If you haven’t read part 1 of our 2 part series on Men with Eating Disorders, please go back and read that first.

Difference #1: Men prefer to be MUSCULAR instead of SKINNY

Think about the male stereotype. It’s not the skinny guy. That guy is frequently made fun of in media and real life and seen as nerdy or weak. The “ideal” guy is the one who’s ripped with a 6 pack. You know,  the guy that can take on any physical challenge. He’s the one who’s seen as sexy, confident, and the one who gets what he wants in life.

Now, think back to the definition of eating disorders…do you notice all the parts about inadequate food intake? How about the parts about the compensation of food intake by purging behaviors, in order to prevent weight gain? When you look at the definition of eating disorders, would you ever think that a guy in the gym who works out countless hours to get bigger, eats a ton of protein, and take a ton of supplements in order to gain weight would fit into this category? He definitely would not meet the criteria for anorexia or bulimia. He also will not fit into the binge eating category either because he’s not feeling out of control when he eats, or guilty about what he eats, even when he’s consuming large amounts of food.

However, I can tell you that he struggles as much with his thoughts of not being big enough, strong enough, working out enough to the point that it destroys his life as much as someone obsessing that they’re not skinny enough. I can tell you that his thoughts about what to eat, when to eat, and how to add supplements occupy his day as well as his relationships, job, and other areas of his life. He’s also compromising all the important things in his life by the endless amount of time he spends working out or trying to change his body. I can tell you he does feel guilty over not working out enough and he does not see himself accurately in the mirror.

Difference 2: Eating large amounts of food is more acceptable for males

For many women, their plates are scrutinized along with their waste size. For men, they take more pride in the amount of food they can eat. There are even food eating contests to see who can eat the most! Binge eating in males is typically more widely accepted, and when men eat large amounts of food in one sitting, it is infrequently seen as a problem (unless they become so big there are noticeable, physical consequences to their eating).

Men also are less likely to express that the eating causes them distress because of the stigma associated with having an eating disorder.

Difference 3: Men talk about their appearance and food differently

Men talk about getting “cut” or “ripped” instead of getting skinny. They’re looking for new lines of muscle definition as opposed to new protruding bones. They’re not talking about their latest “diet” or skipping meals. They’re talking about their new supplements and gym routines. They’re not distraught over the size listed on the label of their clothing. We often see these guys as “meat heads” rather than individuals suffering from an eating disorder.

A MAJOR SIMILARITY BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN WITH EATING DISORDERS

There are legitimately men who try to prevent weight gain and/ or are trying to lose weight as opposed to getting bigger and more muscular. I believe these are the men who are identified in eating disorder screenings and seen in many clinical settings.

My experience has been that these are mostly the men who:

  1. started out being overweight as children or experienced being obese at some point in their lifetime (one of the same reasons women also get eating disorders). They’ve been teased or bullied about their weight and/ or found that it is hard for others to find them sexually attractive at their heavier weight (also in-line with why women might want to lose weight and end up spiraling into an eating disorder). These men usually see themselves and experience themselves as heavier than they are, even after losing a significant amount of weight (still in-line with women in that regard).
  2. are engaged in a competitive sport which places a high emphasis on being in a certain weight category or being a certain physique (wrestling or swimming) also creates a drive for men to lose weight or maintain an unhealthy low weight.

 

Getting Help:

As someone who struggled with an eating disorder, and works with people struggling with eating disorders (including MANY males), I’ve come to understand the ways in which eating disorders look different in males than in females. I’ve come to also understand how the criteria we use to measure whether someone has an eating disorder often discounts and minimalizes the male experience. It is important to help these boys and men get help and to be a support for them. It is also important to have a clinician and treatment team who understands how to work with boys and men who have eating disorders as well as co-morbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, and addictions.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to Koplin Consulting at 210-502-7222 for a confidential screening or send an email to amanda @ koplinconsulting.com.

