Exercise Disorders in Men.

Being able to appreciate a picture like this without measuring yourself against it isn't always something you can do alone.

When it comes to male eating disorders and body image issues, it’s really a vicious cycle.

Because few people talk about male bulimia, anorexia or body image disorders, these illnesses are viewed as largely female. And yet, the Harvard University Medical School found that 25% of adults with eating disorders are male. Because so few people talk about how these illnesses impact men, the men who experience body image issues and eating disorders often suffer in a self-imposed and shameful silence.

There are a number of factors that influence eating disorders and body image issues in both men and women. Internally, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence can be a contributing factor. Externally, society bombards us with unrealistic and Photoshopped images of unobtainable physiques. And this external pressure isn’t unique to women. For every Victoria’s Secret advertisement there is another from Abercrombie & Fitch featuring chiseled torsos and glistening biceps. And in an even more body conscious gay male subculture, the pressure is still greater.

It’s worth noting that body image issues can sometimes be expressed – especially in men – through an exercise disorder. Defined as training at least two hours per day unrelated to a career in sport, these individuals feel like they can’t live without a trip to the gym. A sign of exercise disorder is when gym commitments interfere with everyday life and social activities. Because going to the gym is a considered a good habit, it’s easy for these individuals to convince themselves that their illness is really just a healthy hobby.

At the end of the day, we can’t control the images that society directs our way. But we can control how we evaluate those images – and whether or not we use them as rulers against which we measure ourselves and our bodies. It’s possible to see (and appreciate) a picture of a chiseled, oiled and unrealistically proportioned Adonis without internalizing it as an assessment against your body.

But you might not be able to do it alone.

Changing our mindset isn’t easy, and it often requires professional help. Men and women alike need to feel empowered to seek out assistance in overcoming body image and eating disorders.

To that end, the stigma that these disorders only affect women isn’t helping. And the best way to break a stigma is by talking about it. I’ve talked about my childhood struggle with anorexia and I’d encourage you to do the same. In the journey from ashamed to shameless, every bit of dialogue counts.

Do you think many men are suffering from eating disorders or body image issues in silence? Let me know in the comments below.

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 have always had a bad body image of myself…its such a bad cycle…i don’t work out because i don’t see results and my body doesn’t change. so it makes me feel worse about myself….and you can see where this line of thinking is going….i hate it wish i could change it but i cant seem to break the cycle.

  2. Eddis Hester says:

    Thank you..I have anorexia and BDD and I’m a nurse,but your article is so true..

  3. Marco Polo says:

    I suffered through my Freshman year of high school (now a Senior) with anorexia. At my lowest I was below 120lbs and ate, at most, one small meal a day. Much of this was caused by the hatred for my being overweight (only a couple years prior I was nearly 200lbs) and that I only saw myself as fat and that no one would love me because of my size. Pair that with guilt and self-hatred for being gay. I would always compare myself to the muscled gods who appear in our advertisements. Men suffer in silence because it is viewed as weak to admit you have a problem and ask for help.

  4. artsycreation says:

    Love the article and yes men do suffer in silence because it’s expected. It is more prevelant than people realize and bet it’s a lot more then 25%.

  5. My issue is not with my lack of eating or over using the gym but my will power in general… I know I am fat, 5’9″ and about to hit 260lbs…. I am just in such a slump and so unmotivated to so much as get out of bed most days…. I find it to be just so much more comforting sitting in my room staring at a screen with the occasional restroom break or trip to the kitchen for a quick bite… I know I have depression but without medical insurance or a job there is nary a thing I can do about it. I also know that when I was working out regularly I was feeling better about myself in general and less prone to depression issues even with my lack of a social life. Now every once in a while I get the urge to try to work out and try to take it slow and easy knowing that I am out of shape and can’t pick up the same pace I was at before and the steam is quickly gone just as fast as it had appeared.

    I guess what I am asking is what should I do? What can I really do? Chronic depression has led to this lack of self esteem and proper self care, but at the same time I have been out of work for 3 years with no one wanting to hire me regardless of the fact that I have excellent references and experience, as well as facing the fact that all the people I once called friends turned their backs on me long ago leaving me alone…

    The City of Spokane Wa kinda sucks… people are unfriendly and really flaky… Which only makes me want to stay hidden in my room all the more…

    Any advice? Don’t worry I am not suicidal, I couldn’t think of doing anything like that because it is just illogical and dumb in my opinion…. I could just use some advice and encouraging words from someone out there in this world!

