Men and Eating Disorders: Eating Disorders Aren’t Just a Women’s Issue

Though it has been a long time coming, we are hearing cries for body confidence across the web and in the mainstream media. We have seen celebrities, influencers, and leaders join forces in the march to end digital manipulation of images and redefine beauty standards for women.

But still we ask, “Where are the motivational messages for men?”

According to therapist Andrew Walen in recent PBS News Hour Article, the lack of awareness around anorexia and bulimia in men is “because we do not think that this is a male disease.” He goes on to report that “even the academics aren’t bothering to put the time and effort into it.” The National Eating Disorders Association predicts that 10 million American men alive today will be affected, though that number is only an estimate based on the limited research available.

At Columbus Park, we hope to re-frame the views on men with eating disorders. Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other disorders are not ageist, sexist, or classist and they do not differentiate across genders. Despite the lack of discussion around eating disorders in men, Columbus Park can report with confidence that eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are treatable for men and women alike.

Our short-term, evidence-based interventions do not discriminate across genders and have proven highly effective for all.

For Justin Shamoun, a seventh grade student featured in The hidden, growing plight of eating disorders among men on PBS, a negative comment received gym class further triggered his body dysmorphia and eating disorder. Unlike many of his peers who were entering puberty at the time, Justin still “had the doughy build of a boy.” After gym class one day, someone told Justin he “could probably run faster if he weren’t so fat.”

As a result of media-driven expectations, Justin continued to judge himself based on the images he saw on his screen and in print. He reported that he felt as though “I could never be as successful as or look as good as ‘insert celebrity name here.’ ” But like many men who came before him, Justin “had to bear the double stigma of having a mental illness, and one classically categorized as female” which contributed to his belief that he was fine. Justin reported that it was challenging to recognize that he was sick or “in need of help.” Unfortunately, Justin is not alone in his experience(s).

Bulimia did not discriminate against Joey Julius, a respected college football star who reported his struggle with binge eating to the mainstream sports media just days ago. Julius stated to the cameras at the Rose Bowl on January 2nd “I still have struggles, I still have the depression side of it, still have all the anxieties. But I also have people who recognize that I’m struggling and can help.” After trainers at Penn State noticed his deteriorating health, Julius was urged to seek help for bingeing.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, bingeing is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. About 40 percent of people who struggle with binge eating are men. For Julius, the days of feeling isolated and alone in his struggle are over. Through therapy, Julius addressed the causes of his binge eating and how to deal with them.

“I probably could have kept it a secret forever,” Julius said.

“I just think it was wrong for me to keep it a secret.” Thankfully, men like Justin and Joey have begun to share their stories and shed light on the plight of millions of men struggling with similar thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Currently, both men are successfully engaged in treatment programs and living healthier lives.

At Columbus Park, our highly individualized and personalized intervention programs have proven to be the gold standard in eating disorder treatment in New York City. Our results-oriented, short-term interventions serve both men and women. At Columbus Park, we have successfully treated male clients and are highly sensitive to the fact that eating disorders don’t impact only women. The vast majority of eating disorder cases can be safely treated in an outpatient setting. Please reach out for more information about this topic, and the program offered through Columbus Park.

Want to learn more about our evidence-based intervention style? Check out some of our previous posts!