Eating Disorders Essay

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Approximately 7-10 million women across the country suffer from eating disorders. Most research into these serious disorders has been conducted on females. However, as many as a million men may also struggle with the diseases stated EDAP in 2012. Eating disorders are very serious conditions that cause people distress by obsessing over not gaining weight and intense anxiety about food. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Many people suffer from these disorders yet the majority of the focus falls on women. Most research and overall information is targeted towards woman. With the gender binary, the disconnected forms of masculine and feminine, woman are seen as a weaker gender and would be likely to have an eating disorder because of the mass media and wanting to be something they are not. The focus of this paper will fall upon men who suffer from eating disorders.

Research has shown that genetics has be a cause for eating disorders; like Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa, and Binge eating. These genes can be passed on from generation to generation. Doctors have been looking for genetic causes of eating disorders. The next step of will be to specifically identify the gene or genes that may cause vulnerability to anorexia, Berrettini says. New research on genes is coming out every day. Even though eating disorders can be in your genes, there are studies that show eating disorders could be socially learned. Socially learned eating disorders mostly come from the media. Everyone sees the stars with the perfect body type. Men and boys often see their favorite stars on the TV and want to be like them. Tara Carney and Johann Louw made a study that consisted of a survey and many interviews.

They made an analysis of the data and put it in to a paradigm model. Showing that most men are not happy with there body. With socially learned eating disorders there are some sports that push you to have an eating disorder. To start of with there are a few sports that have a representation of favoring low weighted athletes. These athletes include wrestlers, jockeys, and runners. In wrestling its called cutting weight. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, athletes (in that field) often believe that losing weight will improve their chances of winning. In this section I am going to use articles that have been in newspapers and reports of an onset of eating disorders like Weight Cutting Waning Among College Wrestlers. There are also a lot of different studies on jockeys and runners with eating disorders.

Sports can be a big cause of most men having eating disorders, but it doesnt always have to do with athletics. It is also can be considered as a womans disease, but eating disorders have been linked to homosexuality. In Maudsley Hospital in London they focused on the serotonin system. Its functions include determining appetite levels and sexual behavior (BBC).

Men and women have a big difference with eating disorders. According to Arnold Andersen, women who develop eating disorders because they feel fat before the onset of their disordered eating behaviors, typically they are near average weight (18). Men are more typically overweight medically before the development of the disorder. Men and women are going to react differently because men and women are different. Eating disorders have been studied more for woman then men. But, there are more women with eating disorders then men. This doesnt make men less important. In fact, there are more studies coming out on men with eating disorders. The focus of this paper will fall upon men who suffer from eating disorders. There are many reasons that men have an eating disorder: genetics, socially learned, sports, or just playing a role.

Genetics and Influences:

Genetic influences are one of the main causes of eating disorders. Studies have related characteristics of eating disorders being moderately to substantially heritable to eating disorders (Landt et al. 348). There have been many twin studies that suggest that eating disorders are heritable in adulthood (Klump et al. 679). In Klumps study, twins were there was an increased genetic influences compared to decreased environmental influences. As a result, twins that were influenced significantly through genetic effects in adulthood. But this only affects the genes part of the equation. This is nature vs. nurture in a sense.

The way that these males are being raised support eating disordered behaviors. The significant role genetic factors play in the development of eating disorders is becoming increasingly clear. Family studies of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa have consistently found a higher lifetime prevalence of eating disorders among relatives of eating disorder probands than among relatives of controls (Mazzeo, Bulk 67). Kearney-Cooke and Steichen-Asch found that men with eating disorders tend to have dependent, avoidant, and passive-aggressive personality styles, and to have experienced negative reactions to their bodies from their peers growing up (1). They tend to be closer to their mothers compared to their fathers.

The authors concluded that in our culture, muscular build, overt physical aggression, competence at athletics, competitiveness, and independence generally are regarded as desirable for males, whereas dependency, passivity, inhibition of physical aggression, smallness, and neatness are seen as more appropriate for females(NEDA 2). Boys who later develop eating disorders do not conform to the cultural expectations for masculinity; they tend to be more dependent, passive, and non-athletic, traits, which may lead to feelings of isolation and disparagement of body (NEDA 2). Genetics also play in that men and women are different with eating disorders.

