I Had No Idea That Men Get Eating Disorders Too

Eating Disorders Awareness Week Recovery Warriors Blog Men Get eating disorders too

Binging, purging, excessive exercising, starving, eating disorders. Think these only affect girls and women?

Eating disorders have long been portrayed as illnesses that only affect females, but did you know that more than one million men suffer from eating disorders and that over 80% of 10-year olds are afraid of being fat or ugly? Several studies highlight the dramatic rise in the number of men with eating disorders. In fact, 1 in 10 cases of eating disorders involve males.  We also know that, as a result of cultural stigma and discrimination, men are less likely to seek treatment. Men with eating disorders are currently under-diagnosed and often misunderstood by many clinicians who brand them as attention seekers.

Currently, many symptoms are easily overlooked and often ignored. Most risk factors like bullying, trauma, dieting or perfectionism, apply equally to men and women. As a result it’s crucially important to educate people about the serious risks that affect men just as much as they affect women. Moreover, encouragement of a culture which allows men to show their vulnerability plays a key role in decreasing stigmas and open up dialogue. We encourage men to share their stories to raise public understanding and improve treatment approaches tailored to their needs.

We asked a few of our favorite recovery warriors to share their story and answer some questions.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week Recovery Warriors Blog Men Get eating disorders too

JR

My name is JR, I’m an addict in recovery: exercise, bulimia, narcotics, work, codependency, etc. Although my life does not revolve around my struggles and weaknesses, I believe it is defined by them. My addictions have given me something to fight for, my faith. Addiction to conviction. My dream is that I can help persons in recovery find the light and shine. I am currently working on starting up my recovery blog, getting my license in recreation therapy, starting a masters program in counseling in mental health next fall, and writing music and poetry because that’s what I love to do.
Music

How has sharing your story helped others?

I honestly don’t know how sharing my story has helped others but I do know how much it has helped me. When I share my story I remember how good it feels to be completely open. For so many years I was so scared of telling the truth and letting people see me exactly how I am, flaws and all. I hope that by sharing my story others won’t feel so alone. I used to fear that I would be rejected. I used to fear that no one else could understand. I used to fear that I could never be accepted the way I was. Although these fears exist I will not let them paralyze me as I suffer in silence. Telling my truth has been one of the most liberating feelings I have experienced. I am so grateful for those who have shared their stories. Sometimes the greatest source of support comes from knowing that there are others who have worked through the same challenges and struggles.

What is one thing you would like to say to men who are struggling with an eating disorder?

You are not alone. I believe that in the near future there will be significant research and data about men with eating disorders. As we come forward to share our stories of recovery we can raise awareness about this.

Being a man with an eating disorder is not uncommon, and it is nothing to be ashamed about.

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There are people who can love and understand you. YOU can learn to love and understand you. My heart goes out you. You DO belong. You are worthy, you are lovable, and you are worth it. You need not suffer in silence.

What’s you favorite recovery resource?

My favorite recovery is my local EDA support group. Real life connection to those in recovery has been so meaningful for me. I have made some amazing friends and feel especially blessed to have the friendship of 2 very close friends who are also guys in recovery from eating disorders. Being a guy with an eating disorder can be tough sometimes but its good to know that there are so many people, men and women, that I can connect with on a daily basis.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week Recovery Warriors Blog Men Get eating disorders too

Alen Standish

Alen Standish is a writer, app developer, podcaster and recovering perfectionist. Alen is host of The Progress Not Perfection Podcast. He also maintains the Quit Binge Eating Blog. Alen

How has sharing your story helped others?

I’ve heard from many men and women that my openness to new ideas and approaches on handling disordered eating and emotions is what’s helped the most. I had to use several methods myself to finally stumble into my own initial recovery. It then took several more years of just being open and honest about my feelings and sharing those openly with everyone (most especially with myself) for me to finally learn how to become at peace with myself and my body and to truly know who I am inside.

Also, I think letting others see what’s going on inside my own head lets them know that what they’re feeling is not unique. That making real progress takes time and lots of being uncomfortable because we have to change someone about our thought processes and habits — something we all resist because we’re just human.

We just have to own it and not feel ashamed about it.

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What is one thing you would like to say to men who are struggling with an eating disorder?

First, fellas, you are not alone. As a guy, the last thing you probably want to do is ask for help but that really needs to be one of the first things you do. But I’m also a realist and I know many of you men, like me, would rather chew your own arm off before you ask for help.

