Male Anorexia on the Rise

While it is well-documented that anorexia nervosa strikes women more than men, experts estimate that 1 million men are also affected by the eating disorder. That means that the idea of self-enforced starvation as the key to a perfect body is crossing gender lines. The American Journal of Psychiatry notes rising ratios of males with eating disorders.

Distorted Body Image a Factor

Once one recognizes that distorted body image is connected to the development of anorexia and other eating disorders it’s easy to make the leap of the imagination required to see that males, too, are in danger of starving themselves. Boys in high school can get fed up with being labeled as overweight and may decide to diet to get control over their failing body image. They want to be jocks, get attention from girls and to fit in. So, they begin a self-imposed regimen of more exercise and less food.

Mick Jagger or Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Dr. Arnold E. Anderson, director of the Eating Disorders Unit at the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine, comments that some men have idealized famous thin men like Mick Jagger, Brad Pitt, and James Bond, while others want to be well-muscled like Arnold Schwarzenegger. For years, pop culture was blamed for contributing to young women’s distorted perceptions of how they should look; a bad body image being one of the factors in developing an eating disorder. Now, it’s become hard for young men to escape such societal pressure on them to develop the perfect body.

Magazines dispense advice, dictating fashion to teens. The media tells them how to gain the attention of the opposite sex, how to look, and what to wear. Some male actors have spoken out on the subject of the battle against anorexia. Dennis Quaid who lost 42 pounds, going from 180-138 pounds, stated in an interview with Best Life magazine, “For many years, I was obsessed about what I was eating, how many calories it had, and how much exercise I’d have to do.”

The magazine’s Men’s Health editor, Matt Bean believes that eating disorders stem from people looking for short cuts, commenting that, “Guys like Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton–they are in an industry that obviously places a huge premium on image.”

There is a concern that because men have a vested interest in saving face and appearing macho, they might not seek out help while in the throes of an eating disorder, though such diseases are best treated when caught early on.

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