SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. Anorexia: it’s an eating disorder that can ruin lives and even kill. Usually it affects women. But male anorexia is real and more prevalent than you might think. Up to seven million boys and men will suffer from eating disorders in their lifetimes. Most males don’t seek help because of the stigma or because they don’t even know what it is.
“It was like living in hell and I wouldn’t wish it on my enemies,” Colt Gordon said.
Desperate to get his life under control, Gordon joined the marines hoping the corps’ discipline would be the answer. Instead, he plummeted into depression, considered suicide and fell victim to an eating disorder, dropping from a healthy 190 to 155 pounds.
Gordon said, “I would exercise all day sometimes, sometimes three hours in the gym. I would fall asleep in the sauna for two and a half hours at a time. I would go on apple diets, eating nothing for a couple of weeks. And then I’d binge and purge. I thought it was going to be the rest of my life. I thought I was going to die from it. And I essentially almost did.”
“We think between 25-40 percent of all eating disorder cases actually are males, and yet very few get treatment,” said Tiffany Brown, MS, male anorexia expert at UC San Diego Health.
Colt did. He entered UC San Diego’s eating disorders program that included therapy, coping skills, and meal support. It’s hard and it takes time: four to 10 hours a day, three to five days a week, lasting four months. Therapist, Tiffany Brown, says working with male anorexics can be challenging since their appearances can be deceptive.
“Someone could look on the outside like they may not have anorexia and may not be significantly underweight and still could be really struggling with a lot of very significant eating disorder symptoms,” she said.
The hard work paid off for Colt. He conquered his eating disorder, is learning Spanish, going to school, and working with kids in Mexico to help them stay away from drugs.
Gordon said, “So my life’s pretty full, and I go dancing on Friday and Saturday night. I’m having a great time!”
Eating disorder specialists have these tips: be aware that sports and professions that necessitate weight restriction like gymnastics and wrestling put males at risk, never emphasize body size or shape as indications of worth or identity for young men, discuss cultural attitudes regarding “ideal” male body, masculinity, or appearance. For more help on male anorexia go to namedinc.org.
To read the full research summary, visit ivanhoe.com.