Men And Eating Disorders
Alright! Let’s have a conversation about eating disorders in men. If that’s something you’re not comfortable reading, viewing, or listening to, please consider this your trigger warning and an invitation to skip over to something else.
Eating Disorder Stereotypes
I think it’s fair to say when we look at eating disorders, our default mental image is typically female, typically girls usually in their teens, or maybe up to the mid or late twenties starving themselves and trying to get super skinny.
But there is so much more to eating disorders than that.
They can affect anyone of any age, gender, or background. It’s not always about starving ourselves or restricting food.
And there are plenty of things or issues or triggers that can cause it beyond body image and beyond trying to get a specific body shape.
I’m not qualified to treat or give specific advice on eating disorders, but I can share my own experience, I can share publicly available information and I can help steer you in the right direction for getting help if that’s something you’re looking for.
I’m going to be sharing my own experience with disordered eating, some stats on eating disorders, some myths on eating disorders and I’m going to focus on the specifics of four particular eating disorders:
- Binge Eating Disorder
And lastly, and maybe most importantly, how to get help and where you can get help.
My Own Experience With Disordered Eating
In terms of my own experience, I’ve never had a healthy or balanced relationship with food at any point in my life.
Technically, I think I only really started to get into behaviour that would probably be classified as disordered eating when I started to look at weight loss and when I started to look at fitness.
I grew up overweight to obese.
I didn’t have portion control and my overall lifestyle wasn’t healthy, but I would say that was laziness and lack of discipline and lack of education.
I didn’t have the complicated, messy, intertwined relationship with food that I do now.
I was eating way more than my body needed, but there was never any sort of emotional reaction to eating or not eating specific foods.
Based on my experience since then, I probably wouldn’t have classed my behaviour up to that point as disordered eating. It was just under a broader umbrella term of an unhealthy lifestyle.
My feelings about my body though did start to lay the foundation for how my relationship with food would evolve.
Starting To Lose Weight
I was about 18 or 19 when I first really started trying to lose weight.
And it was around that time that my emotions started to feel a little bit tied to food. Again, I wasn’t quite at the point of what would probably get diagnosed as an eating disorder, but looking back, the emotional ties were definitely starting to form around then.
When I was 19, I joined Slimming World after several desperate past attempts to try and lose weight. And I finally found something that was working for me.
Up to this point, I had a few failed attempts at different things, and this was the first one that I felt was actually working.
I won’t go into too much detail about how Slimming World is meant to work. But the gist of it is:
- You don’t ban any foods.
- You can have unlimited amounts of certain foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean proteins without needing to track those.
- Foods that didn’t fit into the plan were restricted using what’s called a syn value. These foods are not banned. It’s just that those are the ones that you really need to track.
At that point, I didn’t understand enough about daily or weekly weight fluctuations and any week I didn’t lose as much weight as I wanted to, I would blame those so-called syn foods. And then I’d ban them for a few weeks.
So this was when certain foods started getting a bit demonised.
I started Slimming World when I was in university. And then when I started working, I somehow found the confidence to join the gym that was near the office and I also started to learn a bit more about nutrition and exercise.
Moving To Calorie Counting And The Beginnings Of Weight Obsession
I really got into running – mainly on the treadmill and I only really did cardio. At this point, I was starting to shift away from Slimming World and focus more on calories and tracking my intake.
Calorie counting and macronutrients were still very new to me. And I did start to struggle with portions and tracking.
And then as I got more into running and lost weight and got fitter and got quicker I started to associate lighter weight with better running and feeling fitter.
At the same time, I also found more and more people were noticing the change in my weight and I was getting more compliments on it.
Having spent most of my life (and still most of my life) as something like a background character in everyone else’s life, it was bizarre and it was just nice to actually be front and centre of attention for once.
As that started to happen, my meals got smaller because I was more fixated on losing weight quicker.
I got to the point where my breakfast was a packet of porridge and skimmed milk, with a banana and some sweetener (definitely not sugar). Lunch or throughout the day used to be a couple of packets of raisins and some fruit. And then dinner was a “normal” meal.
I think around this point is where my eating habits would come under the category of disordered eating, even if not a specific eating disorder.
It’s probably fortunate for me that around this time I started to get bored with running. My weight had plateaued, and my body shape wasn’t changing.
