Eating disorders affect millions of people in our country. They can range from restriction of food to binge eating. Though our culture typically considers eating disorders to be a disease of females, around 10 million males are actually affected by eating disorders in our country.

Disordered eating behavior often starts in adolescence and for some, the behaviors go undiagnosed for months to years. The Centers for Disease Control asked high school students about their eating behaviors. Among boys, 7% skipped eating for an entire day in order to lose weight, 4% took diet pills, liquids, or powders in order to prevent weight gain, and almost 3% actually vomited or took laxatives within the past 30 days in order to not gain weight.

More boys are starting to share their struggles with eating disorders. A recent National Public Radio (NPR) story shared the story of Jonathan. Hearing his journey highlighted to me the importance of listening to my patients and as a parent, not ignoring any gut instinct that may say ‘something’s not right here.’ His mother is very open in the story about what she observed and that she didn’t initially consider an eating disorder.

So what are some warning signs of an eating disorder:

  • Concern about body shape/size
  • social isolation
  • odd food behaviors (only eating certain foods, avoiding eating around other people, cutting food into small pieces, hiding food or throwing it away)
  • excessive weight loss
  • intense fear of gaining weight
  • excessive exercise
  • use of diet pills, laxatives, or supplements to lose weight
  • vomiting after meals

If you suspect your son may be struggling with his weight (whether over or underweight), seek the help of a medical professional. Be open with your concerns as eating disorders are not always the first thing that comes to mind in a medical encounter.

Organizations with resources include:

National Eating Disorder Association

Something Fishy

Previous posts on eating disorders include:

Eating Disorders: Signs and Symptoms post 1 (from a series of 8 posts)

When weight loss is an eating disorder