Women to men:

Eating disorders are often called a womens disease. Women are more often to have eating disorders then men. One of the most frequently cited statistics was that men comprised approximately 5% to 10% of the anorexic population and an estimated 10%to 15% of the bulimic population (Stanford, Lemberg 379). But recently a Harvard study showed the 25% of all eating disorder cases are now men. Stanford and Lemberg made a study that compared two assessments Eating Disorder Inventory-3 and Eating Disorder Assessment for Men. The EDI-3 is comprised of 91 items: Scales of drive for thinness, bulimia, and body dissatisfaction. The EDAM is made for identifying the main concerns of male eating disorders: food issues, weight concerns, exercise issues, body image, and disordered eating habits.

Then with the two assessments, researchers could find the (EDRC) Eating Disorder Risk Composite. This score measures the extent of risk for an eating disorder. The results of this study align with previous research showing that women with disordered eating scored higher than men with disordered eating (Stanford, Lemberg 388). These results suggest that the EDRC score does not completely capture eating disorder symptoms in males as it does for females, stated Stanford. Also in Arnold Andersens research on men and women suggested that women who develop eating disorders feel fat before the onset of the disorder. Men are typically overweight medically before developing a disorder.


Even though men and women that have eating disorders are different, they still are judged. Sexual orientation, body shame, body mass index, weight discrepancy and age were investigated as risks for eating disorder symptomatology in gay and heterosexual men (Boisvert, Harrell 210). This is shown by the study of 230 undergraduate students of different sexual orientation and eating disorder symptomatology taking a questionnaire. This questionnaire had demographic questions and standardized measurements if eating habits or lack of. The results of this study were supported by the hypothesis. That heterosexual men and homosexual were different in the studies. The homosexual men were at a greater risk of the eating disorders. There are theories why this is like the sociocultural theory. The theories postulate that gay subcultures imposition of demanding standards of weight, physical appearance and idealizing of thinness are evocative of disordered eating (Boisvert, Harrell 218). Disordered eating is in homosexual communities as well as sports communities.

Eating Disorders within sports communities:

We tend to think of athletes, especially those at collegiate or elite levels of competition, as being healthy(Thompson et al. 317). This assumption of health maybe engendered by their athletic performance or by what they are able and willing to endure healthy. Yet in the name of commitment and competition, athletes engage in behaviors that are far from healthy (Thompson et al. 317). Sports are a pusher for male eating disorders. Wrestling, running, and jockeying are the main sports that depend weight. In every form of racing, weight is often the difference between winning and losing (Seltzer 1). This may not be any truer than in horse racing. According to Animal Planet, there is no height limit for jockeys only weight limits (1). Jockeys are required to weigh between 108 and 118 pounds. This is because trainers do not want to stress their prized horses Lighter jockeys may be able to get more rides (although its mostly about their ability). Eating disorders are very common among jockeys, due to the extreme pressure to maintain unusually low and specific weights.

To keep their weight down, some jockeys consume as few as 600 calories a day (Animal Planet 2). Many racetracks have heaving bowls installed in bathroom stalls to accommodate the 30 percent of jockeys who purge to maintain weight ” this process is also known as flipping in the horse-racing industry. Before each race, a jockey gets on a scale to determine whether he or she makes the assigned weight. If a jockey fails to make a certain weight requirement, he or she may spend up to two hours in a hot box to sweat off more weight. Others will combine this with taking diuretics to reduce weight. These practices can have grave effects on the jockeys bodies. In serious cases, such practices can cause dehydration and potassium depletion, which causes heart problems, fatigue, slow reflexes, muscle weakness and dry skin (Animal Planet 3). If potassium levels are depleted quickly, the jockey could suffer heart failure and possibly death (Animal Planet 3). Jockeys who stay dehydrated to avoid gaining water weight can push their liver and kidneys to failure. Lack of fluids can cause fatal heart arrhythmias.

