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Does the man in your life have an eating disorder?

Man and Woman touching foreheads

Eating Disorders Among Men

Over the years I have been treating more and more boys and men for eating disorders. Do you know that for a long time it was believed that men do not get eating disorders? For that reason, all treatment was focused on women, basically excluding the needs of men.
Luckily, times have changed and slowly but surely, men with eating disorders are finally getting more specialized attention and treatment options.

Interesting Facts

Here are some facts about men and eating disorders:

  • In the 1960’s, statistics showed only 1 in 10,000 men suffered from eating disorders, but today the number is around 1 in 4. For binge eating disorder, men make up about 40% of those who suffer (eatingdisorderhope.com).
  • Rather than the desire to be thin, men more often present with issues related to the desire to be muscular, super-fit, and lean.
  • The ideal of sexiness and masculinity for men has become increasingly more unrealistic and unattainable in the media and advertisements.
  • Men are more likely to abuse steroids, performance-enhancing supplements, and engage in excessive weight lifting and compulsive exercise in order to meet these ideals.
  • Harmatz discovered in his research that underweight males viewed themselves as “less handsome, less good natured, and having less sex-appeal” than control groups.  They also wished to be less shy and physically stronger than they were.  Underweight men dated less, believed they’d be turned down more, and were lonelier than controls.
  • Did you know that our male soldiers have a very high incidence of eating disorders?  In her study of eating disorders among military men (and women), Navy Captain Peggy McNulty found rates among active duty military men of 2.5% for anorexia, 6.8% for bulimia, and an enormous 40.8% for other types of eating and body image disorders.  Most important and striking, 49% of the men studied who were not “officially diagnosable” did display disordered eating behaviors including dieting, intentionally vomiting, and using laxatives or diet pills.  Much of this behavior has been attributed to the high stress environment of the military, focus on meeting physical readiness tests, and encouraging ritual and perfectionism.

How to Approach the Subject with Someone You Love

Here are some questions you can ask to see if a man you love may be suffering from an eating disorder:

  1. Is he refusing to maintain a minimally normal body weight, and is he terrified to gain weight and “get fat”?
  2. Is he unable to see his body the way it really looks, distorting his perception?
  3. Are there signs that he is using laxatives, diuretics, excessive exercise or fasting in order to purge calories?
  4. Is he involved in a sport that necessitates weight restriction, such as gymnastics, track, swimming, wrestling, or rowing? Or does he need to participate in PRT’s (Physical Readiness Tests) that require him to not go over a certain weight?
  5. Has he had a drastic change in personality, becoming increasingly more withdrawn, irritable and/or depressed?
  6. Is he obsessed with going to the gym or extreme workout programs? Does he become anxious and upset if he misses a day working out?

If you are worried that a boy or man that you care about has developed an eating disorder, tune in to The Morning Show this Thursday, 5/28/15, at 8:40. I’ll be discussing this topic along with ways you can help and support them in their journey to recovery.




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