Life in Balance

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CTV News: Research Sheds Light on Eating Disorders in Young Men

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Published Sunday, January 5, 2014 10:09PM EST

Eating disorders are commonly associated with women, but recent research is shedding light on young men’s struggles with anorexia, overeating and other disorders.

Dr. Skevoulla Xinaris, a psychologist with Lakeridge Health’s eating disorders program in Oshawa, Ont., told CTV News that she’s seeing more young men at the clinic who have severe eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating.

“There are rates as high as one male for every six females (who) may actually have an eating disorder,” she said.

Jay Walker, a former eating disorder patient, speaks to CTV News in Toronto.

Those numbers are similar to those published in a study last November. The U.S. researchers surveyed more than 5,000 boys between the ages of 12 and 18 from 1999 to 2011. They found that 31 per cent of the boys reported infrequent binge eating, purging or overeating.

It’s a trend doctors say is being driven in part by depression and pop culture images that glorify thin and muscular male physiques.

However, men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the common perception that they are women’s diseases, according to the U.S. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

The health impacts of eating disorders can include a loss in bone density, muscle-weakness, kidney failure and even death.

Xinaris said many patients also experience gastro-intestinal difficulties and cardiac issues.

Jay Walker, a former eating disorder patient, first started watching his weight when he was just a young boy.

“I was probably 11 years old when I first started dieting,” he told CTV News.

Walker eventually became obsessed with counting calories and exercising to the extreme to keep his weight down to about 100 lbs. The ordeal took a toll on his mental and physical health.

“Emotionally I was a wreck,” he said. “Mentally, I had a really hard time keeping up in school, and socially all of my relationships really dwindled with my friends and my family.”

After receiving treatment and therapy, Walker has learned to accept his body. He now leads a healthy lifestyle and works as a professional fitness trainer.

He says he’s speaking out about his past eating disorder so that other men will feel comfortable addressing the issue.

“There’s nothing wrong with talking about the problems that you have,” he said. “And the sooner you start talking, the faster you’re going to start getting rid of them and the better your life’s going to be.”

With a report by CTV News’ medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip


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