Charlotte Markey, PhD, is a world-leading expert in body image research, having studied all things body image and eating behaviors for her entire adult life (25 years!). She is passionate about understanding what makes us feel good about our bodies and helping people to develop a healthy body image. Charlotte loves to share her body image wisdom with others and is an experienced book author, blogger, and professor at Rutgers University, Camden. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her son Charlie, daughter Grace, husband Dan, and their dog, Lexi.
Here Charlotte tells us about her new book, Being You: The Body Image Book for Boys, why discussions of body image and mental health need to become more normalized for boys, how parents can help their sons build a positive body image, and more.
Tell us about your book, Being You: The Body Image Book for Boys.
Being You is an evidence-based, accessible book for tween and teen boys about body image and related topics (nutrition, physical activity, and mental health). It contains factual information about these topics, but also personal stories from other boys and young men about body image, questions and answers, and a section debunking common myths and misbeliefs.
I’ve been conducting research on body image for nearly 25 years and I’m reminded all the time about how many adults struggle with these issues. Once body dissatisfaction becomes deeply rooted within a person’s psyche, it can be really difficult to shake. I’ve written these body image books because I wanted to bring information about body image—and mental and physical health more generally—to young people in order to prevent them from having body image issues continue into adulthood.
Describe the writing process of your book.
My writing process is iterative and benefits from many people’s help. I start with the research literature and draft sections of the book. I also interview a lot of people in the target readership and a bit older. This qualitative research is the basis of the personal narratives in the book as well as the Q&A features. I have my research assistants at Rutgers University read drafts of chapters and I also have people in the target readership read chapters and talk with me about them in focus groups.
I typically have colleagues in the field and even some friends read chapters before sending them off for professional editing with the publisher. There are many, many rounds of revisions! The design team steps in once a full draft is complete and works on illustrations and other design features. Seeing the books come to life with color and images has been so incredibly cool!
You released The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless in 2020. What compelled you to write a body image book for boys?
The plan was always to write a book for boys. Because I discuss puberty in these books and some issues that are affected by kids’ experiences of gender, I felt that two books were needed. But everyone has a body image and many people (regardless of gender) struggle with body dissatisfaction.
What are some of the main things you hope boys take away from the book?
I really want to normalize discussion about body image—and mental health more generally—among boys. I want it to become more acceptable for children of all genders to talk about body image and appreciate that body image issues are really complex issues.
I want to counter the cultural messages we all receive that suggest that the best way to improve our sense of self is to change our appearance.
Can you tell us a few things parents can do to help their sons build a positive body image?
I could offer a lot of advice to parents but let me share just one broad piece of advice. As parents, I think we want to be careful not to reinforce damaging views of what it means to be a man by emphasizing strength, stoicism, dominance, and self-sufficiency over compassion, kindness, open communication, and social connectedness in our socialization of our boys. It is these outdated views of masculinity that contribute to boys’ and men’s reluctance to seek care when they suffer from physical or mental health problems.
What’s next for you?
The Body Image Book for Life: Adultish is in the works with anticipated publication in 2024. Adultish will pick up where the books for girls and boys left off and offers deeper coverage of some issues (e.g., intuitive eating), as well as an exploration of topics that become more relevant with age (e.g., romantic relationships).
You can purchase Being You: The Body Image Book for Boys on Amazon. To learn more about Dr. Charlotte Markey, you can visit her website or connect with her on Facebook (Dr. Charlotte Markey), Twitter (@char_markey), Instagram (@char_markey), or TikTok (@char_markey).