Eating Disorders Among Men are on the Rise
Why is this?
When you hear the term “eating disorder”, most people will envision young women who have starved themselves to a skeletal state. Because they view themselves through this mental illness, they see a very distorted image of what they really look like. They see fat when there is none.
In order to avoid gaining weight and to remain painfully thin, they will use self-starvation and excessive exercise to attain their unhealthy goal weight. Others, who suffer from bulimia, will self-induce vomiting after eating meals, while those who suffer from binge eating disorders will eat excessively, feel badly about it, and then attempt to diet. However, the cycle continues.Credit: www.pixabay.com
According to an article in the Huffington Post UK, a study has shown that there has been a dramatic rise in the incidence of male eating disorders there between the years 200 and 2009. General practitioners are unsure whether it is due to an actual increase or whether there are more people seeking help than in the past. Many of these men are suffering from EDNOS-Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.
The term “manorexia” started circulating when male runway models started to show the same sunken cheek, gaunt look that female models possess. In fact, 10-15% of those suffering from anorexia and bulimia are males.
Once considered a disease of rich, white girls, the new obsession with achieving the perfect body and eating the "right" foods has now gotten out of hand with the male population-even boys.Credit: www.amazon.com
The Stigma Surrounding Eating Disorders
Getting help is difficult for all involved
Until recent decades, there were many myths surrounding eating disorders. It was seen as a diet that had gone bad and if the person would simply go back to eating regular meals, the weight would come back on and the person would be healthy again.
Scientific studies have proven that to be a fallacy. Eating disorders are not caused by people wanting to look like Twiggy, Christie Brinkley or Tyra Banks. It is a biologically based illness that some people are predisposed to having. It can be treated with therapy and medication, but there is also a high relapse rate. It has a stranglehold over the life of the person suffering from it, and only the lucky ones are able to break free for good.
The true numbers of sufferers is hard to tell, as so many people do not want to share this personal information due to the fear of judgment and being labeled a failure either as a parent or as a person. At a time when we need our family and friends to support us the most, this is when we hide from them.
So imagine men, who do not even like to stop and ask for directions, admitting that help is needed in conquering this illness.
What is Orthorexia?
Another form of food restriction
We all want to eat better and more healthy foods, as it will help us feel better and make our bodies stronger. There are entire supermarkets, such as Whole Foods and trader Joe’s, that are devoted to selling foods that are all natural, as well as organic foods. But when this decision to only eat healthy foods becomes an obsession, when no other food is permitted to enter the body, then it has become the disordered eating known as orthorexia.
This eating disorder is not about weight gain, it is about the quality of the foods that are eaten. It is a form of food restriction, just as anorexia is, as well as an issue of “food anxiety”. Anorexics will not eat around others, or they will pretend to eat, and orthorexics will do the same things, just for different reasons. Both disorers show an unhealthy relationship with food.
People who suffer from this eating disorder will not eat processed foods of any kind. Food must be “pure”-what their definition of the word is. Entire food groups can be eliminated one by one, until the orthorexia has just a handful of foods that he feels that he is permitted to eat. This in turn can cause health problems, because the body is not getting the necessary nutrients that it requires to be healthy.
Signs and Symptoms of OrthorexiaCredit: http://cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/z/zabmo/preview/fldr_2011_06_14/file8521308109548.jpg
The warning signs of this disease are many. It is one thing to want to eat a diet that is free from chemicals, food preservatives and colorings. Families who follow the Feingold Program, eat like this to help their children with ADHD and other behavioral and learning problems.
It becomes a problem when eating this way interferes with the normalcy of life. Like any addiction, it gets in the way of living because the person is hyper-focused on it.
If the person only feels good about eating healthy foods and has negative feelings when deviating from the diet plan he has created, this is an issue.
If the person plans meals days in advance and constantly thinks about food, that is a red flag.
When a person declines social activities that involve food that because of the fear of not being able to eat what he needs, that is also a sign of orthorexia.
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Another Member of the EDNOS Category
What is Bigorexia?
If you are a person of a certain age, you will remember the advertisements for Charles Atlas in the back of your favorite comic book. Skinny guys who were once picked on can now bulk up and give it back to anyone that dares to go near them.
Working out and building muscle is a healthy thing to do for your body. But once again, when becoming bigger and bigger becomes an obsession, then it is no longer a good activity-it is a sign of an illness called bigorexia or dysmorphic disorder.
While this can affect women, it is often men who suffer from this mental illness. No matter how big they get, even when a tape measure shows their measurements, they still believe that they are weak and small and need to get even bigger. This is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder and shows a dissatisfaction with their body image.
What constitutes the perfect male body image today is vastly different than in decades past. Think about movie stars like James Dean or John Wayne. They were strong men, but no one was flashing his six pack and running around shirtless. Even dolls like GI Joe have morphed into images that, if they were to real people, would look ridiculously overbuilt.
Even though men are ”supposed” to be big and strong, those who suffer from bigorexia are taking it to the extreme.
Some of the signs and symptoms of bigorexia include:
Incessant looking in the mirror
Maintaining a strict high protein/low carb diet
Over exercising and strict workout schedules
Not seeing family and friends because of the compulsion to go to the gym
Use or steroids and other supplements
The effects of this disease can include complications from steroid use and doing permanent damage to one’s body because bigorexics exercise even when they are injured. Relationships with loved ones are affected because the person is always working out.
A Doctor Talks About Bigorexia
Originally Known as "Reverse Anorexia"
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Treatment for Male Eating Disorders
Just like girls and women who suffer from an eating disorder, it is imperative for men suffering from orthorexia or bigorexia to get the help he needs. Medical intervention is imperative if this disorder is to be addressed and healed. Eating disorder centers can help and lead the affected person on the path to recovery.