And as you can probably guess from what my normal diet was just generally wasn’t feeling well.
Bootcamp, Weights, And Orthorexia
At this point I joined an outdoor boot camp – they were a brand new concept at this time. And I started to read more about weightlifting and building muscle and protein and the importance of those things for fat loss.
And I figured ” this, this is the magic pill”, the missing component that I was lacking to actually get to the weight and the body shape that I wanted to reach.
I switched up my diet. I went for lower carbs, no refined carbs, some protein with every meal and moderate amounts of fat.
My health improved a lot. I had more energy. I started to notice my body shape changing. And if you think about how deprived my body was of fats and proteins for quite a while, the positive impact on my health was almost instant.
I wasn’t (and I’m still not great) with moderation or balance.
And I started to reach towards the extremes again. So I became obsessive about tracking of calories.
As a side note, my longest consecutive daily streak on MyFitnessPal is over 2500 days.
I also noticed I was:
- Avoiding things that I couldn’t figure out the calories or macros for.
- Trying to burn off any excess, because I felt like I still need to be slimmer and lose weight.
- And I got to the point where any kind of processed or refined foods or sugar or treats or those kinds of things.
There was just this huge amount of guilt and shame and regret over any of those.
I never went to therapy or saw a counsellor or thought about getting a diagnosis because I never thought of eating disorders in men and just didn’t think men got eating disorders.
But I’d say my behaviour pattern at this point was leaning towards bulimia and maybe orthorexia. Maybe not enough to get diagnosed as either, but you could see that behaviour pattern was emerging and getting more and more consistent.
I ended up living with that sort of obsession for a while. It came and went in varying degrees, depending on how busy I was, how stressed I was, and if I was on holiday for example.
But it gradually became more of a sort of regular dull background noise in my head, rather than the sort of sharp painful feeling that’s a constant reminder.
It did dictate a lot of when and where I went out, what I would have, what I would eat and when I would train.
As I got busy with work, my weight did gradually creep up more than I wanted it to, but it was subtle and it was gradual and I was still active and training so I didn’t really notice it that much.
And that kind of limbo is sort of where I was for a few years.
Covid And Intermittent Fasting
When a certain pandemic came along, lockdowns happened and gyms closed.
When I couldn’t exercise anymore, that weight felt a lot more noticeable and I really wanted to lose it.
I was okay with training at home and I started walking a lot more. I didn’t mind the disruption of no gym access.
To go with that, as someone who has always been open to trying different things around dieting and training, I ended up trying intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is where you have a set eating window and a set fasting window.
For example, you might have an eight-hour window where you’re eating. That might be from 12 noon to 8:00 PM. You can eat in that window. And then you don’t eat anything from 8:00 PM one night until 12 noon the next day. That’s a sort of quick summary of intermittent fasting.
So I started that.
And it worked really well for me for a while. I didn’t feel hungry often – when you’re eating in that narrow window of time, you’re getting your calories in, in a shorter span of time. So you end up feeling fuller as there is still more food in your gut by the end of that window.
I was feeling stuffed by the end of the day on less food, and it worked really well for me in terms of weight loss. I got down to where I wanted to get to eventually.
I also started to play around with calories and food choices. And I actually, in a way, started to get more comfortable with those kinds of processed and refined foods I was so ashamed of, or feeling guilty for before.
I was losing weight and making good progress. So I thought, why not?
At this point, my exceedingly strong sweet tooth and dessert cravings kind of kicked into overdrive. And I used to plan my day around having something sweet and indulgent at the end of the day, every day.
I was still losing weight. I was still getting all my nutrition in. And I was full on a lot fewer calories. So I felt like I could get away with it almost.
And then, along came a spider. Or something worse…
Work Stress, Emotional Eating And Binge Eating Disorder
The pandemic caused a lot of upheaval for all of us. I changed jobs during this time. And the new job I landed I was working directly with the CEO of a software company and it was honestly an awful experience. If you imagine a checklist of every toxic trait of a bad boss, he’d probably tick every single box on that list.
I did leave that job within a few months and found myself a much, much, much better job in a much better company I love turning up for everyday. So that story does have a happy ending, but just for context, this is what I was working with at this point.
While I was still in this horrible job I remember getting to the Friday night at the end of a really stressful week and I was tired and stressed and anxious and annoyed.