So if you’re not ready to ask for help, at least not yet, then start reading up and researching like I did. Knowledge is power. There are some amazing techniques that really help with the symptoms and with what you’re feeling. You just have to try several until you start to find a few that seem to help. Buy the books on Kindle (no one can see you reading those!), download some of the mobile apps out there, check out some of those cool and amazing blogs and podcasts out there on the topic (many written by guys as well!). The second thing I want to tell the men is this.

Guys, you need to drop the armor you’re wearing. It’s not protecting you.

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You have to be vulnerable with and to yourself. Let at least one other person in. Holding up that shield and wearing all that armor is wearing you out and making the problem worse. Sharing your vulnerabilities is not weakness. Feelings of shame are natural. Ignoring them or pushing them down will only make your road to recovery very, very hard.

Real men feel and need to share their vulnerabilities with someone they trust. You need to own who you are and be authentic with at least yourself. Doing that will begin you on the path to true recovery. It will finally help you manage all those feelings that probably sparked the bad habits and disordered eating in the first place. It will also let you begin to truly feel alive, whole-hearted and connected — maybe for the first time ever like in my own case.

What’s you favorite recovery resource?

I always point everyone to first visit NEDA, the National Eatings Disorders Association, before going anywhere else. They are an amazing organization.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week Recovery Warriors Blog Men Get eating disorders too

Michael Elmer

My name is Michael, I am 26 years old, and I am recovering from bulimia. My eating disorder started when I was 13 years old, as the result of severe childhood abuse and neglect and poor self esteem as a result. I believe that eating disorders are a HUMAN disease. Everyone is able to get them. Having an eating disorder doesn’t make you any less of a man. Having an eating disorder doesn’t mean you’re weak. And having an eating disorder doesn’t mean that you are valued or loved any less. It’s a sickness. And like cancer, you must treat it or else it’s going to get worse and worse.

How has sharing your story helped others?

I’ve spoken with hundreds of males with eating disorders, ranging from eight years old to seniors. And one thing I’ve learned from this is that it doesn’t matter who you are, how old or young you are, or the life you’ve lived. If you have an eating disorder, it’s natural to feel lost and confused, afraid of what everyone else around you will say. A surprising find was how many males in the military present with eating disorder symptoms. How many males in the police force present with symptoms. It isn’t just athletes anymore (I don’t think it ever was…) But seeing and hearing the relief they feel once they realize that not only are they not alone, but there are more people like them then they ever thought, has given both me and them so much encouragement. Confidence in their ability to beat their eating disorders.

What is one thing you would like to say to men who are struggling with an eating disorder?

Seek help. Don’t suffer in silence. Nothing changes if nothing changes. If there isn’t a treatment center near you, write to your board of health. Notify your governor to the need for good eating disorder treatment. Yes, most programs won’t accept males but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way! If you speak up, you’re not only speaking up for yourself but for others who are unable to do so so far. Your strength will inspire someone else to stand up for themselves, to speak up, and to raise awareness on male eating disorders. If you do find a program and discover that it’s mostly women who go there, keep this in mind: medically, there is no difference between their treatment and yours. The issues are all the same, the way those issues are addressed are all the same. I’ve been in many programs where I was the only male there and I found that not only was I able to relate to most everyone else there, but they were able to relate to me. Group therapy, therapeutic groups, and meal times were all comfortable. Don’t buy into the old notion that treatment for males is vastly different from females. It isn’t. In my experience, I’ve found it to be equal and in that there is so much hope. Don’t give up. There is hope.

What’s you favorite recovery resource?

Besides Recovery Warriors? I like reading books on ED recovery and hope, I also like speaking to people who have recovered themselves (My own sister battled anorexia for nine years… she’s a tremendous source of hope and inspiration for me). Jenni Schaefer is also a powerhouse when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s essential to find things that don’t trigger your eating disorder behaviors. Staying away from harmful sites is essential.

Don’t run toward the thing that is going to kill you. Run toward the thing that is going to make you feel better and help you stay alive.

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Eating Disorders Awareness Week Recovery Warriors Blog Men Get eating disorders too

Brian Cuban

Brian Cuban is a lawyer by training, writer and annoying loudmouth by passion. Author of Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder
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How has sharing your story helped others?

I get emails weekly from both men and women who feel more empowered to move forward in recovery because they now know that they are not alone.

What is one thing you would like to say to men who are struggling with an eating disorder?

You are not alone.

Drop the wall of shame for one second and Let someone into your life to help you.

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That is the first step in recovery.

What’s you favorite recovery resource?

My favorite recovery resource is the National Eating Disorder Association website as it as a great starting point for almost any eating disorder dynamic.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatarsays: Jessa

    As a woman that deals with eating disorders, it’s heartbreaking to see men get overlooked in this area. Thank you for writing this and bringing more attention to light. Everyone deserves help, man or woman.

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