Body fat perception in eating-disordered men




We sought to assess the relative roles of body fat ideals and body fat perception in men with eating disorders.


We compared 27 men meeting criteria for a current eating disorder (17 with anorexia nervosa and 10 with bulimia nervosa), 21 male mountain climbers, and 21 control men, using a computerized test of body image, the “somatomorphic matrix.”


When asked to choose the body that they “ideally would like to have,” men with eating disorders selected an image with body fat closely comparable to that chosen by the control men. On perceived body fat, however, the groups differed dramatically. The eating-disordered men perceived themselves to be almost twice as fat as they actually were, whereas the control subjects showed virtually no such distortion. These findings resemble those of a previous study of women, which found that women dieters showed abnormal body fat perception, but not body fat ideals, when compared with nondieters.


These observations suggest that distorted body perception, rather than body ideal, may be central to eating disorders in men. This distinction may be important for both research and therapy. © 2003 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 35: 102–108, 2004.