And I was still doing intermittent fasting.
And then when I went for my dessert after dinner, the flood gates kind of opened.
I had a massive food binge.
I was on around 2200 calories a day at that point. And I think in that binge on its own must’ve been at least 2000 calories in that single sitting.
And it was a bizarre experience. I was aware of what I was doing, but it felt like I couldn’t stop it, like I had no control.
I’ve had food binges before, but I had never felt powerless like that to stop myself. And I never felt such strong emotions running through me during those past binges.
And that led me down the path of binge-eating disorder.
I do want to add that I don’t think that day or week on its own caused the eating disorder for me.
I think it’s a combination of my general inability to moderate or find balance (and that’s something that’s stuck with me throughout my life), my intermittent fasting teeing myself up for that indulgence at the end of the day, the reward pathway that end of day indulgence created – where I can get through my day knowing I have that waiting for me at the end – plus the general stress and anxiety from the pandemic overall also contributed.
So if it didn’t happen that day or that week I get the feeling it was only a matter of time. That night was probably just the tipping point.
Recovering From Binge Eating Disorder
At the time of writing this post and recording the podcast episode, that was over 18 months ago, but I am still prone to bouts of bingeing and feeling like I can’t stop it.
It’s not as frequent.
And the binges aren’t that big, but it does still happen. And it is something that I still occasionally have a big struggle with.
What really doesn’t help at the time of writing this, is that I’m also recovering from surgery. That’s a topic which I will cover in future on my podcast, on Youtube and on this blog. But for now, you just need to know that it has made my appetite fluctuate wildly.
There are some days when I don’t really want to eat anything. And then there are some days when I can eat everything.
Where I’m At With Disordered Eating
So that is my background with disordered eating and specifically binge eating disorder.
And you may be thinking it and no, I’ve never spoken to anyone in person about it or sought professional help.
I think there’s a mixture of embarrassment and denial, and just wanting to avoid talking about it. I mean, you know, this kind of thing I always figured it doesn’t happen to men. Right? I always thought eating disorders in men was just not a thing.
So I am a bit of a hypocrite when I talk about seeking out professional help.
But that’s why I’m here creating this content – to help you avoid the mistakes and screw ups that I had, and maybe find an easier path to help and support when you want it.
Some Stats On Eating Disorders And Eating Disorders In Men
Now that you know that, let’s look at some stats that can give you a better idea of how widespread eating disorders in men actually are.
So I am relying on the stats from a charity in the UK called BEAT.
- They estimate that 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, of which about 300,000 are estimated to be men. So just under 25%.
- Given how much less likely it is for a man to speak up about an eating disorder – like yours truly – or how many don’t think they have an eating disorder, even though they might, it could be more, both in terms of an actual number and percentage of the eating disorder population.
- Another site, which didn’t quote a source, said it could be as high as one in three eating disorder sufferers are male.
- In the US, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimated that 9% of Americans – so that’s male and female – will get an eating disorder at some point in their life.
So you can see eating disorders are not exactly uncommon, and eating disorders are men are definitely not uncommon either.
And then beyond that, there are so many other rabbit holes you can go down to see how widespread this problem is, based on these stats from ANAD:
- Less than 6% of those diagnosed with an eating disorder are clinically underweight. That goes against the stereotype, that we associate with eating disorders about starvation and trying to be extremely skinny.
- A person of colour is less than half as likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder as someone who’s white.
- Gay men are seven times more likely to binge eat and 12 times more likely to purge than heterosexual men. Purging is where you try and either induce vomiting or take laxatives or overexercise to compensate for your food intake
- In the US college age range, transgender people are four times more likely to experience an eating disorder, than a cis gendered person.
- 20 to 30% of adults with an eating disorder are also on the autism spectrum.
- In the U S 10,200 deaths each year are estimated to directly result from an eating disorder.
All of these stats make for grim reading but the one that really hit me was that 26% of people with an eating disorder attempt suicide.
So yes. It’s widespread. There are a lot of us affected. And there shouldn’t be any barriers to you seeking out help or seeking out support if you need it.
Myths And Misconceptions About Eating Disorders In Men
There are a lot of misconceptions around eating disorders, just like there are with pretty much any other mental health issue out there.
