Eating disorders affect more people than you think, including men…

An eating disorder is when a person has an unhealthy attitude towards food that can take over your life, to the point where it makes you ill. It can include eating too much or too little or being obsessed with weight and body shape.

Statistics published by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) indicate that as many as 1.6 million people living in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, around 10% of them are men.

Some of the warning signs that suggest someone has an eating disorder are:

  • Dramatic weight loss, possibly hidden by wearing baggy clothes
  • Lying about their weight or how much they have eaten
  • Excessive exercising
  • Avoiding eating with other people, cutting their food into small pieces, eating very slowly or frequently going to the bathroom after eating and coming back looking flushed.

The NHS recognises the four most common forms of eating disorder as:

Anorexia nervosa - losing weight by not eating enough and/or exercising too much.

Bulimia - binge eating followed by deliberately being sick, using laxatives, restricting what you eat or over-exercising.

Binge eating disorder (BED) - losing control of your diet and eating generous portions all at once until uncomfortably full, resulting in feeling upset or guilty.

The fourth and most common category is Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED) – where symptoms don’t exactly match those of the three main categories.

Eating disorders specific to men

Eating disorders for men can come about from a number of reasons:

  • A person was teased or bullied about being overweight, possibly when a child.
  • They are dieting, possibly while taking part in sport, such as body building/weight lifting, wrestling, running, horse riding or football.
  • Their job demands a specific body profile e.g. modelling or acting.

The Adonis Complex is one such condition, where men feel their body shape is too puny and begin exercising addictively, often taking supplements and steroids to tone their physique (Home Office figures show that the use of steroids by 16 to 24-year olds alone has quadrupled in a single year).

However, eating disorders are not limited to younger men. Data from NHS Digital indicate that the number of men aged between 41 and 60 being admitted to hospital with an eating disorder rose by 70% between 2010 and 2016.

Getting help for an eating disorder

If you are concerned that you (or someone you know) may have an eating disorder, you can discuss it with your GP, who will ask about your eating habits, how you’re feeling, your general health and weight. They may then refer you to an eating disorder specialist, who can provide details of any other support that may be relevant.

Treatment can be individual or group therapy, depending on the type of disorder.

If it is affecting your physical health, regular health checks may be needed.

Other information that may be useful includes:

Links to charities and support groups

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence based articles are accredited by the PIF TICK, the only UK quality mark for trustworthy health information. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

The Information Standard

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 3 May 2018
Next review: 3 May 2021