Are Men Affected By Eating Disorders?

Contrary to what you may think, eating disorders are not common to girls and women. Men and boys can be just as affected by them as well.

Eating disorders are not new and neither is their existence in the male population. The reason you may not have heard about it is the stigma attached to having a problem controlling your food. According to a Harvard study (2007), as much as 25 percent of those in the study were anorexic males and 40 percent were binge-eating males. For a condition that has been decidedly “female” these are high numbers.

The effects of eating disorders are more readily noticed among girls. Wearing tight-fitting clothing or other outfits that show their shape reveal the skin and bones that mortify parents and friends. Girls are also more likely to confide in a friend about their “new diet” than guys are.

Men and boys can hide the results of their eating disorders better than women and girls. Furthermore, changes in their body are quickly attributed to anything but an eating disorder. Parents don’t even think that an eating disorder can affect their son.

Even the males themselves are not likely to admit that they have an eating disorder. Being associated with a “girl’s disease” can be seen as unmanly or feminine. For fear of being called names, they hide their pain and their obsession with food.

Think about advertising. The female population is inundated with photo after photo of the “perfect body” according to modeling agencies and style magazines. Especially during the teenage years, the pressure to fit in and be liked by the opposite sex can lead to an unrealistic view of their bodies.

The same goes for men. Seeing rock hard abs on models and male actors has them wondering if they need to look like that to attract girls. This jaded thinking can lead to unhealthy eating and exercising habits that ruin a boy’s health and his self-image.

Men are still hesitant to come forward and reveal themselves as having a problem with eating disorders. It is still thought of by some professionals as a “female” disease and they are not diagnosing it as much in males. To help raise awareness, a few Hollywood actors have stepped forth and admitted that they suffer from eating disorders.

To heighten awareness, parents and others have to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of eating disorders not only for their daughters but also for their sons. The first step is acceptance of the disorder in men and boys to shatter the stigma that is keeping them from getting the help that they need.