Why Gay Men Are 3X More Likely to Have Eating Disorders.

As a gay boy going through middle school, I struggled with anorexia. I was overweight in elementary school, and became fixated on changing things. I counted every calorie that I consumed until I was sickly thin, pale and extremely unhealthy.

I remember growing four or five inches in one year, and losing five pounds. The doctor asked me if I was eating enough. I lied, and he believed me. Boys can get away with it.

As it turns out, I wasn’t alone. A study by the Mailman School of Public Health and the National Development and Research Institutes found that eating disorders – including symptoms of anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating – are three times more common in gay men than heterosexual men. Some 15% of gay men reported eating disorders.

Why?

I’ll be honest – my immediate thought was that it’s because of gay culture. We (well, to be fair, not all of us) worship the insanely chiseled bodies of impossibly sculpted models. And by we, I include myself. The pictures that I use in this blog certainly contribute to that. If eating disorders are higher in gay men because of our body-centered focus, then I am a participant of that.

But not so fast, according the study. One of the researchers wrote:

It is not clear why gay men have high rates of eating disorders. One theory is that the values and norms in the gay men’s community promote a body-centered focus and high expectations about physical appearance, so that, similar to what has been theorized about heterosexual women, they may feel pressure to maintain an ideal body image.

To test the theory, researchers compared gay men with affiliation to the gay community (i.e., frequent gay clubs, gay gyms, etc.) to those that are far removed. There was no difference in eating disorder rates, and so researchers were left scratching their heads:

This suggests that factors other than values and norms in the gay community are related to the higher rates of eating disorder among these men

I have my own theory, but it’s not mentioned in the study. Gay men are often the targets of bullying and discrimination (some of it institutionalized). We’re are often disowned by family members, and told that we’ll burn in hell. We’re the butt of jokes, and too often the victims of hate crimes. We are even denied basic rights by our government, and treated as second-class citizens.

We are told that we are “less than” time and time again. Perhaps, eventually… some of us come to believe that it is true. And this lack of love for ourselves can manifest in very physical ways – like in eating disorders.

That’s my theory. What is yours?

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.

Comments

  1. I’m majoring in biology and psychology, and while I don’t claim to know everything ( 😛 ), I’ll give my two cents…
    I agree that all aforementioned hypotheses contribute to eating disorders; I disagree that it is the fault of any single one. For example, there are a handful of definitions for schizophrenia (genetically and psychologically) and the causes are just as grey. On the same token, I’ll say that eating disorders are with thanks to societal (environmental) input as well as predetermined biological (genetic) input. :-

    It’s important, I feel, to really focus on treating both ends of the candle.

  2. I am 100% with you on this! I too dealt with anorexia for years and it is from the culture we’re a part of and from the lack of acceptance we face in society. I love you’re posts and only recently came across your youtube channel and have been hooked since. Keep um coming!

  3. I think those that are not necessarily strongly affiliated with “the gay community” can still be strongly effected by it. So, perhaps there is a flaw in the study itself? Personally, I don’t “frequent gay clubs, gay gyms, etc,” but I still am well aware of the pressures and expectations on gay men, simply by being gay men, to look a certain way, and I myself feel those pressures upon myself, even if I’m not one to participate a great deal in the ‘gay community’.

    That is, while I myself may not frequent clubs, etc, I still feel the stress to look a certain way, and I do eat/exercise/etc to those ends, and have in the past been anorexic while growing up, for extended periods. So, I think the effects of gay culture can possibly effect all gay people, not just those who are perceived to actively participate within the community. All gay people, to a greater or lesser extent, consume gay culture, and are, therefore effected by it, and a great part of that has to do, for better or worse, with how we look.

    • Michael says:

      Austin,

      You raise a nice point about the role of self-view/value. It leads me to wonder if gay men who have more positive self-views of themselves/sexuality would fare better.

      Women are the most affected by eating disorders in the U.S., and it has been shown that feminist women, for example, tend to have fewer eating disorders. It was found to be attributable to a stronger, more solid, affirming self-view that resists an onslaught of the media campaigns promoting eating disorders with body types that don’t represent most people, unfortunately.

  4. Joshua Logan says:

    This article means a lot to me because in august i moved to missouri, where gays are not really excepted, and i moved here because my family in colorado was unaccepting of my sexual orientation and wanted me to move out. So i moved in with my grandparents at the beginning of my junior year and i have to make new friends and even come out all over agian. And i started to devolope a bad self image and i started comparing myself to pictures of men that are really fit and muscular. I have never been fat, i have always been really really skinny but i hate my body and i stopped eating and all i did when i was hungry was eat a piece of cheese and its still kind of going on and now i weigh 115 when i used to weigh 140 and most of the guys in my gym class weigh themselves and they weigh about 145-150 but they look all good and fit while i cant even do a push up. All of this has just made me feel unaccepted and i want to be fit and healthy but i feel like no matter what i do i feel like i cant because i feel like no matter what i wont be accepted.

  5. Christopher says:

    Thanks for admitting that you’re part of the problem, because you are. I find the physical pressures to be daunting in the gay community. But you keep it real for us with your humor. Please continue to do so and point out some imperfection occassionally of yourself in your otherwise perfect body. Don’t you have a third nipple or 11th toe? 😉

    • I understand what you are saying. I like to think that I’ll keep flaunting my body in whatever form it evolves into… I plan on being body-positive even when I’m old and wrinkled. 😀

      • HI R U GAY IF SO CAN I HAVE YOUR NUMBER.

