"How I felt about myself the whole day would depend on the number I saw on the scale or what I thought about my appearance in the mirror as I brushed my teeth."
~ Male, Alpine Nutrition Client
It's true that the majority of my clients with Alpine Nutrition are women. And yes, I'd say that I specialize in women's health when it comes to disordered eating and diet recovery.
Disordered eating and body shame don't discriminate between gender...women, men, trans. In honor of Men's health month (June) and Father's Day, I wanted to shine some advocacy light toward all of the 10 million men, about 1 in 3 people, who struggle to achieve or maintain the perfect fit, strong, chizzled, ripped, toned, ideal body.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, it's a significant (and dangerous) myth that eating disorders and disordered eating only affect upper class, white, women. A 2012 GQ article describes 20-30% of people suffering from anorexia are male. Bulimia, binge eating disorder, and orthorexia have similar statistics for men.
It's commonly thought that only women are concerned with their health and appearance. While their motivations may be slightly different, men are equally as likely to manipulate their food choices to reduce calories (loose weight) and increase muscle mass by increase consumption of protein - either in food or supplement form (hello chalky protein powders!). The desire for increased musculature is common among the ages...25% of normal weight men perceive themselves to be underweight, not muscular enough. While 90% of teen boys report exercising for the specific goal of bulking up. Both incidences are known as bigorexia or muscle dysmorphia.
Men are also just as likely to be influenced by diet/wellness culture from the perspective that to be manly they must be hyper focused on building muscle and stamina through overexercising and consuming steroids. According to Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Marjama, in his personal account of his ED recovery, more steroids are consumed by everyday guys trying to change their body composition than professional athletes.
There's significant opportunity to support men in getting the help they need to recover from this mental illness - of which their risk of mortality is higher than women due to late interventions if at all.
As a society, we need to start reducing the stigma that is associated with ED's being a "female disorder." Men can feel isolated in both the assessment and treatment of their ED's. Much of the diagnostic criteria is female specific such as loss of menstruation. When they do seek treatment, men can feel awkwardly out of place in a treatment group settings where all the other participants are women describing their hatred of body parts such as thighs, butts, and breasts.
Because of this, men such as Mike Marjama, Patrick Devenny, and Brian Cuban have started to promote awareness that ED's are a human illness, not just a female illness. They're outreach to sports teams, medical providers, and communities nation-wide aims to educate all of us on the critically significant differences between male and female ED recovery.
I encourage all of us to check our blind spots when it comes to assuming who is at risk for disordered eating and even full blown eating disorders - 'cause they're both a guy thing too.