An irrational fear of gaining weight, dangerous dietary restrictions, and a body image not based on reality. Sound familiar? This is not only a description of anorexia & bulimia. It could just as well define a training schedule for a boy’s high school sports team.
The blog Boys Get Anorexia Too reveals a deeper dimension to our understanding of a devastating eating disorder that is only now beginning to be taken seriously. Their informal survey of men, women, boys, and girls who have admitted that they have an eating disorder found that:
Recent, sometimes sensationalist, media coverage has helped to spotlight the problem and mobilize a small amount of resources for education and research. However, to understand the scope of the problem, we have to recognize how it affects all segments of society. Once the province of privileged adolescent girls, anorexia and bulimia must be seen in their proper light – as destructive coping mechanisms for stress that cuts across demographic groups.
The National Eating Disorder Association estimates that more than half of teenage girls and one third of teenage boys exhibit unhealthy patterns of weight control using methods like skipping meals, smoking, using laxatives and vomiting. While teenage girls do represent the majority of those with eating disorders, the media attention has made it ever harder for teenage boys to admit there is something wrong with the way they perceive their bodies.
The gravity of the situation cannot be overstated. Anorexia has the number one highest fatality rate of any mental illness. Anorexia and bulimia run in families, but it is unclear whether they are inherited or there are environmental factors behind this pattern. Keep an eye out for rituals with food, like cutting it into smaller and smaller bits, and uncommon behaviors around food, like obsessions or refusing to eat with others.
Most of all, it is vital that boys, girls, men and women know about the resources available to them regarding healthy diets and body images.