      • johnnyecoman says:

        Ah, that’s nice, cause I’m quite old now (the sales person at the cinema offered me a senior discount yesterday. I declined, even after she said I did not have to have any proof).

        Wrinkles grow on you and all that.

        But so do cakes and making jam and all that too

  6. Huh, I must be one of those that is the exception, becuase my problem is I eat to much, and keep it off. I have tried and I give up to easy.
    Having said that I do agree with you and the study the pressures that fay men are under to either meet or bet the stereotype set by other gay men or the hetrosexeual society contribute greatly to young gay men wanting that perfect body, and hurting themselves in the process.

  7. I think when you turn 25 and you realize that your still single and no one will want you if you don’t look lean and thin you start telling yourself it’s time to do something about it.

    • i could not agree more!!!!!! I may be 17 and not 25 but, I’ve never been in a relationship. But i’m at the stage where all my friends are getting in one or at parties all my friends are hooking up with people and I’m the odd one out doing neither. And it does make you feel as though something is wrong with the way you look, and you see and hear people say “ohhh he’s got a nice body, it’s so hot” and you think “well i don’t look like that, maybe i should” and you go to extreme measures or get really depressed.

  8. People with eating disorders sometimes say that it’s a way to take control of some aspect of their life if they feel they’re out of control in another. Maybe because gay men are so often the target of bullying that their perceived lack of control (ability to stop the bullying) manifests itself in controlling food instead?..I dunno though 🙂

    • As a “former” bulimic, I know that that is exactly my problem. While I’m not gay, or male for that matter, I know that when I feel like anything is getting out of control in my life, my eating usually follows. Then I feel completely sucky about it and completely worse about myself. When I’m not stressed and in control of my surroundings, I feel less tempted to binge, and as a result, purge. I would highly recommend a day planner for anyone who has an eating disorder. It helps me so much to realize that I don’t need to stress out over every little thing in my life, and I find that when I do plan out my days, I can actually get things done, rather than sitting there stressing about it and not doing anything.

  9. Reading this it makes sense that as a gay man you want to be great as a heterosexual person but its not possible to make yourself better than everyone else because you are who you are and to have others think of you less is not true they only think that way because you are not like them and it makes you really wonder are we the same or are we less some wont admit that but deep inside you know you question yrouself that because you can’t hold hands in public or kiss you can’t be yourself around everyone around you it just second class…. things need to change and they will but it takes time for those to at least understand and then not accept but tolerate that we are of equal beings.

  10. you’re absolutely right. !!! the studies are mostly wrong. i struggled with anorexia and bulimic during my university years. I’m gay, in closet, no friends, alone, hate my studies, and my body is the only things i can control. the research mostly based on the stereotype of gay people. instead they should focus the study on different age group.

    • Ha don’tfeel bad i get called names to so we are in this together so can we talk online today.
      ps. i would love to have fun if you know what i’m talking about. your gay friend matthew

  11. What causes eating disorders? There’s no one correct theory. However, I think your theory, DW, applies to what PERPETUATES them. Self-image and obsession with being accepted causes these issues to become out-of-control.

  12. As Psychologist, I have learned that this kind of people have a great history of bullying, but specially from their families. They suffered obesity in childhood or teenager and they resist to grow up, they feel “control” of their life when starve, lost weight is an obssesion for this kind of guys and finally the society brings a lot of value to thin bodies, young faces and vanity.

  13. it is so bad that this issue is so rarely known. because if someone hears about an eating disorder in a guy they just seem to shrug it off. as if with a guy there were nothing to worry about. as if a guy were more sensible with these kinda things.
    that was what happened to my ex boyfriend. h was bulimic and his mum didn’t tell me. only when I was complaining about his cough being so bad for weeks now that he coughed blood was it that she mentiond it as a sideline, and asked me to not tell his father because he would get angry.
    he “had promised her to stop” and even so he didn’t she just let it be.
    I was so angry when I found out!!!
    All it needed to stop him was information (it was in a very early stage though)
    but in doing the research I had real problems finding information about eating disorders in guys.
    you know even though everyone knows what anorexia or bulimia is, when it’s a guy who’s affected, it must be something else. you know that’s not bulimia, he just gets rid of his food sometimes… Dunno whether you get what I wanna say…

  14. by the way, if you want to read something about this kind of “Lifestyle” (in spanish)
    http://www.edengonzalez.com/2011/01/historias-de-chicos-con-ana-y-mia.html

  15. Indigo_Child says:

    Gaymen judge themselves way harshly and in turn it affects relationship development completely. Those rejected feel they are not good enough over and over again. Sure we get treated unfairly sometimes in society, we can handle that ignorance but ignorance among our own is brutality to the highest degree, we are our own worst enemy. Have we become SO narcissistic that we are our own best match? Thank God for bisexual men, they can be so unselfishly loving it brings tears of hope to my eyes. I feel beautiful with selfless love, I wish we could all sparkle more often, forgive more often, the power of being present allows us to be a little better and we could all be a little better. Being honest allows you to be honest with yourself, there is no greater truth. You are not helping anyone by not speaking the truth, you are only saving yourself from being hurt with your own truth.
    <3
    another you

  16. I’d be interested to see what a repeat of the study would look like if they also surveyed the men involved on their usage of gay porn and other exposure to gay media, which all still frequently emphasize at least a thin, if not completely ripped/cut body. I’m personally not heavily involved in the gay community, mostly because I’m secluded in the mountains of the Bible belt and there isn’t one to speak of, but I still feel extreme pressure to have a perfect body.

