‘Let boys reassure girls that being curvy is attractive’: Teachers should encourage male pupils to be open about their perfect woman to prevent eating disorders

The Daily Mail, 18/03/15, schools should enlist men to help stem the 'epidemic' rise in eating disorders among girls, according to child health expert Dr Aric Sigman, speaking ahead of an HMCPD Conference for Teachers and Heads of PSHE (Forest School, London, 18 March 2015).

Dr Aric Sigman believes men are an 'untapped army' in the fight against body dissatisfaction who could offer a different perspective on the issue.

He argues that contrary to popular views, men tended to have a 'much kinder take' on female body fat, eating and sex appeal than many women.

And instead of regarding men as 'the cause of the problem', they should be allowed to counteract the view that 'female body fat is unattractive and disliked by males'.

Dr Sigman, a specialist who advises schools, will address a closed gathering of PSHE teachers as part of a HMC Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference professional development programme.

He will tell them that men are crucial to addressing the problem in schools.

He will say: 'Addressing this problem must extend beyond the 'learn to love your body' and 'media literacy' lessons in the classroom to include more input from the men in a girl's life.

'Men are an untapped army who need to become aggressively vocal about the culture and messages bearing down on their daughters, partners, sisters and female friends.

'Men have a very different and much kinder take on female body fat, sex appeal, eating and weight loss.

'Knowing what men think can actually serve as an antidote to the prevailing assumptions that feed body dissatisfaction.'

Last year, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) found hospitals were dealing with a rising number of eating disorder cases, with the biggest rise among youngsters aged ten to 19.

Dr Aric Sigman believes men are crucial in the fight against negative body image and should be used to counteract the view that ‘female body fat is unattractive and disliked by males’

Body image is already routinely tackled in schools as part of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) classes.

Dr Sigman argues men are sometimes slow to become involved in this delicate subject because they were traditionally seen as the cause of the problem.

He will say: 'Today men are in a position to countercheck the prevailing highly damaging generalisation that female body fat is unattractive and disliked by males.

'This is not replacing one prescriptive view of the ideal female form with another.

'Whether we consider it politically incorrect or not, how men - meaning in this case fathers, brothers, grandfathers and partners - see women's bodies is a real part of life.'

Dr Sigman, the author of The Body Wars1, has compiled researching suggesting men do not find body fat or the 'pear shape' aversive.

According to him, fathers can play an especially important role in preventing and helping their daughters to overcome body image pressures.

He will say: 'Men are often surprised to discover how even the most intelligent, capable, rational and empowered women can be laid low by body dissatisfaction. Many of us just don't get it.

'When made aware, men can be protective and aggressive if they believe their daughters or partners are being made unhappy in this way. It's time we harness this different perspective and ensure it's put to good use.'

Dr Sigman, a chartered biologist and chartered psychologist, worked on health education campaigns with the Department of Health.

Last year, he argued that even television news was damaging to young girls because the news readers were 'on a permanent diet'.

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