It has often been thought that eating disorders are only suffered by women, however this is not the case. Anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, including boys and men, and everyone deserves best practice help and treatment.

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Eating Disorders - You Are Not Alone

An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that involves preoccupation with control over one's body weight, shape, eating and exercising. It can be a way of dealing with underlying unresolved emotional and psychological issues. An eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice. Check out the full blog story here: http://www.tuneinnotout.com/blog/eating-disorders-you-are-not-alone

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Guys + Eating Disorders

Image of a  guy carrying a large bagProvided by The Butterfly Foundation

We have partnered with The Butterfly Foundation to bring you the best factsheet information we can on this topic. The Butterfly Foundation provides support for Australians for suffer from eating disorders and negative body issues and their carers.

It has often been thought that eating disorders are only suffered by women, however this is not the case. Anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, including boys and men, and everyone deserves best practice help and treatment.

Prevalence Rates

  • 10% of all diagnosed cases of eating disorders are male
  • 10‐15% of people with bulimia nervosa are male.
  • Men and women experience similar rates of binge eating disorder

It is thought that the number of men who experience eating disorders is higher than actually reported due to the stigma attached to eating disorders and it usually being seen as a women’s illness. Health professionals are sometimes less likely to recognise the symptoms of eating disorders in men, hence lower reported cases.

Symptoms of an Eating Disorder for Men

The symptoms of an eating disorder for men are very similar to those of women. They include:

  • Low self esteem
  • Depression
  • Preoccupation with food, weight and shape
  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above minimally normal weight for age, height, body type or activity level
  • Lying about eating and difficulty eating in front of others
  • Low blood pressure or body temperature
  • Low hormone levels
  • Possible gender identity issues
  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • Heart arrhythmia or electrolyte disturbance
  • Perfectionist standards
  • Binge eating and/or purging behaviours
  • Compulsive exercise and/or preoccupation with muscles, body weight and shape

Difference between Male and Female Re: Eating Disorders

The incidence of Binge Eating Disorder is almost equal in men and women

  • There is often a history of obesity in men who present with eating disorders
  • Men tend to develop eating disorders at an older age than women
  • Men who participate in sport at an elite level can show a greater degree of disordered eating
  • Men are more likely to control their weight through exercise than restricting their intake of food

Possible Risk Factors


Studies have shown that dieting behaviour often precedes eating disorders in most people, including men. Dieting often changes an individual’s outlook on their body image, shape, weight and food in a negative way.


The media often emphasises physical fitness and bodybuilding for men, which can exacerbate negative body image and low self‐esteem. In recent years, men as well as women have become more affected by media content and portrayal of ‘perfect’ body types. This can inadvertently affect men and their perception of themselves. When such media messages are internalised it can result in men measuring their worth according to their weight and shape.

Body Image

Women are more likely to perceive themselves as overweight and choose a body ideal that is unrealistically thin. Men tend to view themselves as smaller and choose an ideal that is larger and more muscular. Men with eating disorders usually are striving for a lean and thin body shape. To find out more about body image visit our topic page.

Particular subgroups

There seems to be a number of subgroups in the male population that are vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. Those who participate or are employed in dancing, jockeying, wrestling, modeling and entertainment fields are often required to lose weight or have a particular body shape to achieve vocational goals.


Men that are 21% above an ideal weight prior to dieting are more at risk of developing an eating disorder as compared to women who begin dieting in a normal weight range. Reasons for this can include a history of being overweight and then being teased or criticised for a lack of selfcontrol.
The desire to increase self‐esteem through changing their body size and shape is the strongest motivation for dieting in men.

Where to go for help

If you are a man and you believe you have an eating disorder or eating issue it is important you seek help as soon as possible.
It can be scary to make this first step, however the earlier help is sought, the quicker the road to recovery. It is important that you do not feel shame about what may be happening to you and recognise that an eating disorder is a mental illness and not something that someone chooses to develop.
If you require a referral to a general practitioner or other health practitioner practicing in the eating disorder field please contact The Butterfly Foundation for a confidential referral.

1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or


Treatment Options

Visit our information page on Treatment Options for Eating Disorders for more information including a factsheet and videos. Also see our tips for recovery below.

Tips for Recovery

Recovering from an eating disorder means different things to different people. Recovery is a process, like a journey, and it has many stages. For some people recovery can be the abstinence of behaviours and thoughts that have kept them unwell. For others, it has a focus on integrating back into regular life.

Recovering from an eating disorder takes some time and considerable effort. It is vital that you be patient and kind to yourself throughout your entire recovery process. You may find sometimes that you feel like you are not getting anywhere or moving quickly enough through your recovery. At times like this it is important to ‘hang in there’ and keep believing that full recovery is possible.

It is rare for anyone’s journey to recovery to happen in a linear way. There are often twists, turns and bumps along the way.

Listed below are some tips to help you in your recovery process:

Take Time Out

Try to do something nurturing and positive for yourself at least once a week. This is an important part of self care.

Reach Out for Support

You are not alone. Reach out to family, friends or community supports like Butterfly Foundation who can help you in times of need. Visit our treatment options information page for various options.

Reasons for Change

Remind yourself whenever possible of your reasons for change. You are deciding to move on from life without an eating disorder being present. This is a bold decision and deserves praise.

Values and Beliefs

Examine your values and beliefs and how your eating disorder may have detracted from you living your best life. This can be a powerful reminder as to why you are on a recovery path.

Triggers and Relapse

Relapse can occur in the process of recovering from an eating disorder and is actually quite common. It is important to not see this as a failure in any way. It is simply a part of the journey and a sign you may need extra professional support at that time.

Every person has different triggers and it’s important that you know yours. Often people with eating disorders find it difficult at times of change, high stress, and when feeling emotionally vulnerable.

Explore your triggers and put a plan into place if you feel that the eating disorder is coming back into your life. Reaching out for support to understand your triggers better can also help greatly.

Explore your Interests

Often when you are suffering from an eating disorder, your whole world becomes entrenched with thoughts about eating and associated behaviours. During recovery, take time to look at the enjoyed interests that you held before your eating disorder came into place, or that you might like to explore now. Did you enjoy playing the piano or would you like to learn a musical instrument? Are you a creative person that is missing an outlet for this side of yourself? By participating in these activities it will help you to refind your interests, find new ones and give you time out from your eating disorder.


Do not hide your feelings and emotions away. Allow yourself to feel. This can be a daunting task to do but can help you fight your eating disorder by being real and genuine. Work to sit with difficult feelings in a safe environment and this will help them to move on quicker. If you find the process of allowing your true feelings to surface to be very difficult, seek support from your treatment provider or a trusted family member or friend.

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