  17. As for being fit. I think it’s just that I’m attracted to physically fit men, and I want to be attractive, so I try to keep myself physically fit.

    As for eating disorders, I haven’t really ever suffered from them, and I really love to eat, and don’t see much chance of heavily changing my diet, so I just work out more.

  18. I agree that your theory might have something to do with the high percentages of eating disorders. My opinion is that, after all that bullying, being the butt of the jokes, feeling worthless, second guessing myself 24/7, and all other things I was caused to feel made me want to perfect myself in many ways, including physical aspects and knowledge (reading in philosophy, history of many things and so on). I have been monitoring myself consciously and ask myself whenever I want to better something about myself. Often times, I can’t come up with solid reasons. I believe it is because deep down somewhere in my head, I want to prove myself to myself, and/or to those who made fun of me that their claims were wrong. To show them I am good, admirable, praise-worthy in some way. This rigorous process of ‘perfecting’ the self (if ever possible), since it is illogical, might easily make the person try extreme ways that end in anorexia, bulimia and such.

    Many times I over-achieve in college and such, sometimes end up depraving myself of sleep and social life just to ‘achieve’ probably not for myself, but for others. And I am never satisfied. I still feel worthless in times. I never take compliments seriously. I think none of them have truth value. I know it is sad but I am working on it 🙂

    p.s. Sorry if I wrote anything confusing, I am a second language speaker 😛

    p.s.2. I love you Davey!

  19. I had always been slightly overweight and I had never cared a lot because I had always been very healthy.
    Since I started facing my sexuality troubles (2.5 months ago) I changed this too.
    I lost more than 10kg (22lbs) in two months, I have been training as I had never done before and I now see the clear results on my body.
    I wouldn’t say that a lack of love did this to me, I’d rather say it’s been because I found out somebody who truly appreciates me physically too, giving me a kind of sensation I had never felt.
    I am still very confused, I’ll take my time but I now feel good, very good. I’ll be careful about eating disorders, anyway!
    Very good post, Davey.

  20. first time commenting on Davey Wavey Fitness!
    but anyways.
    i’ve been struggling with my weight for about 6 years…wow saying that makes me feel weird…i was very underweight in grades 7 and 8, and going into high school i did gain a little bit of weight (not too much,,like 10-20pounds that i actually needed) but i started to consider myself fat. but im not fat 😛 i tend to say i’m straight thin, but im gay fat,, meaning to my straight friends im as thin as a stick and they want me to GAIN weight, but because alot of gay men are shown as muscular and handsome and fit, and since im not, im fat. and because i dont work out, i have a little extra in the tummy area, and i think my thighs could be smaller. i dont like thinking that im fat, but i just do…its weird. but i do think its because gay AND straight men are told that if they are very muscular and not flabby, they can get the girls and gays…its like the pressure to be fit and have muscles. im currently 18 years old and i weigh 140. secretly, i think im a bit overwieight and i even want to LOSS weight :/
    im rele glad you posted this Davey ! i need to stop thinking myself as fat..rather,, im perfect the way i am.

  21. Personally I feel being gay means loving the male form. The toned body is practically the definition of masculinity. Since we are attracted to the muscular form we feel obligated to uphold too the standard to feel attractive. Just a hypothetical though.

  22. Personally, I think it’s some combination of the two. In regards to the study, I find their logic to be false. I have never been to a gay club, bar or gym, yet I still feel the pressure. I’m a young closeted boy trying to lose weight. It’s taking everything I have to resist the temptation to become the calorie-counting, non-eating anorexic. Part of it is the ideals that I see within the gay community, fearing that a hot guy will never want to sleep with me if I’m not super thin or chiseled. Another part is what you say, Davey. I feel like I can’t be who I am in front of those I love, I’m forced to listen to homophobic remarks everyday in school, and I don’t have the right to marry the man I hope to one day fall in love with. Together, these drive me to want to be better in a way that I can, even if it isn’t the healthy way–becoming skinny. It’s people like you that inspire me to lose it the right way. Over the past three weeks, I’ve been eating healthier and working out. I’ve already lost 11 pounds. I look better and feel better about myself. Doing it the right way makes me a better man. Even if I don’t have a six pack, maybe a hot guy will see that side of me.

  23. As a physician, a gay man, and one who has had eating issues in the past, I may be able to contribute somewhat to this discussion.

    Eating disorders, like many other behavioral phenomena, are complex and often multi-factorial. These issues, however, stem frequently from a profound attempt at control in a perceived chaotic world. In so many ways, gay men tend to have lives that are seemingly out of control… sexuality, family dynamics, etc. The core issue seems to stem from a lack of choice in sexuality. By severely limiting food intake and “controlling” weight, this behavior falsely reinforces a stable cognitive state. It gives the person a nidus for focusing their energy, and gives them the “control” they desire in one element of their lives. That is also why those people who have a form of eating disorder tend to exhibit obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or have the outright diagnosis.