For more information, also see https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/research-males-and-eating-disorders

If you haven’t read part 1 of our 2 part series on Men with Eating Disorders, please go back and read that first.

Difference #1: Men prefer to be MUSCULAR instead of SKINNY:

Think about the male stereotype. It’s not the skinny guy. That guy is frequently made fun of in media and real life and seen as nerdy or weak. The “ideal” guy is the one who’s ripped with a 6 pack. You know,  the guy that can take on any physical challenge. He’s the one who’s seen as sexy, confident, and the one who gets what he wants in life.

Now, think back to the definition of eating disorders…do you notice all the parts about inadequate food intake? How about the parts about the compensation of food intake by purging behaviors, in order to prevent weight gain? When you look at the definition of eating disorders, would you ever think that a guy in the gym who works out countless hours to get bigger, eats a ton of protein, and take a ton of supplements in order to gain weight would fit into this category? He definitely would not meet the criteria for anorexia or bulimia. He also will not fit into the binge eating category either because he’s not feeling out of control when he eats, or guilty about what he eats, even when he’s consuming large amounts of food.

However, I can tell you that he struggles as much with his thoughts of not being big enough, strong enough, working out enough to the point that it destroys his life as much as someone obsessing that they’re not skinny enough. I can tell you that his thoughts about what to eat, when to eat, and how to add supplements occupy his day as well as his relationships, job, and other areas of his life. He’s also compromising all the important things in his life by the endless amount of time he spends working out or trying to change his body. I can tell you he does feel guilty over not working out enough and he does not see himself accurately in the mirror.

Difference 2: Eating large amounts of food is more acceptable for males

For many women, their plates are scrutinized along with their waste size. For men, they take more pride in the amount of food they can eat. There are even food eating contests to see who can eat the most! Binge eating in males is typically more widely accepted, and when men eat large amounts of food in one sitting, it is infrequently seen as a problem (unless they become so big there are noticeable, physical consequences to their eating).

Men also are less likely to express that the eating causes them distress because of the stigma associated with having an eating disorder.

Difference 3: Men talk about their appearance and food differently:

Men talk about getting “cut” or “ripped” instead of getting skinny. They’re looking for new lines of muscle definition as opposed to new protruding bones. They’re not talking about their latest “diet” or skipping meals. They’re talking about their new supplements and gym routines. They’re not distraught over the size listed on the label of their clothing. We often see these guys as “meat heads” rather than individuals suffering from an eating disorder.

A MAJOR SIMILARITY BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN WITH EATING DISORDERS:

There are legitimately men who try to prevent weight gain and/ or are trying to lose weight as opposed to getting bigger and more muscular. I believe these are the men who are identified in eating disorder screenings and seen in many clinical settings.

My experience has been that these are mostly the men who:

  1. started out being overweight as children or experienced being obese at some point in their lifetime (one of the same reasons women also get eating disorders). They’ve been teased or bullied about their weight and/ or found that it is hard for others to find them sexually attractive at their heavier weight (also in-line with why women might want to lose weight and end up spiraling into an eating disorder). These men usually see themselves and experience themselves as heavier than they are, even after losing a significant amount of weight (still in-line with women in that regard).
  2. are engaged in a competitive sport which places a high emphasis on being in a certain weight category or being a certain physique (wrestling or swimming) also creates a drive for men to lose weight or maintain an unhealthy low weight.

 

Getting Help:

As someone who struggled with an eating disorder, and works with people struggling with eating disorders (including MANY males), I’ve come to understand the ways in which eating disorders look different in males than in females. I’ve come to also understand how the criteria we use to measure whether someone has an eating disorder often discounts and minimalizes the male experience. It is important to help these boys and men get help and to be a support for them. It is also important to have a clinician and treatment team who understands how to work with boys and men who have eating disorders as well as co-morbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, and addictions.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to Koplin Consulting at 210-502-7222 for a confidential screening or send an email to [email protected].

For more information, also see https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/research-males-and-eating-disorders