Why We Must Talk About Males and Eating Disorders – Zach Rawlings
Numbers from the National Eating Disorder Association show that 10 million males in the United States will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder during their lifetime.
That number, again, is 10,000,000 males.
We must ask ourselves a number of questions when we read statistics like these:
- Why are so many men battling eating disorders?
- And why do they not seek help?
One possible issue could be due to the ideal male body type currently being displayed and promoted in the media (take Channing Tatum and his ripped abs, for example). With such a high standard for most guys today, it’s no wonder that discussions about males and eating disorders are on the rise. This is especially true when considering eating disorders in the gay community.
Along with often unattainable (airbrushed and edited) images of men in the media, there are other factors contributing to eating disorders in males. For instance, take our culture’s tendency to pressure men into hiding their vulnerability. While our society has made great strides to adopt more options of what it means to be “male” by loosening up gender roles, many men still feel confined by rigid expectations. Many males feel they shouldn’t disclose negative or vulnerable emotions. Many feel they must maintain a tough appearance to avoid being viewed as weak or powerless.
Take, for example, this common unspoken message:
Don’t show your weakness, and if needed, numb yourself from caring or investing in important people or things to prevent your weakness from showing.
The research agrees. In one study, it was discovered that men who share openly about their weaknesses were actually viewed less favorably (by both men and women) than women who chose to share openly about their vulnerabilities (Collins & Miller, 1994). Although many people might believe they want the men in their lives to disclose more, research indicates that isn’t necessarily always true.
Zach Rawlings is a professional counselor, podcaster, and mental health advocate. He’s a big fan of cool kicks, a good beat, and doing nothing—with people. You can learn more about his projects on Twitter, Facebook and his website.