There has been a lot about eating disorders in men the past few days in the media. The truth is, male eating disorders have been present within society for as long as their female counterparts and yet there is undoubtedly a greater conspiracy of silence surrounding them.
The reasons for this are numerous. Men tend to communicate in an entirely different way to women within their peer groups. Body image and food issues are not generally discussed (whereas amongst women they are dissected and evaluated, often to the point of tedium). When a woman develops an eating disorder, she might feel isolated, but she will know with certainty that she is not alone. She will also know, to some degree at least, that her experiences replicate those of millions of women throughout the globe, men generally enjoy no such comfort.
Eating disorders are often presented as a female-only issue. When we discuss them there is an assumption that the sufferer is a woman. Imagine someone said to you “My friend has anorexia”. The resultant visual image will probably be a female one. Whilst it is true that, statistically, women are still more likely to suffer from an eating disorder, this could of course be because male sufferers are still less inclined to come forward and acknowledge the issue.
The motivations for eating disorders are complex and many-fold. This appears still not to be common knowledge leading to the assumption that eating disorders are not‘manly’.
Eating disorders are also synonymous with depression – A condition which, again, has a tendency to be perceived as something only women suffer from. Logic is traditionally seen as the remit of men, whereas women are emotional creatures. Whilst this view is a little old-fashioned, the idea is certainly powerful enough to influence our generalised ideal when it comes to eating disorders. Eating Disorder are emotional and they certainly aren’t logical and therefore they are seen as a ‘female’ condition.
A quote taken from my book Hope with Eating Disorders, from a recovered anorexia and bulimia sufferer, Steve Blacknell:
“If you can, talk about it….People won’t think too bad of you….Men, DON’T suffer in silence. Be proud of who you are and just know that there is help out there”.
After all, he concludes, “It’s a people disease, not a woman’s disease”.