There's quite a buzz in media to 'stay the perfect weight' and to 'keep a nice figure' but if you looked at a magazine for more than ten seconds, you'll infer (or be explicitly told) that such articles are written for women, and on many occasions young girls. This in itself is a problem, the push to stay a golden mean of weight in order to be perceived as beautiful, but what's even more strange, is that men are almost never included in the equation.
If you search up a bit on the web, you'll find that many sources ( National Association of ANAD, National Eating Disorders Association, N.A.M.E.D, etc. ) often make the very saddening statement that "men are much less likely than women to be diagnosed early with an E.D". Such articles also mention that often, even when doctors are presented with men under or overweight, they rarely ever actually diagnose the patient with an E.D even if they meet the qualifications.
So why is it that men have fallen under the radar on a topic so much of media focuses on? Well, for one, E.D's are stereotyped as 'feminine' issues, and even when considered such, are still grossly underestimated. Even in the case of girls and women diagnosed with E.D's, there is much stigma and belief that those girls simply "want attention" or "fake it" or are simply "dieting". Now try and insert the problem of disgustingly under-recognized problem of male E.D cases and you aren't going to get much positive feedback.
Even though media portrays E.D's as a feminine problem, it isn't even true (shock, I know). Sufferers of E.D's are 30%-40% male (Hudson, 2007), and men engage in harmful, eating-disordered related behaviors nearly as much as women do (Mond, 2013).
So how do we fix it? How do we help men and young boys who suffer quietly and unknowingly get help and heal?
Awareness. The first step of action is to look at the men and boys in your life, and analyze. Even look to yourself, guys, and analyze. Try and find possible signs and symptoms of a person suffering from an E.D. Keep in mind, not all symptoms will be displayed, and often times, men and boys have learned to fight through the external symptoms, while the internal harm is still active. Here's a short list of symptoms to start with you can look for in others and perhaps yourself (via National Association of ANAD):
- Feeling dull
- Feeling listless
- Difficulty in concentration and listening
- Difficulty in regulating mood
- Associated mental disorders such as: OCD, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, etc.
- Chest Pain
- Shortness of breath
- Stunted growth (mostly in younger boys)
- Lack of interest in food/eating
- Fainting spells/Dizziness
- Low energy
- Thinning head hair
And many others. Again, not all these symptoms will be displayed, but they are major, recognizable symptoms.
While women in the first place are unrecognized, men are many times more likely to be diagnosed late, or not at all.
Other than trying to recognize these things in your friends and family, what else can you do? Be supportive. Much of this issue stems from the fact that we don't think through what we say to boys about their weight. We often encourage them to eat, or joke about how they "eat so much". They suffer pressure from coaches and classes, often wanting to lose (or gain) weight for wrestling, football, etc. when no thought was spared for whether or not it was healthy for their bodies.
When it comes to sports, it's less likely these weight gains and losses are unmonitored but it is still a possibility - so make sure your body is able to handle it, and/or make sure to do such a diet in the least physically straining way. Boys who don't do sports are in more danger, because they are less likely to watch their weight and physique. I'm not saying step on the scale everyday or check to see if your friend/family member is, but check periodically, research a weight that would be healthy for your BMI and pick a good goal, or range to keep at/in. It's fine if you go over or under a pound or so, but try to keep in your healthy weight goal.
Above all, make sure that you are happy, guys. I know it isn't something many people will tell you, but ask yourself if you are happy, take measures to help yourself and keep yourself emotionally and mentally content. Do not allow negative comments get under your skin, and watch for comments that you may not even realize have an effect on your mood/beliefs.
Because boys worry about weight too, and they suffer too from the sharp end of media and media content. Support your E.D suffering brothers. Support people with E.D disorders.
For more information and resources for help, take a look at some of the pages I have noted here and more such as-
Stay healthy, guys and girls. Stay happy.