November 8, 2013 2:25 am
Updated: November 8, 2013 2:51 am

Men struggling with eating disorders on the rise


When most people think of anorexia, the image of a woman traditionally comes to mind.

The eating disorder was typically thought of as a mostly ‘female’ affliction.

But new research is challenging that stigma, claiming that one in five young men struggle with their body image.

Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital claims that a third of the male participants in their study had at some point binged or purged with food.

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Nearly a fifth of the men and boys had extreme concern about their appearance with a large majority worried they weren’t muscular enough.

Dr. Connie Coniglio from Children and Women’s Mental Health and Substance Use Programs says “there are lots of magazines, and lots of targeted media focusing on men and  body image and supplements and the perfect muscular body.”

Colter Long felt that pressure as a teenager, and one day he simply stopped eating.

He said “I was pretty hefty and I was always one of the bigger in my class.”

It started out as a weight loss contest with a friend but months later he was down 40 pounds.

At 130 pounds he felt overweight.

Long was slowly isolating family and friends as he suffered silently.

“I cut myself off from everybody in my life so it was just like a slow unintentional suicide.”

Trixie Hennessey from the Looking Glass Foundation, a support group for people suffering from eating disorders, hopes that this study will help educate and better diagnose men like Long.

She says “I still think there is a such a stigma out there that this is a female only disease and even the males themselves don’t necessarily get diagnosed when they should be, just given the lack of information that’s out there. ”

Long overcame what many are now calling ‘manorexia.’

Organizations like the Looking Glass Foundation hope that greater awareness will lead to treatment programs so that men like Long won’t suffer alone.

More on eating disorders:

Eating disorders are a group of disorders that affect the way you feel about food and the way you feel about your body and yourself.

There are three main eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.

Anorexia nervosa (anorexia) is a disorder that affects how you feel about your body and how you eat. People living with anorexia try to lose weight by eating very little, refusing to eat at all or exercising too much. Other people eat a small amount of food and then immediately try to eliminate the food by purging. Younger people living with anorexia may refuse to gain weight as they get older, even though the weight gain related to growing is normal and healthy.

Bulimia nervosa (bulimia) is a disorder that also affects how you feel about your body and how you eat. But with bulimia, you eat a lot of food in a short period of time. This is called bingeing or binge eating. While you eat, you might feel like you can’t control how much you eat. You also might feel good while you’re eating. But when you’re finished eating, you might be scared that you’ll gain weight. As a result, you might try to purge the food. Like anorexia, people living with bulimia may also think they’re much bigger than they really are or feel like they’d be a better person if they were thin.

Binge-eating is a disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food. For some people, overeating crosses the line to binge-eating disorder and it becomes a regular occurrence, usually done in secret.

With this disorder, you eat a lot of food in a short period of time (binge) on a regular basis. You can’t control what you eat or how much you eat, but you feel distressed, disgusted, guilty or depressed after eating. Binge eating may be a response to low mood or depression, anxiety, stress  or feeling “numb.” The difference between binge-eating disorder and bulimia is that people living with binge-eating disorder don’t try to purge the food they just ate. After a binge, you may try to diet.

Symptoms:  You may have no obvious physical signs or symptoms when you have binge-eating disorder. You may be overweight or obese, or you may be at a normal weight. However, you likely have numerous behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms, such as:

Eating unusually large amounts of food

Eating even when you’re full or not hungry

Eating rapidly during binge episodes

Eating until you’re uncomfortably full

Frequently eating alone

Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control

Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating

Experiencing depression and anxiety

Feeling isolated and having difficulty talking about your feelings

Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss

Losing and gaining weight repeatedly, also called yo-yo dieting\

Coping and Support

In addition to talking to your family doctor, check out the resources below for more information about eating disorders:

Jessie’s Legacy Program, Family Services of the North Shore

Visit call Mimi Hudson at 604-988-5281 to contact Family Services of the North Shore. FSNS provides eating disorders prevention education, resources and support for BC youth, families, educators and professionals through the Jessie’s Legacy program.

Kelty Resource Centre

Contact this BC resource centre at or 1-800-665-1822 (toll-free in BC) or 604-875-2084 (in Greater Vancouver) for information, referrals and support for children, youth and their families in all areas of mental health and substance use, and for people of all ages around eating disorders.

BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information

Visit the Mental Disorders Toolkit, more fact sheets, a discussion forum, and personal stories about eating disorders and other mental health problems. The Toolkit is full of information, tips and self-tests to help you understand mental health problems.

*Sources: Mayo Clinic and Canadian Mental Health Association

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