Posted by: cindy | July 22, 2008

Eating Disorders Among Men

young man

Flip the pages of any men’s or women’s fashion magazine and you will notice that among male models, thin appears to be in.  A recent article in the New York Times attributes this trend to a growing attitude influencing major fashion shows around the world: skinny guys welcome, muscular dudes need not apply.  More and more, men resembling the traditional high-fashion male model are being dropped from consideration for the toniest runways and fashion magazines.  Instead, agent and producers are looking for smaller framed gentlemen and emblazoning the pages of magazines with depictions of the rail-thin, “perfect” male figure.

Over the past several years, the general public has become more aware of eating disorders and the media’s role in perpetuating the myths that lead to serious illnesses.  Celebrities are starting to speak out against culture’s tendency to revere models, athletes, actors, and others who are virtually devoid of body fat as the standard bearers of beauty; support groups, hot lines, and rehab facilities offer help to those who are caught in the throes of eating disorders; and some high-powered fashion organizations have put strict limitations on how thin their models are allowed to be.  All of these are steps in the right direction; however; most of the awareness is promoted and geared toward one section of the population:women.  The fact is that men have also historically struggled with eating disorders and are susceptible to the same tragic and possibly fatal consequences.

Last year, researchers from Harvard conducted a study of eating disorders among a population of 3,000.  Twenty-five percent of those with anorexia nervosa and bulimia were men, and males made up 40 percent of binge-eaters.  These statistics are much higher than once believed, and these numbers may be just the tip of a very dangerous iceberg.  Many men who suffer from eating disorders are not likely to seek help, or even to tell anyone at all.  And eating disorders among men often go undiagnosed by physicians because their symptoms may be ascribed to other conditions such as depression.

Awareness and the accessibility of confidential help may need to have a marked and focused presence for both men and women who may have an eating disorder.  Anorexia and bulimia are deadly disorders, and the rising number of people suffering from them is cause for alarm for both sexes.


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