    Just food for thought, lol.

  24. One possibility might be that we really have no control over who we are attracted to (our sexual orientation) so perhaps some overcompensate by exercising what is later discovered to be an “unhealthy control” over their eating habits instead. It’s just a thought… Personally, I find that many within the gay community (of which I’m a part, no doubt about that) are too fixated on those with ripped, hunky (and young) bodies. As a young, gay male I would do everything that I could to avoid the passes at the clubs by the older, out of shape gay men. Now, those tables are reversed. Ain’t karma a bitch! LOL

  25. I want to suggest another branch off of Davey’s idea about not being loved by family or not being treated with respect by the societies we live in.

    For those people who unfortunately have to face obvious or multiple forms ostracism every day, finding a partner may be one of the ways to seek out love in their lives. Since mass-media has played a wildly invasive role in shaping our ideals of beauty, some people expect ‘beautiful’ to come in the recognizable fashions (such as being thin, tanned, muscular, etc.).

    Conversely, the drive to seek out these forms of beauty for one’s self can turn into a pursuit of a fantasy that only exists in the media. This standard, while still remaining popular among certain crowds, does not reflect one’s ability to love or be loved for the unique individual that they are.

    By coming out, you are letting the world know that this is the version of you that they should accept. Why would you want your physical appearance to send the exact opposite message of that? Celebrating a unique sexuality gives the queer community a chance to redefine or rather un-define what it means to be beautiful.

  26. I agree with the fact that we are considered less than might make us more prone to eating disorders….

    but I think its the fact that no matter how removed from “gay culture” you are, you realize something is different within yourself. You notice other guys. You notice yourself in the mirror. You compare. You find something that needs fixing. Viola!

    And girls do it because theyre uber competitive. They do the same thing with comparison. Hence one reason why sexuality could be argued to be blurrier with girls.

  27. Davey Wavey
    Good Morning!
    Little has been said about being a gay man in a so-called str8 mans world..and even when you talked about
    being overweight and then be anorexic..and ” counting every calorie that I consumed until I was sickly thin, pale and extremely unhealthy”..you never mentioned that maybe being unlike other boys as you knew you were gay and maybe ate too much to compensate..this is MORE of a problem for young boys than you think..Next time try to dwell on the gay aspect of kids growing UP..and what they should do..what say?
    Love “your” David

  28. So much of Ed is about control, and when society is against you, and everything you hear tells you that you have “less than status” you try to control whatever you can, like your calorie intake, or your body image.

  29. Oliver Beatson says:

    I have a thought on this. It is simply that gay men are probably psychologically more like women. ‘Masculine’ men don’t really seem to have eating disorders; when they do it’s normally that they eat too much. It’s likely that whatever part of men is activated to make them attracted to le cock, a lot of the time, other normally-female-traits come with it, e.g. paying especially great attention to one’s image and weight.

  30. Eating disorders and body image fields of studies that I am interested in. Like some of the people have mentioned, a lot of an eating disorder deals with control; the displacement of control over social relations to the relation with oneself.

    Given that there is a lot of research on women and body image, and little on men in general, it is interesting to note the research that you have provided regarding gay men being 3x more likely to have an eating disorder.

    In some sense, it can be attributed to “gay culture” because of the stereotypes enforced more and more on television today. Also, it appears as though that gay men face pressure from both (straight) men and women because of the consideration of being the woman’s best friend, as well as a man. But, you are right to note that gays tend to have a more difficult time what with bullying and rejection, which brings us back to a more critical body image and control.

  31. I think the term “gay culture” is a bit overused in this context. Culture in general idealizes and worships certain body types which are saturated in it as a whole. I’m quite sure straight guys feel the same kind of insecurity, it’s just not to the same extent. They have a greater pool of mates to draw from and a less pressing need to justify their burgeoning sexuality by attaining the attributes they feel make them more desirable (although it’s not as if they don’t try altogether, judging from the poisonous clouds of axe wafting around most high school locker-rooms :P)Coupled with all the negative attitudes directed at us, we end up pushing ourselves too hard to try to negate the accumulated frustrations. The only difference in this case, between gym-toned, athletic gay guys and ones with eating disorders, particularly anorexia, are that the former are simply better informed about their choices.I suppose there isn’t a lot to justify any of these observations, and they are, in fact, based on my personal experience as a 17 year-old out gay guy who has sporadically tried to drastically alter his physical appearance with little effect and has since learned to love his self-image.

  32. Hmmm, this was an interesting read…..I’ve struggled for a LONG time with my weight though I have come a long way in the last couple years with actually reaching my goal weight it has become something of a bother, every time I eat I want to get rid of everything in my stomach which in turn makes me hate myself even more. I really envy you Davey I honestly wish I had your mind set would make things so much easier.

  33. As i recently outed gay man, i feel i can contribute some as well…

    currently, I am struggling with an eating disorder that i just cannot control. Mine is stress related after coming out. I did not get the response that i was hoping for which puts a lot of stress on me. I simply cannot eat… no matter how hard i try! I live alone and I absolutely love cooking… but every night i cook and hardly eat anything.

