Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.
By Quinn Nystrom, MS
I know this may sound stereotypical, but there was a time when I thought an eating disorder diagnosis was a female issue. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with my eating disorder, and began learning more about this health crisis, that I discovered that there was a significant number of men who struggle with an eating disorder as well.
I suspect I wasn’t alone in my original belief either. For as long as we can remember, men have been characterized as “big eaters” with a big appetite. I’m sure all of us know of a guy who can seemingly eat his weight in food and still want more. Unfortunately, this archaic belief is what keeps untold numbers of men quiet about their struggles with food.
A 2021 Healthline.com article noted that more than ten million men are affected by eating disorders in the United States alone. Still, the signs are often harder to spot, and there are different barriers to treatment for males compared to females.
So why is that?
Why are men underdiagnosed and undertreated regarding food and eating issues? Many experts believe that this is related to mental health and self-care. MensHealth.com hit the nail on the head when they shared how males are reluctant to “talk about what’s in their head” and instead choose to “power through” their mental health needs instead of asking for help. The result is unhealthy coping mechanisms that lead to lifelong unhealthy habits, including eating disorders.
The best way to shift this alarming trend is to banish the stigma surrounding both men who share their struggles with depression and use food to cope negatively. Use this month (and all the months after) to let the loved ones in our lives (no matter the gender) know that it is okay not to have your life together. It’s okay not to feel okay.
Depression affects 22 percent of U.S. adults, and if you or someone you love feels hopeless and sad, it doesn’t mean you are broken. We need to spread the word
that it is okay to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or uncertain. No one is expecting anyone to be a superhero.
What’s not okay is suffering in silence or feeling too embarrassed to reach out for help.
So, for the month of Men’s Health Month, I encourage you or someone you love to talk about the feelings triggering food issues or eating disorders. Lean on each other. Ditch the detrimental silence and listen to each other.
Have the honest conversations. And the hard ones too.
Let’s open the hypothetical door and usher in a positive conversation to replace old stigmas and beliefs with understanding and acceptance.
You are not alone in your struggles. Take the first step and ask for help.