Health problems and illnesses are difficult to talk about. This could be due to the traumatic experience that causes one not to think and relive it, or the social stigma that usually comes attached with them. For a growing number of men, it is the latter that discourages them from speaking out and seeking help. After all, eating disorders have always portrayed as something only women suffer from, but the truth could not be any more different.
Eating disorders are feminine illnesses
Stereotypes exist, and these apply for illnesses too. Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are commonly associated with females. However, statistics have shown that amongst UK’s estimated 1.6 million people who are facing eating disorders, 400,000 of them are believed to be males. This is almost a quarter of the group. If the social stigma is lifted, there is a good chance that many more men would come forward with their own struggle with eating disorders.
A matter of self-image
For females, eating disorders usually begin when there are issues with their self-imagery and self-esteem. Mainstream media is partly to blame for this problem: “you’re only pretty when you’re skinny”. This has resulted in the masses internalising this message to devastating effect.
This applies to males as well. Some males look at advertisements or shows featuring men with rock-hard abs and ripped physiques being portrayed as the “perfect” man. Coupled with societal and personal pressure, they develop eating disorders with the hopes of becoming more aesthetically pleasing.
Slowly but surely, more males are starting to come forward regarding their experiences with eating disorders, such as international rugby union referee Nigel Owens. Furthermore, there have been an increasing number of support groups that offer a safe space for people to discuss their own personal fight with eating disorders.
Celebrities have also begun to openly criticise magazines and advertising companies for heavily editing their pictures. After all, these idealistic pictures can cause fans to have unrealistic expectations of their bodies. With the hit taken by these companies and more awareness on the matter on photo-editing, it is hoped that readers will look upon themselves more kindly instead of comparing themselves to what’s printed on a magazine cover.
Eating disorders among males are not as well-documented and curated as female cases. This can often make men who are suffering from such issues feel alone and trapped. If you happen to knows a male friend or a family member suffering from eating disorders, take the time to lend a listening ear and encourage them to seek help and recover.