Life in Balance

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Eating Disorders in Men

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By Ed Biado from Manila Standard Today

“Men do not throw up their meals. Men do not starve themselves. Those are ‘female problems’,” lawyer and activist Brian Cuban wrote on the Yahoo! Healthy Living blog. His essay, “Guys Get Eating Disorders Too,” is a preview of his soon-to-be-published memoir, “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder,” which chronicles his personal struggle with eating disorders, a rare look at how a man deals with the condition.

Part of his powerful confession goes, “The first time I stuck my fingers down my throat and vomited up my meal was in 1980…It was the worst and at the same time the best I had ever felt about myself for a short burst of time…I had no idea that I had begun a descent into bulimia that would stay with me for the next twenty-six years.”

Although eating disorders affect all genders, ages and races, it is commonly associated with being white, young and female. Media reports are almost always about how it is prevalent in the modeling industry and among impressionable teenage girls. After all, their risk is significantly higher. Statistics show that 95 percent of individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25. An estimated 8 million Americans have eating disorders—7 million of whom are women. As much as 85 to 90 percent of people with anorexia and/or bulimia are female.

Presumably, most guys suffering from an eating-related condition feel the same way as Cuban (“As a man, the stigma associated with speaking out or seeking help was too much for me to bear.”) because of the overwhelming misconception that the disorders are something only girls have. Several studies, including two in 2007 and 2008, show that the general public perceives eating disorders as an almost exclusively female problem.

Gender bias has also observed among medical professionals—appetite changes in men are largely attributed to depression, lessening the male patients’ likelihood of being correctly diagnosed with either bulimia or anorexia.

“It’s time to bring male eating disorders into the 21st century,” asserts Cuban in his Yahoo! piece. “Men need to put an end to this stigma and create a voice to let the world know that we are also affected by these potentially deadly issues…There is no shame in speaking up. There is only recovery. Let’s start now.”

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