Like a lot of folks, you may have the notion that binge eating disorder (BED) is something that only affects women. But the truth is this condition doesn't care much about gender. About 40% of people with BED are men.
The triggers for BED are often the same for men and women, but guys face a special challenge: the stigma of dealing with a condition that many wrongly see as a female issue. That attitude, and a lack of knowledge about BED's signs, may cause a lot of men to go without treatment.
And that's not a good idea, because if you don't get the right care, binge eating disorder is serious, possibly life-threatening stuff.
Your Body Image
For generations, women have dealt with body-image issues fueled by media expectations. Turns out, guys pay attention to the media, too. Men who are flooded constantly by magazine and TV images of thin, muscular men may feel their own bodies don't measure up. To get the right look, you may fall into some unhealthy habits, which can put you at risk for binge eating disorder.
For example, you might use a restrictive diet to change the way your body looks. Studies show some men say their binge eating began after their weight loss efforts got underway.
Imagine the scenario. Your new miracle diet doesn't give you enough calories to satisfy your hunger. So you cheat a little bit, trying to quiet your growling stomach -- a handful of nuts, a bag of chips. Nothing much. Right? We all overeat from time to time.
But binge eating disorder is entirely different from an episode of overeating. If you have BED, you're likely to go through cycles of overindulgence without control. Afterwards you may feel shame and regret, or even hate yourself for the way you behaved.
What BED Looks Like
Things that a lot of men may think are just part of being a guy can develop into binge eating disorder.
When you have BED, you may have some of these behaviors, according to the National Eating Disorder Association:
- Eat an amount that's larger than what most people would eat in a similar amount of time.
- Feel that you've lost control over how much you eat
- Eat when you're full or not hungry
- Eat rapidly when you binge
- Eat until you feel uncomfortable when you're full
- Often find you eat alone or secretly
- Get into cycles of going on and off a diet
You may also notice that you feel angry or anxious before you binge.
How to Get Help
If you're a man with binge eating disorder, take heart. There are a lot of treatments that work. Start by talking to your doctor. They can put you in touch with an eating disorder specialist, who may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other behavioral health specialist.
Treatment of BED often leans on the Health at Every Size (HAES) model. It tries to reduce your stigma and improve your health by accepting these key principles:
Accept how big you are. Learn that genes that are passed down from your parents are part of the reason for your size.
Tune in to your body's signals. Watch for the signs that tell you when you're hungry or full. Learn how they can guide you to make the right choices.
Get healthy habits. Make exercise a fun activity. Learn how to eat when you're hungry and call it quits when you're full. Stick to a healthy diet, though it's OK to indulge in something less nutritious once in a while.
Recognize that people come in all shapes. Give support to others who may not feel good about their bodies.
While you get the medical help you need for BED, also make sure you reach out for the support of your family and friends. There's no need to go it alone while you're on the road to recovery.