    Ben

    • Hey, Ben… Get up! Seriously, dude. It is really hard to do it, some days, I know – I’ve been there, too. But, you have to make a decision to change, pray and meditate about it, and stick to it. I’m not kidding – the spiritual strength you will get from the daily prayer and meditation will allow you to learn to push back the negative way you feel about yourself. It will stimulate the energy you need to succeed. You have to start and you have to continue. Just like addictions and such, you only conquer this way of living one day at a time. Just do what you can do for today – set a realistic goal that you can easily achieve, and let your body, mind, and spirit grow naturally, and it takes a little time. You will slowly take on a different way of looking at life, and realize you have so much worth and talent – the world needs you and what you have to offer. Stop depriving us of it!

      If you have an addiction to food or your eating and exercise habits are out of control and unmanageable, find your local Overeaters Anonymous meetings – you can find them at http://www.oa.org/membersgroups/find-a-meeting/ They are not just for people who over-eat, but for those who want to find quality of life and wholeness. It’s a good start and a great place to find kind people to support you as you get moving. Best to you – we love you!

      Paul H
      Providence, RI

    • Ben, here is the number to call for Spokane Overeaters Anonymous: Spokane, WA 99205 (509) 328-9972 Be honest about how you feel, and how you struggle – ask for someone to call you and help you get started. Then, make yourself a promise and go. I’ll be thinking of you.

      If you want to start working on weight and depression, please contact Mary Gentile PhD / http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_detail.php?profid=77491&sid=1343178114.9957_21796&city=Spokane&county=Spokane&state=WA&spec=262 if you don’t have insurance, say so – and ask for sliding scale or help finding a place you can be treated. Notice that Dr. Gentile is also helpful in teaching you meditation…

      What I am trying to say is that this is your life and you have to work at it – nothing will change without some change on your part. It is hard work – no two ways about it. But, how you will love yourself when you are through! Others will, too! GET BUSY, DO THIS!

      I’d love to hear about your progress – please feel free to write me: providencetheatrefan@yahoo.com. Okay? MOVE! LOL!

      Paul H

    • PSC Jones says:

      Ben,

      I also live in Spokane, and my situation this time last year sounds very similar to what yours is now. The first thing I did was find a place to volunteer (in my case the Inland Northwest LGBT Center) at the outside limit of what I considered my comfortable walking distance (not quite a mile and a half, with no major hills in the way). After a few weeks volunteering/hanging out, I had already begun a few really good friendships, and as I felt stronger I began to incorporate traditional exercise (in my case, mostly weights and yoga) into my daily routine. Now, I feel and look better than I have in years.

      In my case, I found that the volunteering gave me purpose and forced me out of my comfort zone and into social situations I’d just as soon have avoided, but which pushed me to grow and begin to overcome some of the depression and anxiety I’ve been carrying as long as I can remember. Having this sense of purpose and involvement in a social structure gave me the leverage I needed to stay with my routine of at least walking daily (for me, if exercise is something I’m just doing at home, by and for myself, it’s too easy to put off; whereas, if it’s my only way to get somewhere where someone’s relying on me, or even just expecting me, that is enough to push me forward). So for me volunteering created purpose and accountability (and later positive reinforcement), which in turn created momentum. In the past year, I have lost almost seventy pounds and six inches in my waist.

      Now, I don’t know what part of town you live in, or what your interests are, but there are plenty of worthy causes out there looking for free labor, and they are (in my experience) a great way to meet people who (presumably) share at least some of your values and priorities. My suggestion is to start there, and from there to build a healthy lifestyle, of which formal exercise is but a small part. Good luck.

      • PSC Jones – I totally agree! I started volunteer work with The AIDS Project RI years ago when I was just starting my recovery program. I had a lot of time during the day, as I really wasn’t working much at that point in my life, and I needed a way to keep busy.
        It gave me such a new outlook and also helped me meet people who were healthy and living life without the use of drugs and booze, etc. At that time, in the way that I was living, I had no thought of people who knew how to live healthy and productive lives – I was completely overcome with my own obsessions and unhappiness about myself. Getting involved with them was a win-win! I was able to use my time more productively, I started to feel like I was accomplishing something worthwhile, and felt a part of a community. Even though I wasn’t dealing with HIV in my own life, thankfully, I was able to offer my time as a pay back for still being alive, and in a tribute to the men I had loved and admired who had been taken from us because of AIDS. It was a very profitable decision for me, emotionally, and I stayed with it for over 3 years. I still continue to do what I can for a few favorite charities whenever possible. The feeling of giving back and self-worth is an amazing gift to the spirit. Thanks for posting!