Myth: Eating Disorders Only Affect Women Or Young Girls
I think the biggest misconception is that eating disorders only affect teenage girls or women.
I’ve already covered that in our stats earlier.
But just to make it even clearer the study that I mentioned by BEAT estimates that in the UK, out of the 300,000 males with eating disorders, 191,000 are over 35 years old.
Young girls and women aged 10 to 25 with anorexia still make up the largest single bracket of eating disorder sufferers.
But it’s not the majority.
And of course, it’s not the only group as you can see from the stats I mentioned.
Myth: Everyone With An Eating Disorder Is Underweight
We also tend to assume that everyone with an eating disorder is underweight. Based on the stats I found in the US only 6% of eating disorder cases are people that are clinically underweight.
Myth: People With Binge Eating Disorder Are Overweight And Lazy
One that’s specific to binge eating disorder is that it’s common to assume that everyone who has it is overweight and lazy. Or just lack willpower.
Now, throughout my dealing with binge eating disorder, I’ve stayed at a healthy BMI. And I’ve actually lost weight.
If you are prone to binge eating, it can lead to weight gain in a lot of cases. But that doesn’t mean it’s either a lack of willpower or that it’s being used as an excuse.
It is possible to have binge-eating disorder and it not be anything to do with weight.
Myth: Eating Disorders Are A Choice
Another one is that eating disorders are a choice and that people choose to put themselves through this because they want to get to a certain body shape. From experience, I can tell you there is no on/off switch. You either have it and you’re dealing with it or you don’t have it.
There’s no single cause or trigger, and everyone’s a bit different.
Celebrities Who Have Spoken About Eating Disorders
I did some digging because I wanted to see how many celebrities or famous faces have openly spoken about eating disorders or are on the record somewhere as having or likely having had an eating disorder. And there were a few that really caught my attention.
The first one that surprised me was Queen Victoria.
We can’t say for certain that she had an eating disorder. But she had a very strict upbringing because she was being brought up and trained to be queen. And she had very little control over her life. And she was prone to severe food restriction as a child because it was the only thing she felt that she could control.
And then when she was 18 and she was queen the guardrails were off and the flood gates kind of open. And she may have been prone to binge-eating or she may have just been prone to. I guess compensating somewhere for that, you know, years of restriction.
Princess Diana spent nearly a decade battling bulimia. If you watch the Netflix series, the crown, they depict her battle with bulimia quite vividly.
The cricketer Freddie Flintoff did a documentary for the BBC on his battles with bulimia.
I think in a lot of cases when we’re looking at famous faces and celebrities, it is a bit normalised because we’re still in a very society very focused on body image. And there is a lot of pressure to look a certain way.
Some other celebrities that have spoken about either their struggles with food and body image or with an eating disorder:
Robert Pattinson and Zac Efron have both spoken publicly about the pressure to hit a certain body shape and that impact on their eating habits.
And in an interview, Ed Sheeran once said that he used to binge on junk food until he vomited.
It’s also probably common in elite sports and athletics where food and nutrition and athletic performance are going to be a lot more micromanaged.
I think something else to bear in mind is that when men talk about eating patterns or unusual eating patterns, we sometimes put them on a pedestal for it instead of questioning why we’re treating it like nothing unusual.
Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, for example, does water fasts for days at a time. And it gets called biohacking.
Steve Jobs used to go through periods of eating only carrots or apples, and it would be called one of his eccentricities.
Really they are disordered eating patterns and maybe we shouldn’t be glamorizing or calling them something else to disguise that.
Eating disorders have been so strongly associated with women up to now it’s still not necessarily seen as a male issue. And especially because some people like Jack Dorsey and Steve jobs are open about their eating habits it gets, I guess, almost glamorized.
And I think we need to see more male voices out there to reshape what we perceive male eating disorders to look like.
Common Causes Of Eating Disorders In Men
I’m going to run through some of the common causes of eating disorders, but it’s really important to remember there’s no one single cause.
Everyone’s a little bit different and we all react differently to different things.
Some of the most common ones are body image issues, low self-esteem, and tying in with that, a sense of generally being self-critical.
There have been some suggestions of overlap with both ADHD and being on the autism spectrum.
A coping mechanism for stress.
A way of handling abuse, whether that’s physical, emotional, or sexual.
Dealing with emotional trauma.
Any other major upheaval in life.
