Body image & eating disorders in men: counselling for men with eating issues
- Eating disorders reveal an unhealthy relationship with food and a distorted body image.
- Historically, eating disorders were thought to be a problem restricted primarily to women. However, recent psychological studies show that the prevalence of eating disorders amongst boys and men is growing.
- Explains how you can get help and treatment for your eating disorder.
Historically, women have suffered more frequently from eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, than men. However, in recent years, the numbers of men being diagnosed with eating disorders has increased substantially and many psychologists believe the real number of sufferers could be even higher . (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)
Our modern culture places a high value on male bodies which are fit, slim and muscular, and there is no shortage of advertising, editorial stories and tv programs to enhance that view. It is no wonder that so many men are becoming overly conscious of their weight and body image, and that dieting programs and exercise regimes are now as common for men as they are for women.
The phenomena of male eating disorders
According to a recent ABC article, Australia has the highest number of incidences of Anorexia of all developed countries, and also houses an alarming number of young men who suffer from the illness. Furthermore, a recent study conducted by the Butterfly Foundation – an organization dedicated to the study and treatment of eating disorders in Australia – found that 10% of all diagnosed eating disorders in Australia belong to men, and that as many as one in four young Australian men use dangerous methods of restricting food intake in an effort to become and remain thin.
Very often, the initial desire to become thin is the result of unrealistic ideals about body weight and body image. Mental health professionals speculate that the reason young men have become more susceptible to developing anorexia is because of a new fashion trend which lauds thin, male physiques as the new ideal. Whereas, in the past, the ideal male physique was trim but also visibly muscular. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)
Although eating disorders are more frequently diagnosed in young men during their adolescent and early adulthood, adult men may also suffer from the illness. As with women, very often men become skilled at hiding the symptoms of an eating disorder over time.
Types of eating disorders
There are several different kinds of eating disorders, all of which involve an unhealthy relationship with eating, food and body image. These include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.
Anorexia – also known as anorexia nervosa – is essentially a restrictive eating behaviour, which limits the amount of food intake, often to the point where the sufferer becomes dangerously thin. Anorexia can start out as simple dieting that spirals out of control. For young men, participating in sports like wrestling, boxing or weight lifting where weight classification can be extremely important, a diet may initially be a method of losing enough weight to keep your spot on the team. However, dieting can soon become a compulsion where the young man feels that he can never get thin enough and he may continue to restrict his food intake and become thinner and thinner. In his eyes, when he looks in the mirror, he sees a person who is overweight, when in fact, he may be dangerously thin. This disconnect between how the anorexia sufferer sees their body and what their body actually looks like and is, is referred to as body or figure dysmorphia.
Bulimia – also known as bulimia nervosa – is a similar eating disorder to anorexia, except that it includes an element of binge eating and then purging the excess food. Young men who have bulimia often eat large amounts of food in one sitting, but then panic when they realise how much they have eaten and begin to purge, using one or a combination of methods. They may self induce vomiting, use laxatives, exercise excessively or diet or fast obsessively.
Binge eating is somewhat similar to bulimia in that it includes eating large amounts of food in one sitting. Often the binge occurs during a short period of time – usually limited to a few hours – and usually includes foods that are high in carbohydrates and easy to eat, such as ice cream, pudding, mashed potatoes or other ‘comfort’ foods. Foods high in carbs are especially attractive to the binge eater because they tend to bring on a feeling of satisfaction and satiety. Unlike bulimia, individuals who binge eat do not attempt to purge the food and calories consumed. Men who develop binge eating disorder are often in their teens and may have anxiety issues, deficit social skills, or have grown up in a family with strict restrictions on food. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)
What is the treatment for eating disorders in men?
Counsellors, psychologists or therapists can help men who have developed eating disorders by :
- helping you identify what is triggering the problem, and assist you to develop healthier methods of coping with these triggers.
- work with you to improve your body image and perception of your self,
- explain the physical and medical implications of living with an eating disorder,
- teach you practical ways to control your eating. Unfortunately, most clients who suffer from an eating disorder will find that sustaining healthy eating habits will remain a challenge throughout their life.
For men, one of the biggest obstacles to recover is admitting that they are having a problem with food and the emotions that may be associated with their body image. In most industrialized societies, men are not encouraged to openly discuss their emotions or cope with those feelings in healthy ways, and eating disorders are still largely considered to be a women’s issue. However, psychological statistics confirm that men are just as prone to eating issues as women are.
How can I find help for my problems with food, body image and eating disorders?
If you are concerned that you, a family member or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder or an unhealthy relationship with food and would like to book a consultation with a qualified counsellor or psychologist, or if you would like to obtain further advice please contact Associated Counselors & Psychologists Sydney.
Central Booking Line: (02) 8205 0566
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