Zayn Malik took a punt and talked about his restrictive eating a couple of years back which went some way towards busting the stigma around eating distress in men. In the US alone over 10 million males suffer with disordered eating. Like all psychological disorders, eating falls on a continuum and includes everything from restricting food to excessive exercise and emotional eating and everything in between.
- Have You Ever Coexisted?
According to NEDA disordered eating generally exists alongside other conditions or symptoms such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse or OCD.
In a study that followed more than 13,000 young people from age 14 to age 20, researchers found that the prevalence of eating disorders in the male study participants rose from 1.2% at age 14 to 2.9% at age 20.
- On the Rise
There are twice as many women with eating disorders than men. But research suggests certain eating issues are becoming more common among males. In a study that compared data from surveys taken in 1998 and 2008, researchers found that purging and extreme dieting increased at a faster rate in men compared to women.
- Same, Same
Aside from weight loss, there are other universal symptoms that manifest in both men and women. “When the body is malnourished, it can be more easily fatigued and less coordinated, resulting in an increased potential for falls or accidents,” she explains. Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of Better Than Perfect notes “The immune system can be compromised, making it more likely for you to get sick or stay ill longer because you cannot fight off infections.” Disordered eating can also take a toll on mental and emotional health, Lombardo adds. The person may have trouble concentrating or learning, for example, or feel more irritable and stressed.
Men who struggle with food issues tend to be preoccupied with looking “cut or ripped,” says Stephanie Zerwas, PhD, clinical director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. They may get into dangerous cycles of bulking and shredding that might resemble a binge/purge cycle in women. The scary part is these behaviors are often encouraged by trainers in gyms and the positive affirming can be dangerous for me. Often the desire for a six-pack is a tell-tale sign. But disordered eating isn’t about vanity. It’s more often than not a coping mechanism for anxiety. But it can quickly get out of hand and can often go undisguised.