    Over the past 2 months, I have lost in excess of 10KG’s(22 lbs). The only time that I can eat, is when i disappear from “my world” like visiting family or friends who doesn’t know that i am gay. The moments there is the what i am used to and hence I forget about my stress and sh… and then i eat… other than that, nope! nothing! nada! I eat at most 2 slices of bread a day when i am at home.

    If i will one day be able to control my eating again, I dont know… but i sure wish for that day to come soon!

  34. What I believe to be true, and this goes for me too, is that gay men are bombarded with pictures of fit and chiseled men on TV each and every day; as are all Americans. When a gay man sees these photos time and time again, he begins to have a superficial yearning for those types of bodies in other men. Again, that could apply to all Americans. However, because gay men are looking for other men and they know what they want the other man’s body to look like, they themselves think that every other gay man is looking for the same thing, and so they strive to have the perfect body because they want to be accepted and loved amongst the gay community.

  35. Catherine says:

    I seriously love your blog.

    I think you’re on to something with your theory, now let me bring it one more level.

    As you said, gay men sadly seem to be picked on both in school and in their families. While I realize that the case is much less severe and damaging for your average girl, girls are often subject to very negative language as children too, “throw like a girl” comes to mind and no one cares. Tell a joke about how dumb blonde girls are and no one cares. You’re taught to want to look like a princess from the age of two. I digress.

    So I started thinking about it, and really and truly at least for me it was about control. [My bouts with an eating disorder.] I couldn’t control how i was treated at home by a redneck step father, and I couldn’t control how I was treated at school. But I could control this, I could achieve control and success with my body- albeit a skewed and unhealthy.

    So while I’m not a gay man, I wonder if maybe a bi-girl’s eating disorder issues could be if not on the same page maybe in the same chapter. Best of luck to everyone who has had those struggles.

  36. I’ve always had a personal belief that gay men study the male body more than straight men, to the point of conscious or unconscious desire. Whilst straight men can look and appreciate and understand another man’s body just as much, such as bodybuilers and personal trainers, there is no sexual level in the unconscious which perhaps could potentially have more effect on how we perceive the body, and what effects trying to improve it or change it will have. that’s my two cents anywho.
    On a slightly different note, I’m a fashion illustrator who has illustrated and studied fashion photography from my early teens. I was developing an eating disorder a few years back but saw sense. I personally believe studying photography of male models on a daily basis has DEFINITELY impacted my ability to appreciate men or myself of a more ‘realistic’ body image.

  37. I think you’re spot on with your hypothesis on contributing factors to eating disorders amongst gay men. “Those gays are so superficial” is easier for society at large to swallow, it fits into their stereotypes about us and shifts the focus/blame away from society and puts it on us.

  38. I think a lot of it has to do with the extreme ideals of gay men.

    That said, my two cents:

    I had a similar problem as you. I was a very large child (especially during my parents’ divorce, when food was comforting), but once I hit puberty and started losing weight, I became obsessed. After being told for years that I was fat and after being mocked constantly, I was never “thin enough,” regardless of how thin I got.

    It got to the point my freshman year in college where I would work out hours a day on only about 400 calories daily (at that point, my diet was mainly celery and salsa)…and even then, I felt really fat at a mere 127 (I’m almost 6 feet tall).

    I finally looked in the mirror one day (about two years later) and just started crying because I could feel myself tearing my body apart mentally. I realized that I looked so incredible freshman year, and I never understood that. And I realized that I’m only going to get older, not younger, and that I really need to appreciate my body now, or else I’ll be looking back in two years wishing I had appreciated it.

    Ultimately, I think the problems start for various reasons. I think they continue because of this reason:

    In gay relationships, we compare our bodies directly to those of our partners. In straight relationships, if your partner looks different, that’s okay because male and female bodies inherently look different. I can’t, however, look at the parts of my body with which I’m most uncomfortable, look at my partner’s body (that doesn’t have those particular problem areas), and write my problems off as being inherently different. Each flaw that I find on myself is a flaw that’s unique to me and not to my gender, as is the case more in straight relationships.

  39. It’s amazing that no one looks for the causes of eating disorders and homosexuality in the brain. Although the solution to any problem always lies in someones behavior and changing the right patterns of thinking, eating disorders can be dealt with by changing the way you think.
    Being gay is a different thing of course, but it’s all about the construction of our brain. During the last half of the pregnancy the body decides to be either gay of straight. Depending on genes or former brothers in the family.
    It’s the hypothalamus that gets built that way. Eating disorders are also created in that part of the brain. The difference between both is, that your sexual orientation comes as a fact, your love either one gender, the other or both. An eating disorder is managed by your hormones and can be influenced by learning new ways of thinking. It’s like learning to love the countryside.

    Please understand, your are not thought to be gay and no one talked you into an eating disorder. That doesn’t make it easier, but at least easier to understand.

  40. my thoughts at 3:40am are thus:

    gay men and lesbians have been shown in various studied to have brains sharing traits of the opposite sex. That is to say a gay man may ahve a more feminine brain than a straight man and vice versa for lesbians. I won’t go though was this means but you can look @

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7456588.stm

    and countless other sites if you google somethig along the lines of “gay mens brains similar womens”

    anyways if women are more likely to develop any type of image/eating problem for a neurological reason then it may cause gay men to be more susceptable compared to straight men.

