Archive for the tag - binge-eating

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?