Eating disorders reflect complex psychobiological stressors. They also occur with complex nutritional imbalances and may be understood as efforts to regulate affect through food and food-related behaviors. — Leslie E. Korn Ph.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, NTP
Eating disorders are some of the biggest compositions of mental health disorders today, but while these disorders were more popularly prevalent among women, much research has shown that the men of today are also affected. Although a majority of those with eating disorders, particularly bulimia nervosa, are women, one in ten are males and are equally struggling to find ways to free themselves from the dangers of this illness.
Bulimia in Male Athletes
The large population of men found to have bulimia nervosa is in the group of male athletes who are aiming to possess leaner and perfectly shaped bodies for the sake of sports. Most of these athletes have an ideal body type that they wish to possess through exercise and other physical activities, and they feel that they might lose the weight if they just throw up and get rid of everything that they have consumed. That is the hallmark of bulimia – self-induced vomiting. This vomiting may have been a result of too much dieting, which has led to too much hunger, and eventually binge eating, and so the cycle goes on.
Adolescent elite athletes may be at an especially high risk of eating disorders due to the higher prevalence of eating disorders generally during the developmental period of adolescence combined with the body-focus of elite athletics. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.
The National Eating Disorders Association has given a 33% estimate of body builders, wrestlers, gymnasts and swimmers who suffer from eating disorders, both anorexia and bulimia. Additionally, 40% of Cornell University’s football players apparently engage in vomiting, according to Newsweek.
Bulimia in Homosexuals
Despite the growing acceptance of gays and the LGBT community, they are continually impacted by a lot of stressors such as harassment in school, bullying, and discrimination. These factors, along with homosexuals being more self-conscious of themselves because of society’s perception of them, has led them to be more vulnerable to having eating disorders. The gays particularly have a more prevalent case of body dissatisfaction. In fact, it has been proven through research that 42% of the gay population engage in binge eating, vomiting or laxative abuse. Ultimately, there has been a higher number of gays and bisexuals who have developed lifetime full syndrome bulimia.
Males with Bulimia
One of the reputable males who opened up about his eating disorder was John Prescott, Britain’s former deputy Prime Minister. He publicized that he was struggling with too much eating and then vomiting, and was too ashamed and afraid to talk about it initially for several years. Andrew Flintoff, a popular cricket player also from Britain, had his share of vomiting episodes in the middle of his games!
While participating in group sports has been shown to improve our self-esteem, social skills, and mood, a new study finds that nearly a quarter of Division I sportsmen and women report symptoms of depression. — Katherine Schreiber MFA, LMSW
Sam Thomas, the founder of MGEDT (Men Get Eating Disorders Too), had bulimia and practically had no knowledge at all that he had the illness. He was almost always having bouts of throwing up in his school restroom after eating his lunch. It was his way of dealing with the stress and bullying issues he was battling against, and for a while he felt good about it. He had fought his battle with bulimia since he was 16 and is now finally helping people get through the illness themselves. According to him, “It’s seen as a weakness and a female thing, and there are many men who wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about their disorders. There’s a sense of shame and a fear of not being taken seriously.”
Today, there are a number of charity organizations and communities who are willing and able to lend a hand to females and males who need help in finding ways to cope and cure their eating disorders. It is especially vital for men to realize that they are not alone in their struggles and there is always help for them.