Jockeys are not the only athletes with weight regulations. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, athletes often believe that losing weight will improve their chances of winning (1). Wrestlers lose weight frequently, using rapid reduction methods in order to qualify for a certain weight classification. Under these conditions, the potential for developing eating disorders seems apparent (Lakin, Steen, Oppliger 223). Previous studies have shown that wrestlers cut weight frequently by using food restriction, fluid deprivation, and thermal dehydration (Lakin, Steen, Oppliger 224). This ties into eating disorders by showing that wrestlers use some forms of eating disordered behavior like binge eating and bulimia. Lakin, Steen, and Oppliger researched how high school wrestlers acted under these conditions.

First they made to groups: DG and NDG. DG is the diagnostic and NDG was the nondiagnostic. They give each group a test to see their eating behaviors in hopes that the NDG group would not have any. Too much surprise both groups had eating disordered behaviors, but the DG group was much higher than the NDG group. Researchers believe that high school wrestlers are at risk of developing eating disorders in this sport. However, it is not known whether or not the boys entered the wrestling arena with the disorders or if this is specific sport encourages regimes that are conducive to disordered eating patterns (Lakin, Steen, Oppliger 232). Distance running is often viewed as a thinness sport (Thompson 321). But as the thinness sport there is not much research behind eating disordered behaviors. Running serve as an outlet to men that all ready have eating disorders trying to stay lean. Even though sport communities can push eating disorders, they are pushed more in media.


There is a relationship between eating disordered behaviors and exposure to ideal-type media. To is show the comparison, Tara Careney and Johann Louw created a study using a questionnaire and a media composite variable. The first examination of a possible relationship between media exposure and disordered eating patterns was a quantitative one, and was conducted by analyzing responses to questionnaire items (Careney, Louw 958). The people who were a participant in this study were of both sexes. The sample was 221 undergraduate students at University of Cape Town were invited to do the study. Their ages ranged from 18 to 32 years old. This study was measured by Eating Attitude Test-26, a 26 item self-reported scale primarily measuring symptoms associated with eating disorders and by mass exposure (Careney, Louw 958).

The mass media measure was calculated by the following: having a television at home, Internet access at home, Internet usage, and magazine reading. The sample was also asked about the ideal body type of celebrities and asked how much the sample when to movies. Then, the first part of the study was did not answer the question fully so Careney and Louw added a second phase. The second phase included interviews. These interviews explored how the people used their media in comparison of the EAT-26 scores.

The participants were asked to study the questionnaire they took earlier. Then the interview only was for 30 minutes to an hour. At the beginning of the interview participants were asked to retake the EAT-26, which put more focus on their attention to eating behaviors (Careney, Louw 960). The results of this study were not too shocking, because the participants agreed that thinness depicting and thinness promoting media is linked to their disordered eating. But most people all ready knew that link existed, this study was different because it made the participants tells how they utilized magazines, television, and the Internet. Careney and Louw showed that more use of mass media the more that the participants had eating disorders.

Feelings and Conclusion:

Men with eating disorders are over looked in todays world. This is happening because eating disorders are to often called a womens disease because mostly women have it. This is because women are primarily diagnosed more than men. Why are eating disorders primarily diagnosed in women over men? The answer is obvious, many more women than men are present for eating disorder treatment. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests that 5 15 percent of individuals diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia will be male (1). Of clients diagnosed with binge eating disorder, 35 percent will be male (2). This womens disease is becoming more and more know with males. The rate of males having eating is increasing because of new genetics, mass media, social influences, and sports. Several other factors contribute to this phenomenon.

Much of this eating disorder increase is a result of Americas obsession with perfection in areas such as appearance and achievement (Ekern 2). Whereas the need to be physically perfect was once exclusively directed at girls, today, boys are receiving similar pressure. Pressure to be thin can be seen in pop culture like action figures: they are absurdly muscular, especially in the chest and shoulders. This does impact boys, not unlike the way Barbie has traditionally influenced girls (Ekern 2). Now, consider advertising, where the men depicted are the male equivalent of super models: lean and fit, or cut and buff. Men with eating disorders need help with their self imagine and to see how the eating is affecting them. But the problem with eating disorders in males is asking for help. Most males dont want to look weak or feminine.

