Eating Disorder: A Women’s Disease?


There is the common belief about eating disorders that it only affects women and girls and while eating disorders affect significantly more women, a Harvard study published in 2007 showed that 25% of individuals presenting for a treatment are male. It still doesn’t seem a lot but because of this widespread misconception and cultural bias, men are much less likely to seek treatment and men and boys end up being under and undiagnosed.

The truth is men have as many reasons as women to be struggling with body image: misconceived notions about weight and physique, importance of muscularity which is known to be the “ideal” body type, exposure to unrealistic images in social media, sexualization of men on television and social media, etc.

And it is the same for our transgender, queer and non-binary friends that may struggle with body image and often tend to be forgotten.

Bottomline is no matter who you identify as, body image and relationship with food can be a struggle and seeking help shouldn’t be considered vulnerable or feminine.

Now I am not a psychologist and nothing I will say can ever compare to or replace the advice of a professional, but these are things I like to remind myself and that help me develop a good relationship with food:

  • Intuitive/relaxed eating: this could be the subject of an entire article for itself, but it is essentially listening to your body’s hunger to start eating and stop eating when you are satisfied. To be able to do this, I will try not to look at my phone to allow me to eat with pleasure.

  • Balance: This is key because your body needs a great variety of nutrients and so I do not think there are biological or chemical needs for me to avoid any type of food, but rather eat everything in moderation. This allows me to feel the pleasure of eating things that I like without feeling guilty because every nutrient serves a purpose in the body and in moderation no nutrient is an enemy.

  • Flexibility: This just means that I allow myself to accept that I have days that I do not eat mindfully or intuitively, or that I eat more that I would have liked, or that the only options of food I can buy are “unhealthy” and see these moments as a natural part of life rather than feel guilt and judgment.

If you or your friends ever struggle with body image and relationship with food and feel like talking to someone about it, check out these resources:

  • Emergency Resources: https://mcgill.ca/wellness-hub/urgent-care

  • On-Campus Resources: https://mcgill.ca/wellness-hub/decision-tree-which-campus

  • Off-Campus and Online Support: https://mcgill.ca/wellness-hub/get-support/campus-and-online-support

  • SSMU Eating Disorder Support Centre: https://ssmu.ca/resources/eating-disorders/?fbclid=IwAR0c0ZaMCVv7K5kQUzVfjLqhUQ76MiY9iwr9plkMWhNliaOIH_jVxVokrSM

Other Resources:

  • The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) offers information, resources, referrals, phone support and helpline. The helpline is available Monday to Friday, from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, at 1-866-633-4220.

  • https://mcgill.ca/wellness-hub/urgent-care#Community%20Resources

The following is a message from the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC)*: For those living with Eating Disorders: Recovery IS possible

• You don’t need to do this on your own • You are not your body, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. You can learn how to relate to them so you don’t have to escape them • Getting help takes courage, and you need a lot of support – take one step at a time • Keep searching for treatment providers who understand the illness and are a good fit for you or your child or loved one • Treatment is the biggest gift you can give yourself AND you deserve to be well. *Source: (http://nied.designlodge.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/NIED_brochure_colour_new.pdf)

Stay tuned for the activities during Eating Disorder Awareness Week happening on campus this week!

References:

Aaron, F. (2019, September 24). Male Body Image and Weight Stigma. National Eating Disorders Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/male-body-image-and-weight-stigma

Eating Disorder Facts & Myths | Eating Recovery Center. (n.d.). Retrieved January 4, 2020, from https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/families/portal/resource-center/eating-disorder-facts

Eating Disorders in Men & Boys. (2017, February 25). National Eating Disorders Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/research-on-males

Kronberg, S. (2018, August 2). How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Food. Retrieved October 2, 2019, from National Eating Disorders Association website: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/how-have-healthy-relationship-food

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QC H9X 3V9 

Macdonald Campus, McGill University