        Paul
        Providence, RI

  6. Fye Samuels says:

    I am on the opposite side. I don’t have anorexia or bulimia. I bud a lot of things even went through junk food to gain mass and so on but I’m still underweight. I wanna buy those muscle gaining supplements but its expensive plus I did hear some people say its unhealthy. I hit the gym. I did regular exercise without gym. Nothing seems to work out. So what’s gonna happen now? I don’t know for sure.

  7. Thanks for making this topic more visible Davey! Body image issues are also common among gay men for a variety of similar reasons. Check out my YouTube video where I interview another psychotherapist about why gay men suffer from body image issues:
    http://youtu.be/9Va-jODYK1o

  8. I’m 17, and almost 10 months ago I had bulimia, I stopped, but even now i still feel the effects. Still feel terrible sometimes.

    • Hi Sean,

      Please continue to work for wellness in your life – I struggled with body image and bulimia well into my 40’s and wasted so much energy on feeling unworthy. Life is so much more than that – and can be so full of happiness, when we work for it. Nothing worth having comes easily, and I’m sure you are a beautiful person, right from the inside out! Even if you have issues that you feel need to be changed, work on them. Get yourself a therapist or a seek out a positive life-coach, someone like Davey Wavey – to inspire you to change for the better and to learn the gift of loving yourself.(It takes education and work – educating yourself on how to live healthy and working to understand yourself in the best way you can.)

      I have been in therapy for 5 years, and have worked with a dietician. my body is healthier, my self-worth has soared, and my joy for life is much more than it ever was. Do it now, while you are young and have so much life ahead. It’s kind of like a snowball… one small step starts you rolling, and building. Go for it – we love you!

      Paul H / Providence, RI

  9. I have struggle with food my whole life. Its getting the solid foods down that I have a problem with. I just recently have found a new product that is new to canada that gives me all my nutrients I find its really helping.Its called lebasi and can be used as a nutritional suplement

    Check out http://www.lebasi.ca if you want to order some my sponsor number is 5052.

  10. Yeah personally I’m unaffected but I KNOW there’s a guy with something up and I REALLY want to help him.

    He’s really worrying me, I mean he’s not anorexic or bulimic as of a while ago (as in I’ve seen him in only his underwear locker rooms yadiyadiya) but at the time it was getting worse.

    I haven’t seen him for a long time but seeing this I seriously think I should at least try to do something.

  11. Alex - Portugal says:

    i’m not convinced

  12. christopher says:

    i know-i can see-countless guys in the gym-its their religion-to be in the gym-the regulars-they want to be perfect-in every way.its an endless circle.they see-what i see-and its not gay or str8-but both-so there.image is everything-all guys want that Abercrombie and Fitch look-theyll just die trying.you see it especially in university age guys.

  13. I do suffer from a bad self image, and have an eating disorder, I over eat, it’s a constant struggle to eat healthy food and normal size portions. I also go to the gym every day and work out for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs a day, so I guess I have gym disorder also.

  14. This is so true all throught out school i weight between 45 – 50 kg and had to be hospilized for 6 months till i was in a healthy mind state to not fall back into old habit’s.
    But they are habits that you can get out of if the person is willing it took me 5 years to get it out of my system and become healther even though my weight now is still classed as under-weigh (62Kg) its the happiest ive ever been

  15. I’ve been bulimic for almost 20 years. I didn’t realize it at first. The only person who suspected was my dentist – but since I drank a lot of Diet Coke, he thought my tooth erosion was the result of the citric acid. Then, he finally said, “all your erosion is on the back of your teeth – so the acid is coming up from your stomach.” Other than that, nobody would ever suspect because of my 41″ waist. How could someone with an eating disorder be so fat, they think.” But, it does take it’s toll.

    Now, any time something’s in my stomach, it’s an automatic reaction to throw up. I don’t think my body even digests food anymore.

