Male Eating Disorders: The Silent Epidemic

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As mother’s we’ve been trained over generations to think and believe that our men, including our sons are tough and can withstand anything they are faced with.  I’ve come to realize that men, just as women, tend to go through the same emotional crisis from time to time and need the same treatment and care as the women do. This is not something we tend to think about, but it’s happening and it’s very real.

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Are you or a family member suffering from an eating disorder and it seems there’s nothing you can say or do to change their way of thinking? That’s because we know so little about this epidemic now affecting families all over the world and the victims don’t understand the severity of the problem until the problem has reached a point of no return.

What can we do to help overcome this horrible disorder? I believe the key to this crisis is educations. The more we know, the more we are able to help those who are struggling with it.  Knowing what to look for or noticing the signs are vital so it doesn’t escalate into something worse. The question is what do we look for?

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Even physicians are overlooking this huge increase in eating disorders among men. “Doctors are reportedly less likely to make a diagnosis of eating disorders in males than females” reports ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).  This horrible disorder has been described as “woman’s illness” by men afraid to come out and speak about their problem that has affected them as well.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the eating disorders and the signs we need to look for.


The proper term for this disorder is Anorexia Nervosa. It’s an eating disorder with characteristics of starving one self.  It commonly affects not only girls, but people of all ages, all genders and all ethnic backgrounds. It’s been reported that men as much as women suffer from this disorder too and the numbers continue to increase.  The victims starve themselves for fear of gaining weight and have a loss of appetite for any food, even their favorite.


Failing to maintain a healthy weight or at least the minimal body weight

Always showing concern or being under an illusion they are gaining extra weight

Communicates negatively about self; dissatisfied with impression of their body image.

Parents take notice your child’s sizes when you purchase their clothes, even if they are old enough to buy the clothes themselves. If the clothing they bought 6 months ago is suddenly becoming too big on them, that’s a big indication they’re not eating right.  Start to monitor this more closely without alarming your child something is wrong and that you’re monitoring their behavior.  This will only exacerbate the problem and they will make more of an effort to hide it from you. You don’t want them to see panic, but instead you want them to see a mom’s face that’s there to only help and not judge them. You want to earn their trust early in life so when it comes to tough matters such as these, they will trust your advice completely.  No, this is not an easy task, but again start early and communicate with your child no matter how young you feel they are and not ready for this topic. Kids today understand more than we give them credit for.

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The proper term for this eating disorder is Bulimia Nervosa and this disorder is as fatal as all others and affects both genders as well.


Binge eating on a more frequent basis

Hoarding large amounts of food

Followed by self-induced vomiting or other methods to purging such as excessive fasting, frequent use of laxatives and excessive exercise.

Habitual trips to the bathroom immediately after eating every meal

Avoids weight gain at all costs and questions calorie intake for all foods and beverages.

Warning Signs:

Dramatic and sudden weight loss

Denial about their disorder

Development of food rituals like eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate

Consistent excuses, avoiding mealtimes or situations involving food

Excessive exercise regimen regardless of the weather

Fatigue from mal-nutrition

Constant need to burn off calories taken in

Withdrawal from usual friends and activities

Using prescription stimulant medications (like Adderall) and/or illicit stimulant drugs (like cocaine) to suppress appetite

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Types of Long Term Emotional and Physical Complications and Irreversible damages:

Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing.  The risk for heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.

Muscle loss and weakness.

Dry hair and skin, hair loss is common.

Depression; leading to substance abuse like drugs or alcohol or sometimes both

Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones

Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure

Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness

Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.

Why are those affected by the eating disorder on the verge of self-destruction?

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We don’t know where this disorder originated and how we get it but more and more people are beginning to realize that environmental, social and biological factors play a huge role in the problem. We’ve seen changes in advertisements over the years, but it’s still not enough.  We need to be involved more but with every effort, most just get turned away for fear of hearing another lecture about the topic.

NEDA (National Eating Disorders) Statistics on Eating Disorders:

33% of adolescent males use unhealthy weight control behavior

37% of men who binge eat experience depression

Up to 43% of the men are dissatisfied with their bodies.

10 Million Males in the U.S. will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.

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Tips for parents:

Never criticize the size of your child or how much they weigh regardless of their age.  It affects them differently at all ages, but it affects them deeply. Instead, try to change your style of eating and your child will be sure to follow. Encourage them through positive discussions on healthy and organic foods and what’s best for us. Advice your children and your loved ones of all the benefits to eating healthy compared to processed unhealthy foods we see in every fast food restaurant and every super market in the country.

Explain the long term affects this disorder will have on them and their children and loved ones in the future as this disorder takes time to show its damages.

Encourage your kids to cook at home rather than go out or even order in.  Not only will this help them financially but they will feel good knowing they are eating fresh, local produce that’s healthy for you.  This is a long term behavior change that will take time.

Involve your child in many after school activities as soon as they’re of age to get involved; activities such as sports, music, chess or whatever you feel your child will enjoy most.  This will build his or her self-esteem and teach them that staying active and getting involved is the best choice for those seeking a healthy lifestyle.

Homosexuality and Eating Disorders:

“Gay and bisexual men may be at far higher risk for eating disorders than heterosexual men” according to a study conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Having to come out of the close and disclose to everyone that you’re homosexual is probably hard enough, but now they have a disorder to add to their already long list of problems they are facing.  That in particular is hard to do and those who’ve already experienced it are very courageous individuals and are now offering help to others facing the same crisis.

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A recent study, conducted in Korea involved a nasal spray “Love Hormone” Oxytocin which reported has been tested for Anorexia and can be possible cure for this horrible disorder.  Keep in mind this research has only begun and the side effects are yet to be discovered.  “The study found that 31 South Korean women with anorexia given an intranasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin paid less attention to images of food and fatter body shapes, but not to other weight-related images, 45 minutes later” reports NHS.

There is certainly a need to be concerned; not only are we losing our young ladies to this horrible disorder, but our young men too.  Let’s step it up a bit and look closer at our children’s behaviors because this epidemic will only continue to grow if we don’t do something about it now.  There are many national centers for eating disorders, please continue to do conduct your own research and speak to your kids before the problem over takes their life and yours.

By: Ida L






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