Eating Disorders: Not Just a Female Issue


An in-depth look into the overlooked sides of male eating disorders


Not all eating disorders are created equal. With the uprise in the body positivity movement, pop culture and social media have cultivated a more inclusive beauty standard but left out a large group of people: men.

One out of every three people who have an eating disorder is male, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. The misconception that men don’t struggle with eating disorders only adds to the stigma surrounding them. Contrary to eating disorders in women, which are typically associated with being slimmer, male eating disorders tend to stem from wanting to bulk up. With the increase of social media due to pop culture, pressure to stay fit leads to unhealthy food choices such as only eating certain foods.

Wrestling is a sport that requires its athletes to often be on a fluctuating diet, which can disrupt their eating patterns greatly.

Rachel Dash-Dougherty, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, said that a lot of men tend to stay silent about their issues with eating disorders because of the shame surrounding it. This often stems directly from the idea of toxic masculinity.

Toxic masculinity enforces the ideology that in order for a man to be considered “masculine,” they must act tough and suppress emotions to avoid appearing “feminine” or weak. Men will sometimes hide their insecurities under the pressure to appear masculine to the public eye. This contributes to a stereotype of needing to have a muscular physique. Due to this cultural bias, they are less likely to seek treatment than their female counterparts.

Gym and diet culture play a large role in upholding male ideals, but another contributing factor is sports. For some, the pressure of losing or gaining weight to make weight limits goes hand in hand with their ability to perform well in their sport. One of these sports is wrestling.

“Starting the week, I weigh myself to see how much I need to lose. If I’m two or three pounds over, I will work out outside of practice, and if I’m close, I won’t worry about it as much. Then I will weigh myself the next day after practice, and then on meet day I will not eat anything until the meet, which is at 6 p.m,” said senior Michael Minevich, captain of the wrestling team. It’s easy for gym goals to develop into eating struggles if not done carefully and under strict supervision.

Eating disorders don’t just target the average cisgendered man. A 2013 survey of high schoolers found that transgender students are nearly three times as likely than their cisgender peers to restrict eating, almost nine times as likely to use diet pills, and seven times as likely to use laxatives to control their weight according to Penn Medicine News.

“When I first transitioned and started to dress to look like a guy, I went from spending my whole life being told what pretty is and how I should look for female standards to having to completely switch and throw out those views by being a boy,” said sophomore Johnny Furhman. He felt a level of pressure to conform to the standard which influenced the way he looked at his body.

According to WebMD, anorexia nervosa, a type of eating disorder, has the highest death rate of any mental illness. Between 5 percent and 20 percent of people who develop the disease will eventually die from it. The dangerous nature of this issue should be treated with the same level of urgency as any other fatal illness.

There are resources at ELHS for students who need it. ELHS has trained mental health support staff that can help but also act as a “connection’’ for students who need it to help refer kids to outside therapists and other programs, said school psychologist Kristen Konesky.

Although there is progress within understanding eating disorders, we must change the fixed narrative that only focuses on women’s issues. The more awareness that is brought to change the stigma society has created, the fewer men have to suffer in silence.

NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) Help Line: (800)-931-2237

Rachel Dash-Dougherty Contact Info:
– (860) 629-0029: Phone Number