    Exercising does make you feel better – but when you go to the gym – and see other people – you just realize how far you’ve fallen – and that makes you lose energy and leave.

    Plus, everyone there has a workout partner or friends, and it just makes me realize, too, how alone I am.

    I was surprised by the 25% figure. I thought I was virtually alone. I’ve never heard or suspected anyone around me being that way.

  16. probably because im such a feminine person but im steering towards anorexia. Like I would say I am anorexic yet but cards on the table im not far from it. I will skip at least 1 meal a day and not eat between meals and im very consious of what i eat.

    I am thin and what exercises I do are based on me maintaining my thinness and not hoping to build muscle (I dont intent to look as buff as davey) problem is only recently im starting to realise I cant like go running as far as I can by eating as much as I have been but I find it so difficult to eat more I do feel fat when I eat.

    I went throguh a phase of substituting substantial food for comfort food then I cut food out altogether whenever I felt shit and now it’s kind of became compulsive behaviour and it does stem from low self esteem but im scared of becoming confidence and then gaining weight

  17. Whenever I am down I stop eating totally for +-48 hours or two days for thoughs wo can do math… in my normal hatred of myself I may stick to 1 meal a day or 1.5 meals if others are eating around me. The meals are never really nutritional and the NEVER fill me as I am 6 foot 5. Yet my weight is 109kg and every time I look in the mirror its like I wanna die.

    So I dont know it that a disorder or is it just a bussy life and a harsh society?

    • PSC Jones says:

      Well, if you’re deliberately malnourishing yourself out of a sense of self-hatred rooted in dislike of your perception of how you appear, and looking in the mirror makes you want to die, then I’d say that’s pretty much the textbook definition of an eating disorder. Not to come off as glib, but if things are half as bad as you state them here, you really do need help. I don’t know what resources are available to you, but many community health centers in larger communities have nutritionists on staff, who can usually meet with you once or twice for a nominal fee, so that would be a good place to start. Another thing to consider is finding counseling and medication for what sounds like, among other things, some pretty serious depression. Again, most community health centers can help with that (at least the medication aspect). Also, and believe me, I know how difficult it is to open up to someone you know about something that makes you feel so vulnerable, it can be a huge help to identify a friend, someone you trust enough to open up to about this, someone who can keep you accountable to a healthier eating regimen and give you a reality check as needed. Good luck.

    • Hi Donovan –

      I sure understand that feeling of looking at yourself and feeling bad, and I have to agree that punishing yourself by unhealthy eating and bouts of starving the body are definite disorders. They only makes the emotional (not to mention the physical) toll that much harder to bear. The most difficult thing, is to make the first step to try to start getting well. Depression and body image issues seem to have a life of their own and the only thing they want is for us to stay where we are, or get worse. I can tell you that the work is hard – no ifs or buts. But, it does get easier as you work towards wellness. These are not issues you can fix by yourself – we need to have help, and the only way we get the help is to make the decision to go and get it. period.

      You didn’t say where you are from, so I can’t look up any places you might get started, but I can suggest that you first contact a therapist, and one who is experienced in body issues, gay issues, and eating disorders. You can do that by Googleing those keywords with a search for therapists in your local area. The therapist I have, and have had for 5+ years now, I got exactly the same way – I typed in what I felt I needed to work on and her info came up in the search engine – it was a gift from God. I swear to you, starting that journey saved my life.

      If money is an issue, and you aren’t able to pay much, or don’t have health insurance, see if there is a community health center near you, or even call a local ER room and ask them for information. There are so many ways to get help, but you have to be the one to want it. It is a fact, we have to want to change and to get well, and want it like nothing else in our lives. We have to fight the voice inside that says we aren’t worth it, or we can’t do it, or it doesn’t matter – WE ARE WORTH IT, we can do it, and it does matter! I know… I’ve been working at it, and I am changing. If you would like support, please feel free to email me – providencetheatrefan@yahoo.com

      Good luck! Go get well! We love you!

      Paul
      Providence,RI

  18. Anyone know the name of the guy in the first pic by the pool? I think I know that guy.

  19. Hunter Laud says:

    This is a loud of crap, I exercise for 2 and a half hours four days a week because I think powerlifting is fun, I think that’s hardly a disorder. bs!