It is hard to deal with an eating disorder without any help. The best thing for someone to do in this situation would be to reach out to a professional and ask them for help to safely get them out of the place they're in.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 13, 2021. It has since been updated.
When we talk about eating disorders, most people think about young girls and women starving themselves to achieve a model-like figure. While that's a more common occurrence, men are no exception to these disorders. The past year-and-a-half has been hard on so many people, especially because they've been cooped up inside, due to the pandemic.
With that, the "quarantine 15" became a popular term, referring to the weight people gain during the lockdown. It's only natural because people were forced to stay inside and give up their regular lives because of the virus. However, the constant criticism regarding weight gain has caused eating disorders in people, and men are no exception to it. According to the American Addiction Centers, about 25 percent of those people diagnosed with an eating disorder are male.
Oona Hanson, a parent coach in private practice and family mentor at Equip, an eating-disorder treatment program, describes the current crisis as "the perfect storm: social isolation, disruption in routine, empty grocery store shelves."
Then, she adds, "The 'Quarantine 15' memes started, along with a lot of fat-phobia and anxiety about weight being related to COVID risks. What starts out as a fitness routine to help someone fill the time or boost their mood can snowball when there's not much else for kids to do."
"I've been practicing for over 20 years, and I've never seen such a stark increase in need," says Alice Baker, an Orlando-area certified eating disorder registered dietitian. "So many of the support systems that typically aid in someone's recovery are not there."
The reason? Because doctors think that males don't experience eating disorders, says Hanson, despite a recent study showing that one in seven males will experience an eating disorder by age 40. What's more, "The most common pathway for a lot of kids developing eating disorders is 'healthy eating.'"
Eating disorders are not something to be taken lightly. "These are very serious illnesses," says Hanson, who added that after opioid addiction, eating disorders are the most fatal mental illness. "If you went to the doctor with any other potentially fatal illness, your primary care physician would refer you to a specialist. Eating disorders require specialized treatment from trained professionals."
The Mayo Clinic states that the most common eating disorders are Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
Commonly known as just Anorexia, the term is used to describe someone who has a very low body weight. It is potentially a very dangerous condition, especially because some anorexic people also have a fear of gaining weight. When someone anorexic indulges in extreme diets and limits their already low-calorie intake, it can prove to be fatal.
Bulimia, as it is widely known, is an eating disorder where people eat as much as they want, and some more, before they proceed to forcefully throw it all up from their system. Other than that, some may also use laxatives to get rid of the excess calories from binge-eating.
For many, food acts as a source of comfort when they're depressed or going through a tough time. So someone may regularly eat a lot more food than their body requires, even though they're absolutely full and don't have space to eat anymore. But, after eating, they may feel absolutely disgusted with themselves.
Here are some of the signs that indicate someone needs help:
1. Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
2. Excessive focus on healthy eating
3. Persistent worry or complaining about being fat and talk of losing weight
4. Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
5. Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
6. Use of dietary supplements, laxatives, or herbal products for weight loss
7. Excessive exercise
8. Eating much more food in a meal or snack than is considered normal
9. Eating in secret
The thing is, it is hard to deal with an eating disorder without any help. The best thing for someone to do in this situation would be to reach out to a professional and ask them for help to safely get them out of the place they're in. Unfortunately, many people are in denial about having a disorder, so getting a loved one to lend a helping hand might be useful.
Some steps a parent can take to ensure their child doesn't develop these issues are:
1. Not talking about dieting around their kids
2. Enforcing body positivity
3. Talking to your child.
It's not an easy journey, but anything can be overcome with time and patience.
Cover Image Source (Representative): Getty Images | KatarzynaBialasiewicz