Sunday, August 3, 2008

Men and Anorexia

Anorexia, the eating disorder most commonly associated with young women, is no longer just a female issue -- men are now suffering from this disorder as well.

This was posted as Health Bytes:

Anorexia not just a girls’ problem, now men are falling prey

London, Aug 3 (IANS) Anorexia, an eating disorder usually associated with teenage girls, is increasingly spreading in epidemic proportion among men seeking to build “an ideal body”. According to a new survey in Britain, the number of men being treated for this lifestyle disease has gone up by 67 percent in the past five years, the Daily Mail has reported.

Though official figures show that only 32 percent, or 1,700 men have received treatment for anorexia in the past year, experts say the figure is just the tip of the iceberg, the newspaper said.

The number of children less than 14 years of age under treatment rose by 26 percent from 202 in 2001-02 to 255 during the past year, according to the figures released by the Department of Health.

Some areas are worse affected than others.

In Durham the number of anorexics being treated at hospitals has rocketed by 360 percent, in southeast London the figure has risen by 246 percent and in Yorkshire, by 139 percent.

Stressing that most of the cases go unreported, experts claim that male anorexia has become “an unrecognised spiralling epidemic as men as well as women are bombarded with images of the ideal body”.

“The rise in male anorexia actually masked a much bigger problem because men traditionally are less likely to seek help,” said Susan Ringwood, the chief executive of eating disorder charity Beat.

“There has been a rise in focus on the body aesthetic and that’s affecting men as well as girls,” she said, adding that there has undoubtedly been some influence from the rise in male magazines.

“Clinics are seeing many more men, as well as children as young as eight. We know children are more likely to develop an eating disorder during puberty, and puberty is starting on average five years earlier than it did 50 years ago.”

Consultant psychiatrist Frances Connan, lead clinician for the Vincent Square eating-disorder clinic - part of Central and Northwest London NHS Foundation Trust, said it was “doubly humiliating” for men to come forward because mental health and anorexia were seen as “girls’ problems’.

Ever look at the cover of Men's Health, or Men's Fitness, or any of the other men's magazines? The models are all chiseled and have great abs. Check out the guy on the cover here -- thin waist, defined abs, and a basically unreal image for guys to live up to.

Let's ignore the fact that the image is more than likely photoshopped, with shading added to make the abs stand out more than they normally would. The reality is that these guys only are in top shape like that for a couple of weeks at a time, during which they do as many photo shoots as possible. It's not realistic for any man to hold that condition for very long.

Ever seen a body builder in the off-season? Fat gut and no defintion. That's former Olympia champion Ronnie Coleman to the left, and this how he looks during the off-season.

The amount of work it takes to get in "show shape" is astounding -- the diet, the cardio, the drugs. These images are totally unrealistic for any man to live up to. But no one ever says how impossible such fitness is to maintain. So young men (and the women they want to impress) are looking for the ripped abs.

The single greatest population of steroid users is not athletes -- it's average men who no longer are content to look average, who want to look like the guys on the magazine covers.

And the real insidious thing now is that the male anorexic look is all the rage among those who hire male models at the highest levels:

Where the masculine ideal of as recently as 2000 was a buff 6-footer with six-pack abs, the man of the moment is an urchin, a wraith or an underfed runt. Nowhere was this more clear than at the recent men’s wear shows in Milan and Paris, where even those inured to the new look were flabbergasted at the sheer quantity of guys who looked chicken-chested, hollow-cheeked and undernourished.
This is the same crap that women have been facing for decades, and now men are suffering the same consequences as the women -- anorexia and other eating disorders.

Whether it's the ultra-thin look or the ripped abs look, men are facing unreal images that are creating psychological health issues.

More importantly, it comes down to the same issue -- lack of an inner sense of self-worth and a corresponding quest to find meaning in the recognition and approval of others. Nothing but self-destruction can come of this.


6 comments:

didlake said...

I must confess a certain amount of embarrassment to the fact while I've not struggled with anorexia, I have felt the pressure. The other day, I saw a concert with one of my favorite musicians - and I'm quite sure the dude was wearing a size 12 in pants. Most of my friends are quite skinny, and it makes simple things such as swimming and wearing a normally sized shirt something very difficult to do in public.

As a result, I've started working out - and would definitely enjoy being a sculpted monster, but I'm always running against the truth that, while I love being in shape, I hate the amount of time and sacrifice it takes to become a god among men.

Funny how life has taken this turn. Most of my female friends have struggled with some sort of an easting disorder - my old girlfriend had some serious body issues. Yet from the same wellspring of self-deprecation has come an equally pleasing thing that guys, in order to be excepted, must be small. If you love eating (within reason) and don't have the kind of metabolism, you're considered out of shape.

Oh, to live above the societal norms. Oh, to live for what's healthy and good rather than what's accepted.

^a_g_n_e_s^ said...

The Adolescent Eating Disorder Outpatient Program is conducted in a caring, safe environment where adolescents can become aware of their feelings and learn to manage life's issues without using their eating disorder.
Eating disorder

luccy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

the first picture shows two different boys, one normal sized if a little small, and the other fairly skinny. THEY ARE NOT ANNOREXIC !!!! WTF!!!! you're making skinny guys feel bad about themselves by calling them annorexic.

WH said...

Anon,

In the most general terms, anorexia (or better, malnutrition) requires a BMI of 17.5 or less - both of those guys are in that range, and the guy on the right is much lower.

When a few guys are genetically skinny, no problem.

When that ultra-skinny look is promoted in magazines as an ideal, then men will face the same issues as women with wanting to be TOO skinny.

Anonymous said...

@WH that is bullshit and you are making skinny guys feel bad. like me I am skinny, too skinny infact and I am going to the gym now to help me put on weight and definition. Those guys are no where near anorexia and this article is bullshit. You are doing the very thing you claim to be going against.. Idiot.
You are doing alot of harm to alot of males out there.