Eating Disorders In Men – Stats & Getting Help
Something that’s very close to me, ties in with nutrition, and to some extent, fitness and training too is eating disorders and more specifically eating disorders in men.
I’m not a dietician, I’m not a trained therapist or a psychologist, or any of those things that can really treat or diagnose an eating disorder.
So all I’m going to do is explain what I’ve been through with it and just a few stats and a few resources on where you can go if you need some help or support.
My Background With Eating Disorders
So to give you some idea of my own background with eating disorders.
Growing up, I was overweight. On the BMI scale, I ended up on the higher end of overweight into obese. And I wouldn’t say that was down to an eating disorder. That was just down to my lifestyle as it was.
Once I found what was working for me with getting healthy and exercising and all that, it didn’t take long to change my eating habits.
When I started losing weight I never really ended up in any kind of disordered eating pattern. But after I lost a lot of weight, I still wasn’t happy with my body shape. And I think I started to develop body dysmorphia.
Body Dysmorphia And Bulimia
And I kept saying that I couldn’t really see that much of a change in myself, even though I was down from an XXL t-shirt size to medium, bordering on small.
Dysmorphia is a whole separate issue but that is what started me down the road of eating habits or training habits that would line up with bulimia.
So bulimia – I’m not going to go into too much detail on eating disorders, on the actual symptoms, because it’s a little bit different for everyone – but bulimia broadly is when you cycle through binge eating and purging.
You either eat in excess and then try and work it off by doing more exercise. Or in more extreme cases you’ll try and induce vomiting.
In my case, I was trying not to eat much.
And then if I was eating more, then I was calculating how long I thought I needed to run the next day to burn it off. I was basically doing all cardio at the time.
Gradually – and I can’t remember how – I started getting into more weights and resistance and circuit training and boot camps and that kind of thing.
And that helped me because I started eating more because I understood more about fueling myself. And I had a different fitness goal than what had when I was just running.
I started to shift away from bulimia and from there I started to focus on nutrition and eating healthy. The dysmorphia was still with me though. To an extent, I’ll be honest, it still is.
From Bulimia To Orthorexia
But that’s when I started reading more about clean eating and healthy eating, and I heard about the paleo diet, or caveman diet, whatever you wanna call it.
That’s where they say that grains and dairy and legumes, and basically a lot of the parts of a modern diet are responsible for most of the health issues that we face. And I bought into that.
Again, I think I was influenced quite heavily by my own issues with body image.
So then from bulimia, I shifted more towards orthorexia.
And again, I’ll keep it brief, but orthorexia is largely an obsession or severe restriction of food choices, just focusing on eating foods that you would deem healthy and nutritious, and not deviating from that.
So, no refined sugar, no chocolate (which is tragic)Probably no dairy, no grains, no pizza, no junk food. None of that.
Basically protein, natural fats, fruit and vegetables, which for your body is probably great.
It’s going to give you all the nutrients you need. You’re not getting any processed food in there, but it is very hard to live an active social life.
Even just getting any kind of fulfilment from food, takes a hell of a lot more work and a lot more effort. And I went through orthorexia probably for a few years.
And even now my food choices are influenced more heavily by calories and nutrition value. I still find it very hard to just go ahead and say, “Ooh, I want that regardless of nutrition value.”
My first thought was ” all right. How many calories are in that? Can I have that many calories today?”
That kind of thing.
I’m not as bad, or I’m not as strict as I was but it does still impact me on a day-to-day basis.
Orthorexia To Binge Eating Disorder
And orthorexia is probably what led me towards binge eating disorder.
Binge eating disorder is basically where you regularly will eat beyond the point of fullness. You’ll have irrational cravings. Even when you feel full or when you feel stuffed, you’ll still want more.
So you eat, and then you just end up feeling guilty. You go through feelings of self-loathing, but you might get to the next day and go through the exact same thing again.
And to be honest, I feel like that got brought on for me from my orthorexia.
But I think it was a combination of that and to an extent, stress. For me, binge eating has been relatively recent.
I had been doing intermittent fasting and getting good, consistent weight loss results from that. And then suddenly one Friday night I had a really, really stressful day at work.
I had one extra piece of chocolate that night, and then suddenly the flood gates opened. Still completely inexplicable, but I went on a binge that day. That was a Friday night and thought, “okay, fine. I’ll just restart my diet on Monday.”
I can’t really say what specifically opened the flood gates.
But since that one specific day, it’s been very, very up and down. I’ve had a two week period where I had absolutely no issues with bingeing. And then I’ve had some weeks where it’s been every second day.
And I still battle with it.
Managing Binge Eating Disorder
There are two things I have found that have started to help me manage my binge eating.
First of all, I know it gets triggered in me by stress. So if I feel stress coming on, I’ll immediately just stop what I’m doing, take a few minutes and just close my eyes and focus on deep breathing. This helps calm me down and manage the immediate stress I’m feeling.
And what I’ve also done is I’ve allowed myself to eat a little bit more and with a bit more flexibility.
So if I feel a binge coming on, I’m less likely to have those cravings and automatically go for specific foods.
Again, everyone’s a little bit different.
If you are struggling with binge eating disorder, it might be different for you. You might have different triggers, different things that you go for eating, and different ways of helping yourself manage it.
Because I’m not living alone, it’s not like we’re not going to have certain foods in the house.
We have things that everyone enjoys. So I have to manage myself around that. I’m not going to tell my family to not have foods they enjoy.
I think I found what works for me. I’ve still been a little bit up and down, but it’s been a lot better when I’ve actually been more flexible in my diet and better at managing my stress.
Eating Disorders In Men – Stats
I just want to give you some stats on eating disorders in men.
So first up men’s eating disorders are not really discussed that much, even by guys dealing with it.
As an example, at the time of writing this, the combined total number of posts on Instagram for the hashtags #menseatingdisorder, #menseatingdisorders and #menseatingdisorderrecovery are around 600 posts in total. The hashtag #eatingdisorderrecovery on its own has 2.4 million posts.
Obviously, that’s not a scientific measure of anything, but it can help show the scale of just how much it’s not talked about. And where eating disorders are still commonly seen as, a “female” issue or “women’s” issue there’s a lot more reluctance amongst guys to actually speak up and maybe even to get help.
But according to some research done in 2003, it’s estimated up to 10 to 20% of anorexia and bulimia cases could be men. And something as high as 40% of binge eating disorder cases.
That was in 2003. And they said then that the number is expected to rise is likely to be higher as well.
So you can imagine fast forward, where mental health is talked about a lot more and we’re in the middle of a pandemic and God knows what else going on in the world. Everyone’s more stressed, more anxious.
You can imagine more and more guys will be having that kind of relationship with food.
Eating Disorders In Men – Getting Help
If you’re in the UK and you need support or looking for support with an eating disorder, I would recommend the website, beateatingdisorders.org.uk.
They also have a helpline, which they answer seven days a week.
The number is 0808 801 0677.
If you’re in the US check out the website nationaleatingdisorders.org. They also have weekday chat support, a phone helpline, and you can also get text support.
Wrapping This Up
I want to finish off by saying that regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, or your history or background, I don’t care who you are.
If you are struggling or fighting or battling an eating disorder, then please do not hesitate to get some help.
It’s super important.