Normalized Eating Disorder Behaviors in Men🏋️♂️
As a young man in college, I see so many unhealthy behaviors that are normalized in male culture and just not spoken about. From "cutting" to "bulking", men are struggling with eating, exercise and their body image and no one is talking about it. Here are some common behaviors:
(Note: Though the following are described as behaviors in men, anyone can take part in these unhealthy behaviors. They are just more normalized or popularized in masculine culture.)
🏋️♂️ Cutting: You might hear people talk about cutting when they are attempting to lose weight by working out. What it really means is a period of eating at a calorie deficit in order to lose body fat and keep as much muscle mass as possible.
This is newly popularized in gym culture and many people are taking an unhealthy approach to it. For many, cutting means going on ridiculous diets, practically starving themselves, and being insanely particular about what they eat. My friends who are cutting will be visibly frustrated with themselves if they eat something that they perceive is unhealthy or fattening because they are so strict about what they eat. They will make sure that they go to the gym as soon as they can in an attempt to “burn off” those calories.
This is a prime example of disordered eating and is something that most men don’t realize can lead to a serious eating disorder. In fact, many people don’t realize that males make up about 25% of people with anorexia. (1)
Eating healthy in order to keep yourself in good shape and health is one thing but being so particular about it to the point where you get mad if you eat something that is high in calories is very concerning. Having experienced family members go through eating disorders, it can be very hard to see some of my friends repeat similar habits.
☀️ Slimming down for the summer or spring break: The male version of a hot girl summer.
I went to Punta Cana last year with a bunch of my friends and some of them decided they wanted to lose weight in order to look good on the beach two weeks before we left.
First, it is virtually impossible to lose loads of weight in 2 weeks in a healthy way. Therefore, instead of attempting to practice healthy weight loss tactics, they choose to starve themselves for these two weeks and only eat a few pieces of fruit each day. Not only did they become sick due to the lack of nutrients, they ended up abandoning this regime after only a few days and were not able to lose any weight at all.
This is a classic example of men using unhealthy eating tactics in an attempt to lose weight or look good. How men view their body image has been neglected for a while and as a result many males are partaking in unhealthy habits in order to achieve their “ideal” physique.
💪 Bulking: On the other hand, there are a variety of unhealthy habits that go along with attempting to “bulk” and get as big as possible. Bulking is the act of consuming more calories than your body needs for a set period to provide your body with necessary fuel to boost muscle size and strength.
When people bulk, they set and enforce specific protein and calorie minimums to hit on a daily basis. They will also track their food in order to ensure that they are reaching these goals.
To do this, many are already full but force food down their mouth to make sure that they hit these food goals. I have seen videos of people on social media physically shoving food down their mouth and using the caption “do whatever it takes”. This is alarming since their body is physically telling them that they don’t want anymore food but they are so driven by these made up numbers that they refuse to listen to their bodies and eat anyway. For instance, overeating can lead to a variety of health problems such as increased fatigue, heart problems, mood swings, digestive issues and nutrient deficiencies. (2)
The whole concept of bulking can be dangerous and harmful for these gym goers due to the unhealthy eating habits they are taking part in.
❓ What should we do about it?
Clearly there are a number of different scenarios where men are uninformed and are actually hurting their bodies in an attempt to eat, look and behave in a certain normalized way. There needs to be more awareness about these unhealthy eating habits and a change in society where we promote healthy eating habits for both males and females.
I have family members and close friends that are affected by disordered eating and can tell that they need help. Social media along with societal standards are contributing to their problem due to everything that they are seeing and hearing about people’s bodies. People should be free to eat whatever they want and shouldn’t feel forced to eat in a certain way due to the specific diet that they are on.
📣 The best way to help these people who are suffering from these types of disordered eating patterns is to spread awareness about this subject and encourage healthy eating practices for all different types of lifestyles.
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George Andrews is an intern at Beanbag Health. He is an incoming junior at the University of Connecticut. He is majoring in Finance and has a passion for all business related work. He says, "Interning at Beanbag Health has been a life changing experience and one that has taught me so much. It has truly opened my eyes to the world of eating disorders and how they truly affect people lives."