Thin times for the manorexic
October 31, 2007 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Eating disorders aren't just for women. While commonly understood as a condition that hits women, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can be and are devastating (to say nothing of 'underdiagnosed') for men, too. This is the story of Jeremy, an 88-pound 36-year old guy. posted by norm (22 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's also Exercise Bulimia which affects many men.

I've personally seen the impact of eating disorders in gay men.

Boy Meets Bulimia
"Gay men are more prone to eating disorders than women or straight men are, according a survey of people in New York City. Comparative lifetime prevalence: fewer than 5 percent of straight men; 8 percent of straight women; fewer than 10 percent of lesbians; more than 15 percent of gay men. This corroborates other studies.

1) Gay men, like straight women, fret about staying thin.

2) But straight women don't seem to fret more than lesbians do.

3) Feeling connected to the gay community lowers a man's risk of eating disorders.

4) But playing sports with other gay men raises it."
posted by ericb at 3:38 PM on October 31, 2007

Men and Eating Disorders.
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on October 31, 2007

Yikes. Poor guy. When I was younger I thought I might have some kind of eating disorder. Not because I didn't eat (I did), and not because I threw up my food (only when over-drunk), but simply because my weight was so incredibly low. Not as low as that poor guy's, but not far from it.

When I joined the Army (at age 17), I weighed a bit less than 100 pounds, at 5' 10". (How I got into the Army with that height/weight is a hilarious tale unto itself.) I'm pretty sure now that it was my brain chewing up my energy, as I always had problems turning my brain off, which was especially problematic at night. In my 30s I started eating those super-high-calorie milkshake-like drinks, and that helped some, got me up past 125 pounds. And now, in my 40s, I have no more problem - up to 175-ish, and feel much healthier.
posted by jamstigator at 3:52 PM on October 31, 2007

What's interesting in this story is that his disorder seems to stem from weight loss issues — his stepfather calling him fat, being pudgy as a youth.

For many girls and women, anorexia and bulimia is less about weight loss and more about trying to stop the physical aspects of sexual maturation — breast development, hips, curves. That's why a lot of girls with easting disorders cite an early sexual assault as the trigger for their disease.

I wonder how his experiences (and his triggering) relate to other men with EDs, and how representative he is of the whole.
posted by Brittanie at 4:43 PM on October 31, 2007

uhg. easting = eating, of course
posted by Brittanie at 4:45 PM on October 31, 2007

Poor dude . . . You would hope at some point the obvious negative effects on women of our image-obsessed culture would inspire some significant movement against it. But instead it's worsening and pulling men in, too.

For many girls and women, anorexia and bulimia is less about weight loss and more about trying to stop the physical aspects of sexual maturation — breast development, hips, curves.

I think it is more about control, where control of your sexuality and development may be a part of it. For me, certainly, and for a large number of the case studies I read on women with eating disorders, it stemmed not from sexual abuse or desire to stop maturation but from the psychological feeling of power one got from controlling their food, as well as the high you get from purging/fasting.
posted by schroedinger at 4:46 PM on October 31, 2007

Also, as much as depression and a Type-A personality and issues of control encourage the disorder, its fundamental cause is a desire for weight loss that goes horribly awry. That was my impression, anyway.
posted by schroedinger at 4:48 PM on October 31, 2007

I missed this part:

And also being malnourished, you don't feel sexual, so you don't have to worry about being gay or straight.

Obviously there are different causes, I just know a few interviews I've read with girls who suffer from the disease claim that by starving themselves they hope to somehow escape the attention that begins when you grow from a girl to a woman. So, control over sexuality is a part of it, as you said.

Thankfully I've never had personal experience with this disease, but I do feel an overwhelming urge to better understand it, beyond the "those people just want to look skinny" mentality.
posted by Brittanie at 4:59 PM on October 31, 2007

Wow, greenskpr, how trollish of you.

I suspect that you could probably include a fair number of athletes, body builders, and others who use drugs and extreme diets to achieve their ideal body in the same category as anorexics. Destroying your body in pursuit of an obsessive ideal is common to all. It's just that it's not really recognized as a disorder in men, since sports is so worshipped in our culture.

