Published on March 5, 2022
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I want to address an issue that, unfortunately, I see often, especially in the summer when we’re at the beaches or pools: boys with breasts. It really pains me to see it from a distance, but even more so to have to deal with the issue close up, one-on-one in my office. Also, most often these boys don’t talk to their parents about how they feel.
I remember a few years ago having a 12-year old boy, head down and trying not to cry, say to me (his exact words), “The girls on my school bus told me I have the biggest boobs in the sixth grade,” and my heart broke for him. At the same time, it made me very angry towards his parents, his mother in particular who was in the waiting room, but I kept my word to him that I would not tell her.
We all have male and female hormones — testosterone and estrogen. The perfect ratio of one to the other is what gives us our male or female characteristics. However, stored fat — visceral, toxic fat — produces estrogen, the kind of estrogen that is converted into testosterone. What does this mean for boys and men?
Just as girls do, men and boys have estrogen receptors in the breast, under the nipples. As men gain more weight, they start developing breasts. This is called Gynecomastia. This is bad not only for the obvious physical, emotional and social reasons. It’s bad because even if a man with this condition were to lose his weight and get to a healthy goal weight, the chances are high that he will need surgery to remove fat deposits from under the breasts because no amount of working out and losing weight will get rid of the fat that stores there.
Today, however, I don’t want to focus on grown men with breasts; frankly, they’re old enough to know they are in that condition because they choose to be. That’s right: If any grown man sees himself getting fatter and fatter and developing breasts and makes a choice not to do anything about it, well . . . that’s just dandy.
I want to address the issue as relates to boys and teens, whose PARENTS put them in that condition. That’s right . . . parents — who not only are responsible for the environment that allowed their sons to get so overweight or obese, but those who continue to enable that condition or who do absolutely nothing about it. Shame on them.
Gynecomastia is an awful problem for boys and teens, especially because it makes them very self-conscious and interferes with self esteem. Most suffer from great anxiety and depression especially as they try their best to hide their breasts from other people, including avoiding any public activity that might demand them to take their shirts off; or always wearing dark, loose shirts. It is a concern for their physical health as well as emotional and mental wellness.
At the formative time of life — the tween, pre-teen, teen years — no young man needs more things his peers can tease him about, more reasons to be shy with girls or additional challenges to his self-esteem.
Gynecomastia is often referred to as “man boobs”, and while this sounds immature and like a joke, how boys deal with having gynecomastia is anything but funny. It is important to recognize that having this does not just affect how they feel physically, but it can greatly affect how they feel mentally and emotionally as well.
Moms and dads must tackle the topic head on with their sons — EVEN IF the first conversation is difficult . . . and it mostly likely will be. Parents need to stop being selfish, and own up to what they owe their sons: Concern for their physical health and emotional and mental wellness, and a commitment to take whatever actions are necessary to bring those about . . . EVEN IF it means they tackle their own overweight and obesity issues.