And the loss of, or sudden increase in control over life.
I think Queen Victoria is probably a good example here. When she had no other control over her life, she focused on controlling her food. When she had control over everything when she became queen she found it much much harder to regulate her food intake.
Not only is there no one single cause for everyone, but even for an individual, there might also be multiple things that add up together.
In my case, for example, it was a combination of my slightly obsessive personality, my inability to cope with stress and the pandemic. So yeah it was it was a few things that added up there.
Breaking Down The Most Common Eating Disorders In Men
I mentioned four eating disorders at the start of this and I’m just going to run through each of them briefly.
Each of these will have its own dedicated post and resources coming up in the near future (or may already have, by the time you’re reading this).
We’ll start with anorexia.
Out of all eating disorders, I’d say it’s probably the best known and most commonly talked about.
What I didn’t realise when I was researching this was that it’s actually not the most common eating disorder. According to BEAT, in the UK it accounts for 8% of eating disorder cases.
Anorexia is defined by the NHS as an eating disorder and mental health condition where sufferers, try to reach as low a weight as possible.
Usually by severe restriction of food or nutritional intake.
Common signs and symptoms are:
- Being underweight. The NHS focuses on the BMI scale, so a BMI that’s under 18
- Skipping or missing meals
- Avoiding foods that you see as fattening
- Taking appetite suppressants, or fat-burners
- Regular lightheadedness
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Heavy emphasis on weight and body shape as a sign of self-worth
You also need to bear in mind that the symptoms of a lot of eating disorders can overlap. I think the one thing which makes anorexia stand out compared to the others is how thin someone can appear to get dealing with it, or how drastically their weight can change.
And when you do severely restrict yourself, you are leaving yourself prone to health risks. Your body is being deprived of nutrition. So it is going to struggle to support your day-to-day function.
Common health risks are:
- Loss of strength and loss of muscle tissue
- Reduced bone strength
- Loss of libido or sex drive
- In women, it can affect having regular periods
- It can also lead to social withdrawal it can lead to depression it can lead to low self-esteem.
So, yes, it can be caused by depression and low self-esteem and it can also lead to depression and low self-esteem.
It’s a mental illness, so there won’t necessarily be a lot of visible or physical signs apart from the dry skin, hair loss and overall weight loss and thinning appearance of someone.
Recovery can also take a while.
Getting comfortable with actually eating and not stressing specifically about gaining fat can be a very stressful and anxious experience. But that is the part of the recovery process.
And of course, the severe malnourishment and its impact on internal health can take a while to repair as well.
It does seem to affect girls and women more than it does men. But according to an article from the New Yorker magazine in 2013, 70 to 80% of men who may have anorexia get no treatment at all.
Partially because they don’t seek out help partially because it’s misdiagnosed or partially because they just don’t recognize it as anorexia.
According to BEAT in the UK, bulimia (or bulimia nervosa to give it its full name) makes up 19% of eating disorder cases.
Bulimia is when people go through periods of eating a large volume of food in a short span of time, so basically binge eating, and then purging to try to remove that food from their system. This can be either by inducing vomiting, laxatives, excessive exercise, or maybe a combination of more than one.
Some of the signs and symptoms are:
- Binge eating a large volume of food in a short span of time without a feeling of control
- Forcing your body to either get rid of the food through laxatives or vomiting or extreme or long bouts of exercise
- Sudden mood changes around food
- Negative body image which, to be fair, seems to crop up with most eating disorders
- And a sense of secrecy around food
Some of the physical symptoms of bulimia are easier to spot than anorexia – tooth damage and calluses on the back of the hands from inducing vomiting, for example. the stomach acid turning up and passing through your mouth will hit your teeth of course.
In terms of health risks, there’s a risk of malnutrition, which overlaps with some of the risks of anorexia. A lot of the long-term health risks are similar. Your body’s not getting nourished because you’re removing that food from your system.
There’s also a risk of damage to your digestive system, your teeth, to your vocal cords. And then of course, if you are trying laxatives or something else to process that food that you’ve eaten more quickly there’s a risk of misuse of medication or other substances as well.
Going through that list of celebrities I mentioned earlier, it does seem to be the most common one.
I haven’t got any data to back me up, but my own hunch is that when you’re going through periods of needing to be super strict and focused on body image, then when you get the chance to feel that you can ease up, it can become much more difficult to moderate or control portions.
