There is now greater recognition of men’s struggles with eating disorders and an interview released Dec. 12 raises awareness about different warning signs among men. This interview was conducted with Jillian Croll Lampert, the chief strategy officer at the Emily Program, a national eating disorder treatment center based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Despite the gender-specific name of this program, Lampert is focused on removing misconceptions about males with eating disorders and encouraging males to seek treatment. In fact, this program was founded by Dirk Miller, a man who had recovered from his eating disorder and chose to name it after his sister, also in recovery. After his own struggles finding treatment and those of his sister, Miller strove to create a treatment program that was broadly inclusive.
In her interview, Lampert addressed some of the main misconceptions we have about men and eating disorders. One prevalent myth is that men don’t pay much attention to how they look. We hear so much about the objectification of women in media, but there is also a growing trend of male objectification. The ‘ideal’ male body may be talked about in a different way, however, than the female, with an emphasis on “lean,” “ripped,” and “muscular” rather than the typical “thin ideal” for women. Achieving this ideal, therefore, may not cause men to lose weight, but rather to bulk up.
With this difference in language comes a variation also in symptoms that males with eating disorders may exhibit. For example, if “strong” is the emphasis for men, rather than going on a crash diet, they may tend to frequent the gym, engaging in excessive exercise. This is problematic, because as a society, we do not recognize going to the gym as a problem behavior.
Another key difference regarding males with eating disorders is the heightened secrecy with which they guard their disease. Due to the prevailing belief that eating disorders are “women’s diseases,” many men are embarrassed to come forward and admit their struggles, delaying treatment that is vital at an early stage.
Because of these distinctions for males who struggle with eating disorders, it is imperative that efforts are taken to de-stigmatize treatment for this population. Treatment centers like the Emily Program make an effort to integrate men into treatment programs and also offer male support groups. As a society, we must make it acceptable for men to speak up about their body image concerns and pay attention to the different warning signs they may exhibit.