    The self loathing / community hates you suggestion probably weakens any defense against falling into one of these unhealthy habits.

  41. I am a gay male in my 40’s and I suffer from an eating disorder. I can’t say just when it started but I can say that the pressure that gay culture puts on each of us contributes to it. I remember a former “friend” saying to me once “no one likes a fat fag”. I think gay men put as much unrealistic pressure on each other as the straight world does with women. Eating disorders and weight obsession becomes addictive. At 6′ tall nothing thrills me more than to see the scale sitting at 130. It used to be 150 excited me…but what happens is you starting thinking…if people say I look this good at 150 just think of 130! And once here, one is loathed to put on even an ounce. The biggest disappointment? Once here, life doesn’t change at all.

  42. Nick Mayhew says:

    This is probably quite controversial, but I wonder if gay men might tend to look up to women more than straight men do. I mean, I think gay men’s role models are often women. I’m fairly sure I’m not the only person who decided to bleach my hair platinum because of Lady Gaga… Obviously this explanation can’t be universal and would probably influence only a minority. Still, personally I think it’s worth thinking about.

    • Congrats on the Gaga hair!
      Interesting theory though it begs the question, do gay men look up to women or more that gay men feel less threatened by women than by other gay men. Women are a safe bet for gay men. We can open up to them without the threat of the immediate physical judgment (real or perceived) that we often feel from other gay men. It’s less work.

      It is easier to emotionally invest in women. With other gay men you run the risk of the immediate physical assessment that so often comes into play. That “I’ll decide if you are HOT first (or worth sleeping with) before I take the time to get to know you” syndrome. My ex had quite literally slept with every friend he had just to get the sexual tension out of the way. Personally I find that distasteful which is likely why we didn’t stay together.

  43. Nick Mayhew says:

    Definitely distasteful. 🙂

    I agree with you to some extent. I think though, to some degree, gay guys could end up envying girls who gain a lot of male attention.

    Also, possibly more mainstream female celebrities are in touch with the gay community. I think it would be fair to say, for example, that Britney Spears/Lady Gaga etc have an awful lot more gay fans than they do heterosexual male fans.

  44. I think the point is that this is celebrity idolization. Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Liza, Madonna, Gaga…the list goes one. The one thing they all have in common is that they have been terribly unique, different, we sympathize with their stories. All ostracized at some point. Gay men identify that. It’s easier to embrace that which we can not be, or admire, than it is to own the feelings of alienation.

    Think about it: within gay male culture we perpetuate the stigma. Are you feminine acting? That makes you “swish”, “fem”, etc. Are you overweight? That makes you “fat”, or a “bear”…in all cases, marginalizing each other even further.

    I can think of only a small number of gay men who we admire in culture: Quentin Crisp, Harvey Milk, to name a few. Why don’t we idolize them for their contribution to culture.

    Exceptions might be Elton John who I adore. He defies anything that is stereotypical of gay “beauty”, yet he is successful, married, a child, gone through struggle. But is he put on the same pedestal as the women mentioned? I would argue NOT.

    I have a feeling Elton John doesn’t struggle with an eating disorder or give a f**k about his weight. Likely because he is well within himself. Or so I’d like to think.

  45. As a gay man who formerly suffered with anorexia I still find myself falling back into my old ways when I feel a little out of control. I’ve worked through many of my issues with professionals and I’ll share what I learned about myself. I hope this helps. For so long I felt unaccepted by everyone in my life; the straight community. I always felt different. As a kid I didn’t understand what made me feel different, I just knew I was. Once I finally identified my “difference” as being gay I understood why I never felt like I fit in. When I came out I was optimistic and naive to hope that I could finally be part of community that would accept me for who I was. I was excited to meet people who, like me, were “different”. I was disheartened to realize that because of my young, developing, imperfect and yes slightly ‘soft’ body I was labeled different and again unaccepted in this community. I became very aware very quickly that my intelligence, humor, personality, love, etc were not enough if my body wasn’t up to par with the expectations of the gay community. I knew I had the power to change how I looked but as a young gay man, I didn’t know how to do this effectively or healthfully. My body has ranged from skinny to chubby to fit and everywhere in between. Though I received more attention when my body was deemed as ‘acceptable’ I sadly never felt good enough about myself because I was aware of why the attention was coming my way. This feeling would push and pull me into and out of my eating disorder. I recognize many of my eating disorder issues were related to my own insecurities and feelings of inferiority but I also understand that many of those feelings were fueled by what I felt from the gay community. I do not claim that this is the reason for the high number of gay men with eating disorders, it is simply how it manifested itself in my life. I hope my story will help you understand why and where those of us with eating disorders are coming from.

    • Jake.
      Thank you for sharing so brutally honestly! Wow, it’s like you are telling my story. Would love to communicate by email. Not sure how to make that happen from this blog. I’m not sure I’ll ever quite get this “monkey” that is eating disorder, off my back!

      Gerard

  46. I am a gay man 21 years of age who has been battling an eating disorder for the past few years. I partly consider the “he looks so hot” “his body is so gorgeous” ect. said from both women and other gay men as a main instigator my disorder. I also feel that if my weight is perfect and I look above average- I can get through other parts of life that are not so enjoyable at the moment (school, work).

