EDAW: Men have Eating Disorders

Men also have eating disorders.

Part of me wishes I didn’t have to write that sentence. Part of me wishes it wasn’t true. Part of me wishes that it was more generally known.

I say it again:

Men also have eating disorders.

And yet…

And yet, when I sought help from a national eating disorder organization in the 1990s, I was told that they were only provided funding to help women.

And yet, when I was in a hospital program for eating disorders, I was the only male patient there. And when I attended support groups, I was almost always the only guy present.

Other men are dealing with this illness. Where are they?

When I began thinking about this blog post, I started researching statistics about men and eating disorders. I don’t need to look at the numbers to know they’re out there. I think of a friend from my university days who told me about his struggles. And other male friends, ones who likely would never be diagnosed with a clinical eating disorder, riding the uneasy wave of symptoms and physical consequences.

We are out there. But we do not always speak up. And we do not always seek help.

Our eating disorders may also not look exactly like women’s eating disorders – the ones you usually hear about in the media. I have policed my choices rigidly and used symptoms to look how I desired.

Men with eating disorders also have it easier than women in some ways. It took me over 50 years to be treated with disrespect by a medical professional because of my weight, something that is a common (and heartbreaking) occurrence for larger-sized women.

Whether you are male, female, nonbinary or other, we live in a society that saturates our media and our minds with values about which body types, shapes, colors, and genders are acceptable, and which are not. Like the goldfish in the bowl, we are so steeped in societal biases and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bodies that we can’t see the water we swim in.

One of the reasons these biases continue to be perpetuated is that people do not stand up. An eating disorder is a disease of shame – a disease to suffer with in silence. When you are dealing with shame and silence, it is hard to fight back against the messages that society feeds you.

I am here today to break my silence. To say that I have an eating disorder, and that I am a man.

To the women reading this: We stand in solidarity with you. An eating disorder is like a sad song, played in a different key for each person. But it is the same song, and we hear yours.

And to the men reading this: Men also have eating disorders. You may have one, or someone you love may have one. It’s okay to step forward and seek help. And it’s okay to break your silence.

You are not alone.

By Jonathan Cohen