“Mom, I joined the cross country team!” Jack exclaimed with pride.
He committed wholeheartedly to the team, and never missed a practice. “Whenever Jack does something, he does it 100%,” his mom thought, admiringly. Weeks of practices and meets left Jack with speed, endurance, and first-place wins; but it also left him with an increasingly athletic (and thin) physique. He started to receive attention and compliments, which he liked (especially the compliments from girls).
As the county championships approached, Jack decided to begin counting calories and avoiding junk food in order to slim down even more, making him light as a feather and increasing his speed. But soon cross country season was over, and he noticed he couldn’t stop exercising. Or counting calories. It had become a way of life for him. He also couldn’t stop weighing himself- at least 3 or 4 times a day. Whenever his weight increased, he would run even more. Jack also grew to hate dinner time with his mom and sister, and tried to find excuses to skip. “I’m not hungry. I ate already. I’m going over to Mike’s for dinner.” Ever since his parents’ divorce last year, he distanced himself from his family; his new obsession with food and weight was a welcomed distraction for him.
Did You Know that Males Can Be Susceptible to Eating Disorders, Just as Females?
Presently over one million males in the US have some form of an eating disorder. Many of us have heard of (or know personally) women or girls who have struggled with an eating disorder, and there seems to be no shortage of female celebrities coming forward in the media with stories of battling food and body image problems. But, the number of men and boys with Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder has risen in the past few years, and there may be even more males with eating disorders who are underreported or remain undiagnosed. According to the National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (NEDA), it is estimated that presently 25% of people reported with eating disorders are male, and the ratio of males to females with eating disorders is 1:3. Also, 40% of those reported with Binge Eating Disorder are male.
Did You Know that a Male With An Eating Disorder May Have the Same Symptoms as A Female with an Eating Disorder?
According to the NEDA, boys and men with eating disorders may share similar struggles as females, such as poor self-image, societal pressure to maintain a specific body type or size, intense fear of weight gain, emotional troubles - such as depression, anxiety, anger problems, or frequent mood changes, difficult changes or traumatic experiences such as divorce, abuse, loss, etc. Males and females with eating disorders also may exhibit similar personality traits, such as sensitivity, need for control, perfectionism, competitiveness, people-pleasing nature, fears of becoming an adult or becoming independent, emotional instability, and self-criticism. Athletes, whether male or female, may also feel pressure to lose or maintain weight- gymnasts, runners, body builders, wrestlers, jockeys, dancers, and swimmers may be susceptible to eating disorders.
So what Exactly Characterizes an Eating Disorder?
- A person with Anorexia has an intense fear of weight gain, and refuses to maintain a normal body weight. He or she also has poor body image and distortions in the perception of body size and shape.
- Bulimia is characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating, followed by self-induced purging through vomiting, diuretics, laxatives, exercise, or fasting in order to avoid gaining weight.
- Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by persistent episodes of compulsive overeating or binge eating, without the attempts to control weight gain through purging methods.
Eating disorders are also considered to be a form of addiction, due to the abuse of food, obsessive thoughts about food/calories/weight, using food to numb or cope with difficult emotions, and feelings of guilt associated with food abuse with an inability to stop the behaviors.
Now You Know what Characterizes an Eating Disorder, but How Can You Really Tell if You, Your Child, or a Loved One Has an Eating Disorder?
Here are some possible warning signs and symptoms:
- Skipping meals frequently (and using excuses)
- Significant drop/rise in weight
- Exercising excessively
- Obsessions about food and weight, such as counting calories, weighing frequently, excessively talking/thinking about food and weight
- Complaints of being “fat” despite being underweight/low weight, and despite reassurance from others
- Indication of laxative, diuretic or diet pill use
- Evidence of vomiting after meals, such as often leaving the table immediately after meals, leaving a bathroom with puffy cheeks and watery eyes
- Increase in compulsive behaviors regarding food (“food rituals”), such as refusing to eat certain foods, moving food on plate in order to appear as if it has been eaten, taking small bites, cutting food into small pieces, eating secretly, hiding food
- Thinning hair on head, or development of fine hair all over the body (lanugo) that is characteristic of malnourishment
Some Serious Food for Thought from the NEDA:
Among all mental illnesses, eating disorders have the highest rate of death due to the complications which arise from malnutrition and electrolyte imbalance, such as heart problems and organ failure. And even though potentially life-threatening health problems may arise, sadly, only 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder (whether male or female) actually receives treatment for his or her eating disorder.
If you or someone you know is currently struggling with an eating disorder, or even if you could relate to the information in this blog and you’re uncertain, be encouraged- there is hope! According to the NEDA, the most successful way to have freedom from eating disorder symptoms is to seek treatment- psychological counseling from a therapist, together with nutritional counseling from a dietician and medical attention from your primary care physician.
If symptoms are severe, inpatient treatment from a treatment center specialized in eating disorders or hospitalization may be necessary; your primary care physician or your therapist can help you in determining if a higher level of treatment is the proper choice. I and any of the highly trained therapists at Turning Point Counseling would be honored to meet with you or your loved one, to help guide along the path to recovery. Don’t delay in getting treatment; with help, you can break free and live an abundant, flourishing and full life.
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
Mandy Dale sees clients in Alhambra, Glendale, and Monrovia. To Schedule an appointment with Mandy or at one of our other locations CALL 800-99-TODAY or (800) 998-6329 www.TurningPointCounseling.org
Turning Point Counseling
1370 N. Brea Blvd., Ste. 245 – Fullerton, CA
800-998-6329 - TurningPointCounseling.org
Additional Eating Disorders Resources :
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
National Association for Males with Eating Disorders: http://www.namedinc.org/index.asp
Boys Get Anorexia, Too!: http://www.boyanorexia.com/
Eating Disorders- Resources for Recovery: http://www.bulimia.com/client/client_pages/exerptpgd2.cfm
Additional Articles About Males and Eating Disorders:
From MSNBC: http://dailynightly.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/22/10477185-boys-dying-to-be-thin-the-new-face-of-anorexia
From CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-204_162-617060.html
From Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/09/AR2007030901870.html