  47. Its because you are trying to appeal to men and men in general overall are much more attracted to physical looks and superficial appearances alone than women. Therefore, anyone (male or female) who is trying to appeal to men (especially men who are highly desirable to others) is forced to compete primarily in the realm of superficial outward appearances. It is the shallowness of men and their primary attraction to the physical that has driven women throughout history to pursue extreme measures to maintain physical attractiveness. Male or female it doesn’t matter. If you are competing for the affection of men, be prepared to be subject to unreasonable demands relating to your outward appearance and physical attractiveness. If you don’t want to be judged so harshly by your outward appearance alone, date women.

  48. Wow, this last comment smacks of a very hurt soul. I regret that a man has hurt you so deeply in the past but your comment is way off base in my opinion. If you have ever walked into a gym you will see that no one is judged or sized up more than woman sizing up women. I’ve seen it time and time again with female friends referencing “what not to wear” tv show quotes as someone woman walks by wearing something the others don’t deem as “in vogue”. lesbians judge lesbians like cattle. So, no one has the market on judging. Women fight for men’s affections by one upping each other in just the same way as men do. So let’s face it, books are judged by its cover, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If the beholder, be they male or female chooses to see only surface beauty, then that is their choice. But really…how many over weight conventionally ugly men or women do you see anchoring the news? Society reveres beauty, period. But don’t look to women to solve the problem. Theory are just as neurotic!

  49. I have struggled with eating disorders for many years. So many things where out of my control as a teenager, (parents, bullying, being force feed religion, you all know the list) so my response was to take a strangle hold on one of the few things I could control, my eating. I joked about the Missy Elliot diet of one cracker a day to my friends and in reality I was living on little more then that. I believed that doing this proved to myself that I had a strong will, but looking back I know that I was also punishing myself for being different.
    I also feared food because I watched family members indulging food addictions. One would sit in front of the TV and eat a huge roast in one sitting and that sort of thing was a daily event for them. I felt disgusted and revolted watching it time and again. It looked so animal like, although I don’t know any animals that do that.
    I starved myself till I developed malnutrition, I couldn’t stand quickly or I would have a blackout. My finger and toenails grew thin and then fell off. I believe that this period has affected my health to this day.
    After when I was on my own and not faced with the many things that scared and hurt me, I stopped feeling the need to prove my willpower to myself. I still struggle with revolution at the sight or smell of roasts and or crock-pots and I doubt that will ever go away as the aforementioned family members are now diabetics and that’s rolling around in my head now.
    I don’t have as bad a problem now as then, I learned to deal with anxiety in other ways, mostly drinking.
    I didn’t do any of this to fit an image, I mean really how sexy is malnutrition? I did find vindication in the gay community to some degree although my weight went up and down depending on how badly I was feeling like a martyr. I’m not sure how to tell this part… a guy that I was seeing said something to me about my weight. I stopped seeing him and started with the water and crackers again. It was about year later that I learned he had killed himself. I was shocked and saddened, I think back on the last things I remember him saying to me, I think he said it because of how unhappy he was, something I never guessed. I wish I had known that then so I or someone could have helped him.
    This as well as other events in my life overshadowed the things I thought where important.
    I still struggle from time to time with some of the issues that arise from my anxiety, but the picture is bigger. I try very hard to put myself in others shoes, to understand why they may say or do something, and to do my best not to say things that could hurt others, you never know what they are going though. I’d like to emphasize that this doesn’t just apply to comments about weight, it includes every cruel or judgmental remark, who are you or I to tell someone that what they see in the mirror isn’t beautiful? I hope everyone that reads this can go to the mirror in the morning or when ever you might feel at your worst and still find profound beauty.

  50. I am very much moved by the depth of the sadness and pain that is in a lot of these comments. I came to the site bc I found a link to a discussion on fitness and vegan food choices (I’m not vegan but interested in fitness and nutrition) but that doesn’t matter, I just started reading some of the other things… I’ve been a friend and advocate/activist within/for the LGBT community since 1975 and I never realized, never knew of this issue. Hard to believe. I feel so embarrassed, so sorry. Of course, you kept it to yourselves, all who suffered. Jabez (the last one to comment here) I don’t know if you’ll come back to read this but I just cried over your post, and I hope you took your own advice and saw that beauty in the mirror. May everyone have a wonderful New Year full of love — and beauty looking back out of all those mirrors. ~Peace, Kathy in the land of Dorothy & Toto~ Really. 🙂

  51. I had really bad anorexia for a bit. But it had absolutely nothing to do with body image. I’m already very thin (115-120lbs) So when anorexia happened it took hold quick. Almost overnight I went from normal eating to a cracker for each meal to fasting for 7 days at a time and then ”binging” on like, two crackers. I quickly had my weight plummet to below 90lbs. But I managed to save myself by getting over anxiety which took a lot of work. (The anorexia developed as a coping mechanism for the anxiety). As the anxiety lifted, the anorexia did too. I am still sort of anxious in public, as I worry about the whole gay thing. I worry too much about other people accepting me than I should.I also need to be less judgmental, like I used to be. Anorexia can really cause long lasting judgment to fat, which turns into judging bigger people. Which is really unfair. But I am still working on beating anxiety, which is almost gone. 🙂

