Men do suffer from Binge Eating Disorder. I am setting out to write a blog on this important issue for a number of reasons: (1) hopefully to raise awareness on the issue of men and Binge Eating Disorder, (2) to provide some of the latest research findings on the topic area, (3) to communicate to men who might be suffering from Binge Eating Disorder that they are not alone and (4) hopefully to inspire them to seek support for their Binge Eating Disorder.
In our societies, appearances and 'looking good' is equated with being successful. There are so many stereotypes around food, eating, genders, appearances, body image and weight that it's impossible to try and fit in all of them. To my awareness, as I am sure there are many more, a strong enduring stereotype is what and how someone is supposed to eat: men are supposed to eat heartily whereas women are supposed to eat lightly and in a refined way. At any given restaurant when a couple is dining you would expect the woman to have a salad and the man to have a steak or burger. How much of a stereotype is that?
This brings me to Binge Eating Disorder. A research study on binge eating suggested, that because men are 'socially allowed' to eat heartily, it is very difficult for men to distinguish between a big appetite, overeating and binge eating. The fact that a man might suffer from Binge Eating Disorder and not be aware of it, is worrying if not terrifying. Years of suffering with Binge Eating Disorder can have detrimental effects on a person's health. Prolonged Binge Eating Disorder can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart failure, kidney failure, and the list can go on and on.
Binge Eating Disorder is not just overeating. A binge episode can be a horrid part of a man's day. Planned or unplanned, a binge episode usually involves consuming a large amount of food in a relative short period of time. During the binge episode food, any kind of food, is consumed in secret, quickly, in any form of fashion e.g. in the car, sitting down on the table, standing up in the kitchen or bedroom, chewed or not chewed or just swallowed. Almost always in secret and alone. A binge episode usually comes to an end either when the food is over or when there is an utter physical pain where the person cannot eat anymore. Most people describe the actual binge episode as an out of body experience, like a dissociation from what is happening around them. They experience loss of control over their eating.
In Binge Eating Disorder people get stuck in a vicious cycle. There is a sense of gratification, relief and comfort in the first few minutes of the binge episode. But these feelings of relief and comfort are short lived. After the binge episode, negative feelings take over; feelings of disgust, shame, and embarrassment, even self hate take over. The person is consumed by these negative feelings because of the binge episode that had just happened, because it happened again and because of the consequences of eating so many calories and gaining weight. These negative feelings create great discomfort and lock the person in a vicious cycle, where they will try not to do it again, restrict themselves from food the next day which will inevitably lead them back to eventually having another binge episode. And the vicious cycle is repeated.
I hope with explicitly describing what a binge episode is, I have managed to explain how Binge Eating Disorder might look like for most people, yet not all of them. Sometimes just reading the clinical symptoms off a guide might be too technical to express what such an eating disorder is about.
Men do suffer from eating disorders. In terms of figures, 40% of cases of Binge Eating Disorder are men and it is believed that 1.6 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, of which 11% are men. It is quickly becoming an established fact that men with eating disorders are 'under-diagnosed, undertreated and misunderstood'. And yet so many men suffer from eating disorders. There are a number of charities that work towards raising awareness on the issue of men and eating disorder, and I only hope this blog helps to raise awareness for men with Binge Eating Disorder. Charities such as Men Get Eating Disorders Too, b-eat, No Bodies Perfect work in the UK to help men and women with eating disorders. In the US, BEDA is the most known organisation for individuals with Binge Eating Disorder.
If you think you suffer from Binge Eating Disorder, I would urge you to seek help. Talk to a loved one or share your thoughts in an anonymous forum that provides support. You can seek help from you GP or seek help through private treatment. Look out for information, help and support from local charities. Binge Eating Disorder is treatable and a lot of people recover from it. You are not alone.
Closing off this blog, I just want to say that as a man, you might be going through your own individual struggles either with Binge Eating Disorder or eating disorders in general. You are an individual with individual experiences, understandings, hopes, fears and dreams. Labels such as anorexic, bulimic, overeater, binger, etc. can be harming because the eating disorder does not define who you are and it is not part of who you are. Who you are is much more than that.
If you are interested in participating in a research study about men and Binge Eating Disorder, where you will have the opportunity to share your own experiences and understanding of Binge Eating Disorder then please get in touch with the me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Participation will involve a short interview with me and you will be reimbursed with an Amazon voucher for your participation. Also you can have a look at Binge Eating Disorder and Men facebook page I have also set up.