Men, Diets & Disordered Eating
A common misconception that we hear a lot in our work is that complicated relationships with food and body disproportionately affect women. However, the unfortunate truth is that men are just as likely to struggle in their relationship with food and their body, but often don’t feel comfortable to seek out the support they need.
With women, we talk about the concept of normative discontent, a term that refers to the way in which disordered and dangerous behaviour has become a common feature of our lives, and something that is met with praise and admiration from others, despite it’s insidious nature. What’s concerning is that the rates of discontent and disordered eating among men is strikingly similar. However, despite the similarities, there is so much less narrative around why it’s problematic for men. While women seem to be better able to call out dangerous behaviour in their female friends, men are considerably less likely to recognise and acknowledge hat their behaviour is a problem, and are often unwilling to seek help for fear of being stigmatised.
Risk factors for disordered eating behaviour in men and women is similar: low self esteem and self compassion, and a preoccupation with size and weight. However, disordered eating in men may also feature concerns about muscularity, and an over-emphasis on exercise control as opposed to food. Interestingly, disordered eating in men often comes as a result of higher rates of past obesity. Thankfully, the rates of long-term behaviour change is similar too, meaning that with the right supports in place, men are just as likely to be able to change their behaviour, and engage in a life that is fulfilling and happy, and free of the turmoil that disordered eating can cause.
Men, there is room for you in this narrative. This isn’t solely a women’s problem, and we need to adjust our thinking in order to help catalyse progress and change in this space. Look out for yourselves, and for the other men in your life. Don’t be afraid to check in with the people around you, and have those challenging conversations if the need arises. Know that these problems do not discriminate, and there is nothing embarrassing and shameful about getting stuck in body hate and disordered eating. It is so incredibly common, and equally important to acknowledge and actively manage to ensure that it doesn’t get the better of you. Your body is your home, it’s yours to love and care for. If for whatever reason you find that you can’t, reach out.