By: Lauren Tratuwein
Anywhere between 25-40% of people who suffer from eating disorders are male.
The last week of February is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. This week is important because there are a lot of misconceptions about the who, what, when, and why of eating disorders that need to be addressed in order to remove the stigma for those suffering, and educate others on what to look for in a person who may be struggling. Let’s start with the what.
What are eating disorders? Common eating disorders include Anorexia, Bulimia, and binge eating. People often have a general understanding that eating disorders occur from an attempt to lose weight. This may mean not consuming enough calories to sustain your body, either by starving oneself or purging in order to avoid processing the calories. However, eating disorders encompass a wider range of symptoms. Those who binge eat may be unable to control themselves from consuming excess calories when they experience stress.
Eating disorders may present themselves in small ways as well. This could include severely restricting the types of food one eats, or not eating in front of others. Eating disorders can be summarized as an unhealthy relationship with food, on either end of the spectrum.
The media often portrays those who suffer from eating disorders as young females. But they certainly are not the only ones who suffer from eating disorders. Anywhere between 25-40% of people who suffer from eating disorders are male. Males are less likely to seek help for the same symptoms as females due to stereotypes. It is not all youth either. While the average age for onset is between 16-24, symptoms may arise at any age, particularly when pressures about size or beauty are present. Increased education on who eating disorders can affect will lead to those who need help receiving it without fear of judgement.
The rate of eating disorders has doubled since the 1960s and while there are many factors, one of the main contributors is a greater access to media. It is no secret that media, particularly television, focuses on an unattainable standard of beauty that targets youth in particular. One of the greatest issues for youth in the media is the lack of representation. While there are plenty of “teen dramas” on television, it is rare for a true teenager to act in these shows. When teenagers see a fully developed adult play a pubescent teenager, they are bound to find inadequacies in themselves. Even commercials are filled with beauty products to “stay young” and lose weight. Additionally, clothing is not made equal. Popular styles are difficult to find in plus sizes. The pressure to fit the media standards, rather than love the body you are in, is constant. Unrealistic portrayals of teenagers, and even grown adults, in the media, rather than a diverse representation of all body types leads to dissatisfaction that can lead to the disorders.
It is important to recognize the misconceptions and causes of eating disorders in order to recognize the signs. Not only can this lead to a greater recognition of symptoms, but a greater acceptance for those who are struggling with an eating disorder.