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Men Get Eating Disorders, Too

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

What is the first thing you think about when you hear the words, eating disorder? you probably imagined a girl or woman, so thin, you could count her ribs. Your whole perception about eating disorders is about to change. "I thought I was in control and I felt it was MY actions. But, I was totally under the spell of anorexia," said Kyle Carter.

One expert says, " They have been, so long known as the 'middle-class, white girl disease.' there is, definitely, a big stigma with it being males, as well."

18-year-old Kyle Carter is a recovered anorexic. He's part of a growing number of men, coming forward with what's been typically known as a women's issue.

The Eating Disorder Center at San Antonio is seeing more and more men in their programs. Kasi Howard is a clinical psychologist. Kay Watt is the co-executive director and founder of the center.

According to Kasi, "Our binge eating program is half men, which surprises a lot of people. Our anorexia-bulimia program is, probably, less than 10%.

" We know there are many more out there, many young men and older men, who are suffering, who simply can't break across that barrier of asking for help or they don't know that help is available, for them," added Kay.

It's that feeling of not knowing that keeps men from admitting they have a problem, and not getting help until it's too late.

Kay says when it comes to group therapy, it's not about gender, "I really want men to hear, Hey! Even if you're the only guy in the treatment center, go! Treatment's there for you. It's good!”

There are different types of eating disorders, The most common are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia.

Anorexia is when people are restricting their intake, They are not getting enough to eat. They are limiting their portions. They are limiting their variety. They are limiting their calories, their fat grams. They are cutting out entire food groups. With bulimia, we do see some of the same, restrictive kind of pattern. It, usually, ends up culminating in, what we call the binge-purge cycle.

That is how most people recognize bulimia, eating large amounts of food in one sitting, then purging by either excessive exercise, the use of laxatives or, the most common way, vomiting.

Kay offered this information, "Sometimes, you may notice in a person who is doing a tremendous amount of purging, They'll get significant swelling, along the jaw line. It doesn't happen in every person. So, if you don't see it, that doesn't mean there is not purging. If you are seeing it, it is an indicator that it should be investigated."

So, how can you tell if someone is suffering with an eating disorder? Here are some things to look for;

Is the person keeping to him or herself? Do they constantly check their body? Is food or dieting a part of every conversation? Do they, suddenly and often leave the dinner table? Do they take, unusually, long showers? and, Is there a lack of weight gain, despite where they might be on their age scale?

If the problem is more advanced, there will be a lack of energy, dizziness, protruding bones, wearing of loose clothing and cold body temperature.

If there is one or a combination of these signs, get help.

Although the number of men suffering from eating disorders continues to grow, it's still a taboo subject. Simply put, it's not manly to have an eating disorder.

Kay says it's a barrier for, both men and women, "Women also want to be seen as strong and being able to cope with their problems. But, I think, if we look at the values, in our country, that pressure is going to be greater on men. There is a fear of being seen as less than, because I'm asking for help."

According to Kasi, just like it has for women, society, as a whole, contributes to the problem by promoting an unrealistic standard of what men should look like,

"They are supposed to be very muscularly built and yet, very lean. We've seen G. I.. Joe characters evolve, over the years, to have wider chests, bigger biceps and yet, a smaller waist. So, I think, even from children's toys to celebrities, we've seen this standard, repeatedly, grow to this, unrealistic, unattainable mark," she said.

These statistics support that theory. 40 % of boys in middle and high school work out to build muscle. 6% of them use steroids or other injections. These actions start showing up, or developing as early as 9 to 12 years old.

Kay says, "When I sit and do an assessment with them, at 18 or 19, I'll say, 'when was the first time you began to struggle with food or to,

really, worry about the shape of your body?' They, often say, oh, when I was 9, or,when I was 11.”

Eating disorders have been labeled as “a disease of vanity.” Whether it's a man or a woman, the health consequences are serious. Those who suffer with an eating disorder are more likely to develop osteoporosis; depression; anxiety or have a heart attack, just to name a few.

Kasi warns of the most serious consequence of them all, "We know that 25% of people, with anorexia, will die from the disease."

But, death doesn't have to be the end result of an eating disorder. In part two of my special report, we'll discuss available treatment options. We'll also talk to Kyle Carter, who, at 18, is a recovered anorexic. He'll share his difficult struggle with us.

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