So binges are more likely.
And then purging feels necessary to keep the body looking a certain way to keep ticking that box that you are a certain shape or a certain weight or that you have a certain body image.
And I mentioned that it does get depicted very, very vividly in the Netflix series, The Crown. In season four, three episodes have a trigger warning at the start because of how they show bulimia.
To me, it felt important and impactful to have a clear and vivid description of an eating disorder in a mainstream movie or TV show like that. There might be others out there, but I haven’t seen any.
Orthorexia is not that well known, and it’s not actually recognised in a clinical setting as an eating disorder, the way the others are. And there isn’t an NHS page for it like there are for the other eating disorders I’m talking about.
But it is something that does affect a lot of people, even if they don’t realise it exists.
And orthorexia refers to an unhealthy obsession with tracking and eating pure or healthy or clean foods.
So if you imagine you’re following a clean diet and you take it to an extreme level, so you feel very guilty about having something with refined sugar in it when you should be having fresh fruit and fresh vegetables and that’s it.
It allows for a sense of control and often gets used to coping with negative thoughts or feelings. And eating anything that doesn’t meet certain nutrition criteria can cause feelings of anxiety and guilt.
On paper, it sounds like it can have health benefits because you’re eating a lot of nutritious foods. But your own labelling of specific foods as clean and good for you and then banning others can also mean you cut out whole nutrients or food groups.
Imagine, for example, if you one day decide that fruit isn’t clean because it’s your content and you cut that out. You’ll probably still be able to get a lot of nutrition from vegetables and the rest of your diet. But fruit is a great source of vitamins and minerals and fibre and even water.
But that’s just one example.
Yes, there might actually be some improvements in your internal health.
But think about that constant feeling of stress and anxiety and guilt and shame, helplessness, and loss of control that will constantly be haunting you. Every time you, your friends, your family want to go out – every birthday, holiday, Christmas, anniversary, special occasion.
Instead of being able to allow yourself that freedom to enjoy those occasions. You’re living in a constant state of stress because you’re worried about what food or what nutrition or what lack of nutrition is going to go into your body.
In the context of an overall balanced diet, unless you’ve been told by a medical professional to avoid specific foods, you don’t really need to ban anything.
It isn’t as prevalent or isn’t as well known as the other eating disorders I’m talking about. And like I said, it’s not clinically recognised and it can often get diagnosed as anorexia it’s the symptoms overlap.
But it’s just another one to be aware of, especially if you are like me, obsessive with tracking your calories and your food intake, and want to try and have a so-called “clean” diet, it can lead you down that path.
Binge Eating Disorder
The one I’m going to cover today is the one I know best, and the one I’m most familiar with and have had the longest battle with, and that is binge eating disorder.
It’s caused me the most disruption, the most discomfort and the most mental harm, even if my physical health hasn’t been that drastically affected by it.
I talk about it a lot on my YouTube channel and there is a whole category of posts for it on this site.
With binge-eating disorder, I always use the same definition, which I picked up from the NHS. It’s the consumption of a large volume of food in a short span of time, to the point of feeling uncomfortably full. And that becomes a recurring or regular behaviour pattern.
It’s the most common eating disorder in the UK and in the US. According to BEAT, it accounts for 22% of cases of eating disorders.
It’s also the most common eating disorder in men. And men are estimated to make up around 40% of binge-eating disorder cases.
Again, there is a risk of underdiagnosis. I think large portions and eating more is much more common in sort of male culture or lad culture. So someone might have it, but not even know it or not recognise it.
There are a lot of stigmas attached to binge eating disorder as eating disorders are so commonly associated with undereating or overexercising.
So it’s common to assume that people with binge-eating disorder are lazy or lack willpower or it’s just something made up by overweight people as an excuse for their weight.
On that, first of all, no one needs to justify their weight or make excuses for it to anyone else. So mind your business.
There’s no pleasure or enjoyment from being in a binge, it’s actually a very stressful and a very, very, very uncomfortable experience.
One of the most common symptoms with other eating disorders tends to be around enforcing some kind of restriction or control. With binge-eating disorder, it’s the opposite because it’s almost like you feel a complete loss of control.
