The Complexities of Male Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are not a new issue, but until recently they were viewed as more of a female issue. These days however, eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and particularly binge eating are rising in the male population. Little boys as young as 8 are being diagnosed with anorexia and 40% of those with binge eating disorders are male.
The Causes of Male Eating Disorders
The need to look physically perfect is not exclusively directed at girls and women any longer. Boys and men are now on the receiving end of this kind of pressure. In the same way that perfectly proportioned dolls and photoshopped models impact girls and women’s perception of themselves, action figures and male models are influencing young boys and men to be fit, lean, cut, ripped or buff, however it is labelled. When young males compare themselves to these unrealistic images, they find themselves lacking. This leads to them working out more, dieting and becoming susceptible to developing eating disorders.
A male who has an eating disorder can have similar behaviors as females with the same disorder. Men tend to face a particular societal pressure to be masculine. Young boys reaching puberty feel the need to be physically strong and many start working out long before they should, causing physical problems. Boys can agonize over their looks just as much as girls can, and this is when they begin to form lasting body image issues. A poor body image can lead to the young male starting to have an eating disorder.
How to Help Males with an Eating Disorder
If a parent or a partner is dealing with their child or loved one struggling with an eating disorder, there are many ways in which they can offer support:
Young boys should be helped to understand that they don’t need to be muscular to fit in or be their best selves.
Boys need help with the ‘grow up fast’ mentality perpetrated by the media. They have to be taught that there is no hurry to grow up and to enjoy their childhood.
Help boys understand that they should do what’s best for their bodies according to their genes, and that bodies cannot be shaped and molded at will to fit some unrealistic model.
Encourage appropriate eating and exercise behavior.
Teach boys that control within is more important than controlling something on the outside.
Help and encourage boys and men to accept their bodies as they are, and find what works for them to be fit, without making comparisons to athletes and movie stars in the media.
Encourage them to focus on and develop other aspects of their personalities, develop other talents, instead of focusing on looks.
It has been proven that young men could encounter a myriad of body image issues while in college, and develop low self esteem. This is not restricted solely to women any longer. For many young men, pushing their bodies past the limit is seen as having an interest in staying healthy and fit, and this is why eating disorders go unnoticed and untreated. Parents and loved ones should do their best to open a dialog about these issues and help the male in their life get professional guidance to treat the disorders.
Blueprints provides support to young men struggling with addiction and other issues. Call us if you need help for a loved one and we can provide individualized programs to best aid their recovery.