and randomly selected controls (Int J Eat Disord 23:125, 1998).

The study included all 8th through 12th graders in a suburban Minnesota school district. The final study group included 27 boys who reported disturbed eating behaviors (ED Boys), 27 controls matched to the ED boys for gender, age, height, weight, and ethnicity, and 27 randomly selected males.

Boys determined to have eating disorders reported at least one of the following: eating less than 750 kcal /day, losing at least 8 lb, self-induced vomiting, laxative use, diet pill use, eating until feeling stuffed or sick, or feeling that their eating was out of control. In addition, the following behaviors were used to counteract binge eating: fasting, strict dieting, exercising, vomiting, or laxative use. The boys completed the Eating Disorders Inventory, and the Negative Emotionality, Positive Emotionality, and Constraint scales, and their height and weight were recorded. To test whether the findings for the males would replicate those for females, the authors conducted a multiple hierarchical regression of risk index score. Negative Emotionality and poor Interoceptive Awareness scores were most closely correlated with eating pathology.


Among the ED boys, 74% and 67% scored in the clinical range for males on the Bulimia and Drive for Thinness subscales, respectively, of the EDI. Seventy percent reported losing or gaining more than 8 lb during the past year and 48% reported a weight loss of 8 lb. Forty-one percent ate less than 750 kcal per day, but only 7% used diet pills. Almost one-half reported binge eating at least twice a week for at least 3 months during the past year.

According to the authors, these findings suggested that disordered eating in males is similar to that seen in females. That is, just like females, the adolescent males appeared to express body dissatisfaction and to use disordered eating behaviors.

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