Sam Thomas: ITV Fixers
It is not just women who are susceptible to insecurity. Eating disorders are affecting the male population more than we realise.
Earlier this year, ex-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, revealed that he has spent many years battling bulimia. Other celebrities to have spoken out about their struggle with an eating disorder include Elton John, Paul Gascoigne, Russell Brand and Darkness front man Justin Hawkins. No doubt there are many others who have eating problems that we don’t know about.
Besides the rich and famous, men from all backgrounds, careers and sexualities are susceptible to eating disorders. In a survey carried out by The Eating Disorders Association eight years ago, it found that between ten and twenty per cent of the 60,000 people with eating disorders are men. This means that 6,000 to 12,000 men have eating disorders in the UK alone. However it is believed the actual figure is considerably higher, and is only so low in official statistics, because men tend to go their doctor less and are more concerned with keeping a façade of strength.
So, if the issue of eating disorders affecting men is more prevalent than we think, why has it not been more widely acknowledged? The lack of awareness plays a significant part, but the media can also be misleading. For example, more often than not, eating disorder stories are about female sufferers and the negative influence of female models and media.
However, men are also suffering from the same influences. For example, male models, such as those displayed on the front covers of men’s magazines are causing men to feel similarly insecure about their bodies. Not only does this enforce the stereotype of the way a man should apparently be, that being muscular and masculine and strong, it also sets a ‘standard’ which many men feel they ought to match. Consequently, many men have become so insecure and under pressure, they have developed eating disorders.
However, feelings of physical inadequacy are not the only trigger for eating disorders among men. My own eating disorder was caused by psychological problems. I had bulimia for several years as a consequence of homophobic bullying in school. Unlike most cases of eating disorders mine had nothing to do with weight or even body image – it was almost entirely due to the stress and depression caused by the bullying.
Now I have recovered I am hoping to launch a website for men with eating disorders. The site will help raise awareness of anorexia and bulimia in men so they can seek support.
I plan to have the site on-line by the end of the year. Meanwhile, I am looking for people who are willing to contribute experiences, help create and develop the site and assist the in the overall governance of the project by inputting into funding bids and publicity.
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