  52. Thank you, to everyone that has read my post, and thank you to those who have replied. I wanted to follow up by saying that I am more happy with my body then I ever have in the past and I seem to get more comfortable with it every day. I have taken what felt like a huge step, admitted I needed help, consulted a doctor for the appropriate meds for my anxiety, and plan to begin counseling, or a support group. A lot of the change is due to a great guy (Lucky Me) that I started seeing, he tells me at least twenty times a day how handsome, sexy, or beautiful I am, even when I know I’m not at my best. Not that I haven’t heard the same things from a hundred other men, the difference this time is I believe him when he says it. When you finally see your self through someone else eyes, and they look at you the way you likely would look at your favorite porn star… every body issue melts away, and feeling 100% in control doesn’t seem as important. I am starting to understand the cliche about the eyes of love. Now if I could only feel the same way about being in my head. LOL. The hardest part was admitting that I have a problem and needed help, after that nothing feels half so scary. Sharing parts of my story here, helped make me feel secure enough to share in my real life, and get better help. Thank you all for reading, caring, and responding. I do hope that more people still, can be helped by everyone’s candid experiences. I wish you all the best!

  53. Dan Mccain says:

    I think that all gay people (not just men) are more likely to become uncomfortable in their bodies than straight people, for the pure reason that we want to look like the people we’re attracted to. If a gay guy is into muscular guys, then if he isn’t muscular then he might think he’s unnatractive. Likewise, if a lesbian is attracted to skinnier women, then she will want to be skinny, and her self-esteem may be affected if she isn’t. A straight man doesn’t find men attractive, so doesn’t have his own perception of what an attractive man looks like. Therefore, he will probably be more inclined to just assume that women find him attractive.

    I feel like I rambled a bit there, but hopefully you see my point. 🙂 And by the way I love your blogs/videos. 🙂

  54. My brother is gay. He has an eating disorder and it is painfully obvious. I confronted him about it and he tries to tell me he is this thin due to working out daily. I know that is lie. His arms look emancipated not toned and he thinks he is fooling people. I do not blame gay accpetance-I blame the gay community and lifestyle. Please don’t shoot me here ok? I have met some of brother’s friends and each one was more catty than the other. The focus that is put on looks and appearances in this community makes mean girls look like a feel good story. The emphasis on fashion, money, flamboyancy I beleive drives these men to unheathy habits. I realize that society in general stero types gays but I will tell you when brother came out, everyone in my family supported him. There was not one person that said” are you sure its not just a phase?”. And, we still support him and love him. I beleive it’s the actual gay community itself, not the general public that is hurting these men’s self images.

    • While some of the blame may lie with the gay community, to say that the community is the sole cause is a shortsighted and oversimplified explanation of a very complicated problem. Each person has their own reasons for the behavior they exhibit.
      I’d guess that from your phrase “The emphasis on fashion, money, flamboyancy” that it is entirely possible that you are headed in the wrong direction.
      Consider your brothers health before you share these notions with him. Maybe just be available if he may decide to talk…
      Your brother is lucky that he has you around, as you clearly care, and luckier still to have a supportive family, so many don’t… I wish you the best and good health to your brother.

      • elie, I tend to agree with Jabez on this one. While I too, as a gay man am prone to blame a community of people, I think the most important thing here is to be od support to your brother. Something I dont have. Rather than look to the faults of the gay community talk to him about his perception of the issue as it pertains to the community. Ask him how you might get. Involved, eve as a straight persons, and be part of change. Give talks, start a support group, do something. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution. That said, I’m proud of you for supporting your brother. Please know that a families acceptance is only one part of the issue. HE has to accept himself, and like anyone else, he needs to find people with gay culture that mirror who he wants to be in life, and connect with them.. Every group has its problems, do your part to help effect change.

  55. I hate that us gay men are treated like second class citizens. Like marriage, in the constitution, it says that religion will not have any say in government, and yet when it comes to gay marriage, religion is the one thing that gets brought up the most, its like as far as everyone is concerned we are the exception to EVERYTHING that will benefit anyone else. Then on top of that, we have body images we feel the need to fit, no wonder we are so prone to eating disorders!

  56. I think it’s more about the body image. Lots of guys around me are very skinny, wearing skinny jeans and have perfect bodies. It sounds silly, but it makes you want to be one of them (I’m not even sure they are gay or actually do something to be skinny). I used to have BMI of 25 two years ago, which means slightly overweight. Now I have BMI of 21 (my weight is 73 kg or 161 lbs). It’s a normal weight, but I still feel fat and want to be skinny. I weigh every food I eat and count my calories. Anything other than skinny or muscular is not accepted in this world.

  57. Hey There. I found your weblog the usage of msn. This is
    a really neatly written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to read extra
    of your useful information. Thank you for the post.

    I’ll definitely return.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Did you know that eating disorders are three times more common in gay men than heterosexual men (Davey Wavey Fitness)? […]

  2. […] men are three times as likely as straight men to have an eating disorder. Coupled with higher rates of depression than the […]

  3. […] men are three times as likely as straight men to have an eating disorder. Coupled with higher rates of depression than the […]

  4. […] bodily dissatisfaction doesn’t stop at a mere abstract: Salon writes that “gay men are up to three times more likely than heterosexuals to have a clinical or subclinical eating disorder…Of men who […]