To push the issue of eating disorders we should start with loosing a stigma and not loosing a pound. Like Matt Wetsel that was 26 and took more than a month to work up the courage to try group therapy for anorexia, that consumed two years of his life (Pearson 1). We shouldnt put so much stress on males to look one way the thin way, but put stress on healthily lifestyles. With new evidence that the media shows males being more trim and the rise of skinny jeans could be turned into awareness of eating disorders. I think that we should be pushing media to give a better understanding of the importance of male eating disorders in our society. To change the stigma we need to get information to the population how eating disorders are happening in both sexes.

Some nonprofit organizations like National Eating Disorders Association and Eating Disorder Hope have been focused on eating disorder treatment but this not enough. We should give more research funds to eating disorders because more and more people are battling them then other diseases like Alzheimers disease. In the National Institutes of Health poll eating disorders were at a higher prevalence with 10 million people suffering and had a research fund at $12 million where as Alzheimers disease has a lower prevalence with 4.5 million and a higher amount for research funds at $647 million. We should put more funding in some thing that is increasing over the years. We suspect that these new findings are only the tip of the iceberg, as we know that there is still a large majority of male sufferers who struggle to get the help they need, due to the stigma and stereotypical gender assumptions still made about eating disorders, Sam Thomas, founder of Men Get Eating Disorders Too charity in the UK, told The Huffington Post (Pearson 1). The stigma is at eating disorders are only for females.

This stigma in turn is making males not to go for treatment. Treatment is extremely important for someone with any type of eating disorder. The way that most treatments are set up could change a persons perspective of himself or herself. This is serious stuff. There isnt any room for people to treat eating disorders as anything less than a life-threatening illness. Its bad enough and hard enough for women to get help and be taken seriously, and men have to deal with an additional layer of stigma that supposedly challenges the way people see their masculinity and sexuality Matt Wetsel stated (Pearson 2). Treatment can be in different ways: psychodynamic model, cognitive behavioral, and an addiction/disease model (Clark 1). Psychodynamic model aims to help the client discover the underlying cause of his or her illness and to understand the function or purpose the eating disorder serves. The essence of the cognitve behavioral therapy (CBT) is that thoughts (cognitions, thought patterns) influence how one feels and behaves (Clark 2). The final model is addiction/disease. The addiction/disease model views food as an addictive substance.

Clients must abstain from the trigger foods that cause bingeing. These treatments help males get over their eating disorder with ease. Nearly 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. are battling eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, while millions more suffer from binge eating disorders (NEDA). Male eating disorders are increasing over the years because of new sources. First is the genetic traits have been found in twin studies. This shows that eating disorders can be passed generation to generation.

Next mass media and sports push men to be trim and fit. Sports like wrestling, jockeying, and running push athletes to loose weight. Mass media shows images of the perfect body and fashion traits that only small people can wear. Finally, eating disorders are known with female problem. This also shows that are society has a stigma that only females or homosexual males can have eating disorders. But as more males are reporting having eating disorders the views are starting to change. To conclude male eating disorders can be caused by many reasons: genetics, socially learned, sports, or even just playing a role. Eating disorders are serious in both sexes but they should not be over looked in just one sex.

Work Cited Page:
Andersen, Arnold E. Males with Eating Disorders. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1990. Print. Boisvert, Jennifer A., and Andrew Harrell, W. Homosexuality as Risk Factor for Eating Disorder Symptomatology in Men. The Journal of Mens Studies 17.9 (2009): 210-25. Print. Carney, Tara, and Johann Louw. Eating Disordered Behaviors and Media Exposure. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 41.12 (2006): 957-66. Print. Clark, Christopher. Treatment Info. for Eating Disorders: What You Need to Know. Treatment Info. for Eating Disorders: What You Need to Know. N.p., 2006. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. Eating Disorders Among Jockeys. Animal Planet. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. . Eating Disorders. NIMH RSS. N.p., 21 July 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. . Ekern, Jacquelyn. Eating Disorders in Men. Eating Disorder Hope RSS. N.p., 25 Apr. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.

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