Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a person’s fear of weight gain and he or she becomes too thin because of it.
Often, poor body image is something that we only associate with females. However, an article written by Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy of the Chicago Tribune, and included on Philly.com, points out that males are not diagnosed with eating disorders as frequently as females.
The article starts out with a brief anecdote about a 19 year-old young man named Alex Levy. Levy was a California college freshman and quite the athlete, often hiking, cycling, running and playing Ultimate Frisbee. Unfortunately, for Alex, a foot injury sidelined him from these physical activities, leaving him to wonder how he would keep himself in shape. There is a great quote from Alex in the article:
“I thought, I don’t want to fall out of shape so I’ll eat less, eat healthier.”
Levy also mentioned that he would receive comments about his weight loss which made him feel good, even though he was starving himself. He just didn’t know that starving oneself could create major problems and lead to an eating disorder. In the beginning, I mentioned that many often associate poor body image with females, however in the article; Stritzel McCarthy writes that Dr. Kimberli McCallum, who is the founder and director of McCallum Place eating disorder centers in St. Louis, says that most-likely 80 percent of male eating disorders are not diagnosed.
Dr. McCallum says: “I really think men and boys are not getting treatment. In lieu of treatment, they’re being worked up for gastrointestinal problems, or they are informed that their pulse is low because they are athletic or they are just sent for psychotherapy that is not specialized.”
Perhaps readers might remember from a pervious post that I am someone who has experienced weight-loss. And the constant fear of weight-gain was often playing in my brain, so I would go days without eating much of anything. Although I was never diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, I feel that I was developing an eating disorder before I decided that enough was enough. When I think back, I never thought it could happen to me and I can remember watching a television program that profiled Karen Carpenter, “a singer who had well-documented bouts with eating disorders”.
I would ask my father why she thought she was fat. I gained more sympathy and perhaps understanding of what Karen Carpenter went through because I had the symptoms of eating disorders, such as eating a small amount and extremely healthy. Poor body image does exist in males, and it affects me from time-to-time. Sometimes I will look into the mirror and wish I could lose a bit more body fat or I will see a magazine and wish I looked like a certain celebrity.
To answer my question in the title, eating disorders in males are something that does occur and it needs to be taken seriously. I think as a male, many times we are taught that we are supposed to hide our feelings and perhaps not pay as much attention to our appearances. So I hope that when people read this, they will begin to understand that poor body-image does affect young men and that more research does have to be conducted when it comes to learning about eating disorders that occur in males.
Visit the interview tab at the top of the page to hear an interview with Stacey Gorlicky, author of the book “Food, Sex, and You”. She discusses everything you need to know about eating disorders and ways to overcome them.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder visit the National Eating Disorders Association website.