Signs and symptoms are:
- Eating a large volume of food
- Eating in secret
- Eating when not hungry
- Lack of control or an inability to stop or slow down when you’re eating
I think we all indulge and overeat sometimes. It’s the volume of food and the frequency of that behaviour pattern, which would probably be the deciding factors between just a one-off indulgence or food binge and it becoming an eating disorder.
With binge eating disorder, you’re less likely to be malnourished. So the health risks are different to what you would get with other eating disorders. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less severe:
- I already mentioned I lost weight while I had binge eating disorder, but because of the volume of food, you’re much more likely to gain weight. That can of course have a knock on impact on health and quality of life.
- By the same token, it can also reduce your desire to exercise. Sometimes out of guilt or shame. In my case, it felt like I put my fitness progress back a few weeks, if not a few months. And any desire to actually do something active just disappeared.
Binges can be triggered randomly and sometimes very suddenly.
Stress and emotional issues are typically the most common ones. Being around the foods that you tend to binge on can also be part of it. Being upset with yourself of course, for any reason.
I’ve also had some strange binge triggers, including listening to a podcast about binge eating once ended up, triggering me to binge eat. As did being called skinny once.
So I still have quite a lot to unpack on my journey with binge eating disorder.
How To Get Help For An Eating Disorder
The next thing we’re going to cover is getting help if you do have an eating disorder, if you want some support around eating disorders, or if you have any questions about eating disorders.
Friends And Family
Do you feel comfortable speaking to your friends or family about an eating disorder?
If you do, then that’s a great starting point. Even if they can’t help specifically, it’s just reassuring to have a shoulder to lean on.
I didn’t and never have felt comfortable speaking to anyone in person. It’s weird. I’m comfortable now broadcasting my experience with eating disorders to the world.
But try and get me into a one-to-one conversation with someone I know, and there’s pretty much no chance.
Yes, I know that makes me hypocritical when I encourage others to speak up, but we all have our own journeys and we all have our own struggles. So if you do feel comfortable doing that, then that’s awesome.
One thing which does get overlooked but that you do also need to is to put some trust in yourself. And I really want to emphasise this one.
For all the help and support that are out there in the world recovery and managing an eating disorder will be uncomfortable and it will be a mental and physical challenge.
And you do need to give yourself the trust and the belief that you can handle that discomfort and whatever battles you have on that journey.
Because even with all the help, it does still need some input from you. And you do need to trust yourself and you need to believe in yourself that you can get yourself there.
Qualified Medical Professional
A GP or dietician should be your first point of call if you have any specific questions about your behaviour or your symptoms, or to get a better understanding of eating disorders if you suspect you have one.
They’ll actually be qualified to give you some advice.
Counselling Or Therapy
There is still a stigma attached to therapy, which is thankfully starting to go away a little bit. There are nutritionists, behavioural therapists, and counsellors who specialise in eating disorders and eating disorder recovery. Some might also specialise in specific eating disorders.
I haven’t used any, so I can’t recommend any myself but is a very good point of call.
These are specialists that again, you can just listen to and get advice from and get help from.
Charities And Helplines
There are some charities you can reach out to for support:
Depending on where you live, there might be other local charities in your location as well.
And usually, a charity or government health website will have some helplines or a list of resources available for where you can get help or who you can reach out to for help.
If you suspect someone else has an eating disorder or are supporting someone else with an eating disorder, a charity helpline might actually be the best place to start. If you try and speak to someone directly, they might go into a shell and not communicate and the charity might be able to help you on how to approach that topic with someone.
If none of the above work for you then you can also reach out to me.
As I’ve already mentioned, I can’t treat or advise on any specific eating disorders or any specific issues you might be facing, but I can at least be a listening and empathetic ear, especially if you don’t feel comfortable with any of the other options.
You can DM me on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok.
I’m not qualified to treat these things, but that listening ear and a nudge in the right direction might be all that you need.
Wrapping Up On Eating Disorders In Men
I hope the above will help you understand and appreciate how common eating disorders in men actually are.
And if you are a man dealing with an eating disorder, please do not hesitate to get some help from one of the places I mentioned.
I mean if you’re anyone dealing with an eating disorder, please do not hesitate to get some help, but from my own experience as a man, I know how hard it is and I just want to really emphasise that aspect and urge more and more men to think about if they need help and to tackle this more proactively.