Yes, Men Have Eating Disorders Too

Let’s break open a health and body issue: men get eating disorders, too. As naive as it is to think that medically diagnosed eating disorders only plague one gender, this has largely been a cultural consensus.

We’re talking about anorexia nervosa. Only one of a several eating disorders, anorexia impacts athletic men more often than you’d think.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, an anorexia diagnosis can be summed up in three points:

  • Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health

  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight

  • Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight. (DSM-5)

While these three points define anorexia, if all of them aren’t met, that can still be a serious eating disorder of another kind and is ample reason to seek medical attention.

Tackling the Stigma

Manorexia is the beginning of a social stigma that would, and continues to, keep men quiet about their own anorexia (and other eating disorders). Manorexia is not a medical term, but one adopted by media culture “to reflect the previous gender gap in the prevalence of the disorder.” Say it out loud with us, anorexia is anorexia, regardless of gender.

Hyper-athleticized male body image has permeated society such that subliminally projected “goals” (media is stacked with them) become inadvertent benchmarks we place upon ourselves. Often this goes unnoticed, especially by men. A few more workouts. Another meal skipped. Living on meal replacement supplements. Binge eating on the weekend. Having to drop five more pounds. These examples pour out, but they all pick away at health until they become toxic. This is how a disorder like anorexia can go unnoticed.

Support Systems Are Everything, So Use Them

Surprisingly enough, other health problems beyond anorexia are incredibly common among athletes and fitness-oriented men. Our bodies are not invincible against strain, nor are they impervious to overuse. Accountability in the arena of healthy exercise levels and physical existence can be difficult open up to, but it will create a psycho-physical ecosystem that aims to promote group health and communication.

Cases of anorexia in men are still alarmingly under-documented. Part of this is stigma and pride, but you are not alone in your struggle, nor should you try to defeat health issues alone. Reach out for support, even if you’re not sure. Brush stigma aside and look to your health. Your body and mind will thank you for the peace that comes with swallowing pride. Start a conversation today.

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You may also be interested in the wide range of work we do here at First Steps with the University of Nottingham – Hungry for WordsAn interdisciplinary approach to articulating, communicating and understanding male anorexia nervosa

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