Monday 6th March 2023

Disordered eating and eating disorders are often seen as something that affects only women or teenage girls. However, this is far from the truth. In the UK, men are increasingly affected by disordered eating, and the stigma surrounding it prevents them from seeking help.   

Eating disorders are serious mental health problems involving extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviours around food and weight. Various things, including body image issues, trauma, and genetics, can trigger eating disorders. While most people associate eating disorders with anorexia and bulimia, a variety of disordered eating patterns can be just as serious.    

It is estimated that approximately 1 million men in the UK are affected by disordered eating. Unfortunately, this number is likely even higher as many men are reluctant to seek help due to the stigma surrounding eating disorders. This stigma is often rooted in gender stereotypes, with men feeling that they should be firm and in control of their emotions and that seeking help is a sign of weakness. This is compounded by a lack of understanding of eating disorders in general and the fact that men are less likely to talk openly about their mental health.  

“I came to The Living Room having binged on high sugar products since January. I presented at A&E to a suspected heart attack in June. My body itched, my nails were breaking, I was needing to pee, my mouth was dry, I was having cold/hot sweats, racing heart leading to panic, and I was diabetic. 

Life before I came to The Living Room was hell with sugar on top (26 stone), I was isolated, overeating and spent £8k on takeaway food in 6 months. I was eating ice cream, cake, biscuits, nuts, crisps and fried food every day.

My main addiction was sugar with control/being right, overeating/under eating and work.

Since beginning treatment, I am 26 weeks free of sugar, I have lost 4 stone and the diabetes is in remission. I have been attending meetings, practicing empathy and have less hair trigger anxiety, less dread and more hope.

What has helped me most attending The Living Room has been listening to others in their struggle, which helps me to make better sense of mine. Also having the chance to open my heart and be heard.

My plans for the future are to lose enough weight to get my BMI under 29, have hip, back and knee surgery and remain in diabetic remission. Play a round of golf with my son, dance, play live music and find love.

The Living Room staff always welcome me by name, they are balanced, proportional and wise, I look forward to becoming as balanced, proportional and wise one day.” 

There are various eating disorders ranging from anorexia, bulimia, compulsive eating to binge eating and food addiction. The physical consequences of these eating disorders can range from severely underweight to super morbidly obese and many sizes in between.  

For this article let us consider whether men are aware that being overweight could possibly be a sign of an eating disorder?  

Restricting and spending copious amounts of time in the gym is often an early sign of an eating disorder in a man but what about the opposite? Is there an eating disorder underneath someone who is overweight and how can we know? How can we approach this client group? How can we bring it to their awareness?   

Generally, women spend more time than men talking about food, body image and weight related issues. This is not being sexist this is factual statistics! So how do we encourage men to look at their weight as a psychological and emotional problem rather than just a physical one? 

These are difficult questions to answer and perhaps someone does not meet all the criteria for a particular eating disorder i.e., binge eating disorder, but they may be displaying unhealthy and destructive eating habits resulting in considerable weight gain. There may be health related problems to being obese, social anxiety, difficulty moving comfortably and other negative consequences that the individual may not put down to having an eating disorder but what about disordered eating? Just that subtle change can help an individual to perhaps start to look at their eating habits and maybe address the problem, not so much as an eating disorder but as unhealthy eating practices and work towards their recovery from this perspective.  

At The Living Room we have a weekly group addressing all unhealthy eating behaviours both restricting through to compulsive overeating and bingeing. The group works with all types of disordered eating, and we support people for as long as needed. 

Rochelle Craig – Addiction Counsellor 

Disordered Eating Group: 

St. Albans - Wednesdays 

Stevenage – Tuesdays 

10:30am-2:30pm with 1 hour break for lunch 

Reach out if you need support. Call us on 0300 365 0304 or use our Get Help form.