Adam Fare, expert by experience, kindly shares his thoughts and personal experience of navigating eating disorder treatment as a male.
“Men get eating disorders too”. Words which have been used a lot, but with little real change or action.
For Men’s Health Week, I would love us to start recognising eating disorders in men, how they present and the sheer diversity of eating disorders.
Firstly, and to be completely clear, eating disorders treatment is difficult to access for all people of all genders. However I have felt further boundaries being a man and not presenting in the “typical” manner. No better example of this was when I was discharged from hospital, put under the crisis team and met with phrases such as “we’ve never had a man in our service before so we don’t know what to do with you”.
That didn’t exactly fill me or my family with confidence.
Then we met a further layer of stigma. The dietitian asked me what “aesthetic” I wanted in recovery. Not only is this dangerous and frankly impossible to promise, but it is built on the stigma that men all want to “look” a certain way. They were almost encouraging body dysmorphia. And after 6 months of “auditing”, I was discharged, still seriously unwell, because I couldn’t be fit into a funding bracket.
To compound the issue, I had been without testosterone for much of my teenage years, resulting in me permanently being licked into a 14-year-old’s body.
Treatment has to do better. We need more funding, resources and – crucially – research to include men in the conversation and identify the nuances which may differ. This is before we address the links with Neurodivergence, chronic health issues, trauma and a wider diet culture which is driving an increase in eating disorders. The truth is that we need more funding, more research, better proactive preventative measures and more treatment options for people of all body sizes, ages, genders, sexualities, ethnicities (etc.).
Further, I do feel that our patriarchal society has a lot to answer for, not just for eating disorders but men’s mental health in general. This view that men have to all be the same, look the same, be “macho” and be an alpha male.
This hyper-masculinity only does harm, and I’ve begun to learn this a lot more recently. We don’t all have to fit a stereotype, we don’t all fit a certain mould. Actually we are great people just as we are. To improve men’s mental health we first need to look at the way society puts barriers in the way. We need to end this “boys will be boys” culture, allow boys and young men to explore who they are freely without prejudice, and end this view of struggling as a weakness.
We don’t all have to fit a stereotype, we don’t all fit a certain mould. Actually we are great people just as we are. To improve men’s mental health we first need to look at the way society puts barriers in the way. We need to end this “boys will be boys” culture, allow boys and young men to explore who they are freely without prejudice, and end this view of struggling as a weakness.
The strongest I have ever felt has been when I’ve been honest about who I am, how I’m doing and have talked to people I love for help. That gives us the power back.
In the last few years I have come out as Asexual, realised I am Autistic and have ADHD, made huge life decisions and made true friends in a genuinely inclusive and compassionate community. I also now see “recovery” in a different light, that I will always have to manage my disabilities (including a stoma), and that for me it is about achieving my best quality of life. None of this would have happened had I not been honest about who I am, and that I am struggling.
So yes, “men get eating disorders too”, but that is only the tip of the iceberg that we need to start addressing if we want to see real, lasting change. And everyone deserves that to happen before more lives are sadly lost, shortened or irreparably impacted.
We appreciate Adam’s honesty and see the importance that eating disorder treatment should be inclusive and considerate for all, no matter who you are. This is what we strive to provide, here at Orri.
Our goal is to give male clients the best possible treatment. In therapy sessions, we address issues such as muscularity, over-exercising and masculinity, as well as relationships with exploration of sexuality. To find out more about eating disorders and men, click here.