And really; eating disorders get clucked about, but deep down, most women know that a truly fashionable body requires some mild to severe disorder. The standards are so ridiculous now that you really can't eat healthily and achieve them, much of the time.
posted by emjaybee at 5:00 PM on October 31, 2007

waaaaaaa. I won't eat? look at me. feel for me. waaaaa.

Alcoholics should just stop their goddam drinking, depressed people should just cheer the fuck up, and starving Africans should just move the fuck out of the fucking desert, amirite?
posted by pracowity at 5:29 PM on October 31, 2007

For women, eating disorders are often about gaining a sense of control over their lives by focusing it all on starvation or purging. I wonder how much this translates to men?
posted by Falconetti at 5:48 PM on October 31, 2007

The first anorexic I ever knew was a boy. He'd been pudgy until he joined the wrestling team, at which point he dropped weight at an alarming rate. The constant obsessive weighing required for competition seemed to have triggered something. At first it just seemed to be a careful manipulation of what his weight class would be, but he dropped below the necessary threshhold and kept the obsessive behavior even in the off season.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:46 PM on October 31, 2007

Wrestling is terrible, particularly in junior high and high school. How can you be expected to make weight when you're going through a growth spurt?
posted by Reggie Digest at 8:13 PM on October 31, 2007

Oh there are so many sad stories of those who have been intent on "making weight" for wrestling (and martial arts competitions -- Weight Loss - Dying to Make It.
posted by ericb at 8:20 PM on October 31, 2007

I wouldn't be surprised if a fair amount of wrestlers and jockeys and boxers and other weight-making athletes continue eating disorder behavior long after their participation in the sport ends. Once the biochemistry is established and the physiological and psychological "rewards" ingrained, the initial stimulus/stressor becomes immaterial.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:41 PM on October 31, 2007

waaaaaaa. I won't eat? look at me. feel for me. waaaaa.

Alcoholics should just stop their goddam drinking, depressed people should just cheer the fuck up, and starving Africans should just move the fuck out of the fucking desert, amirite? pracowity

posted by dasheekeejones at 3:55 AM on November 1, 2007

Body dysmorphia isn't mentioned here; I wonder what the ratio of men to women with that particular disorder is? I wonder if men dream of eating food all night... and of seeing themselves physically tear fat off of themselves in their dreams, too?
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:37 AM on November 1, 2007

FelliniBlank: Seabiscuit (the book, not the movie) related the torments that jockeys put themselves through in order to stay small and light. They starved, they purged, they took laxatives. In some cases, that brought on a jockey's wrecked health or premature death.

It seems to me that eating disorders result, most times, from being shamed for being fat or perceived as fat, even when the person is objectively of average weight; or from super rewards being doled out to the very thin, as in ballerinas, models, jockeys, etc. Either way, it's sad. With "Jeremy," I blame the evil stepfather for triggering an eating disorder in a vulnerable boy.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:49 AM on November 1, 2007

Unicorn, guys do suffer from a form of body dysmorphia--muscle dysmorphia, where the sufferer feels they are underbuilt and do not look strong. From the little research I've done, men suffering from eating/exercise disorders are not as obsessed with looking waifish as they are looking extremely jacked and cut.
posted by schroedinger at 12:39 PM on November 1, 2007

posted by fermezporte at 12:44 PM on November 1, 2007

man that guy is hot.
posted by kigpig at 1:15 PM on November 1, 2007

I kind of agree with you - but I think the difference is between an eating disorder and disordered eating. That's a distinction I've seen made, and it makes sense to me.

For the vast majority of women, achieving a fashionable figure does require disordered eating/lifestyle. And that is a great recipe for developing an eating disorder. But I don't think that the two are exactly the same.

Actually I *guess* that the woman who says, I know that a size 2 is wacky and unnatural for me, but I want it because it's considered fashionable and sexy, and so will deny myself such and such and such to achieve it, or surgically alter myself in these ways, in the long run may be healthier than a woman who really believes that being a size 2 will make her healthier/sexier (as opposed to fashionable)/safer/happier.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:29 AM on November 4, 2007

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