Officials See More Eating Disorders in Men
September 21, 2004
Associated Press

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - Dietitian Jane Jakubczak says she rarely - if ever - treated male students who had eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia a few years ago.

Now, Jakubczak, who works at the University Health Center on the University of Maryland College Park, says a new student comes in once with a week with some form of distorted eating pattern, an obsession with body image, or excessive exercise routines.

Jakubczak, says the apparent increase of eating disorders among men on campus echoes a national trend and is fed by the unrealistic images of the male physique in the media.

"When they come in to see me they don't think they have a problem,'' Jakubczak said. "They come in to ask me what to eat that will get them six-pack abs. I would never have heard that five years ago.''

Signs of an eating disorder are often elusive and hard to treat, but persons experiencing an obsession with thinness, a compulsion to exercise, bingeing and those who panic at the thought of gaining weight should consult a professional.

Nationally, health officials estimate one million men have eating disorders, a 30 percent increase since 1972. Jakubczak said the increase of eating disorders among men is caused by unrealistic images of the male body in the media.

"Even looking at GI Joe toys in the 1970s, their physique was very normal,'' she said. "In the 2000s, the physique looks enormously buff. Especially college-age men feel they need to look like that.''

Eating disorders remain far more prevalent among women than men, Jakubczak says and men and women react differently to the problem. Women are more willing than men to admit they have a problem.

"Among women it's talked enough about that the shame decreased. That hasn't reached the guys yet,'' Jakubczak said.

Athletes can be very susceptible to falling into unhealthy eating or exercising regiments.

Last year the Health Center hosted a men's health week to educate male students about the differences between normal body image qualms and obsession.

The university's Center for Health and Well-being will host a program to discuss dieting, body shape and size Oct. 12, although organizers are careful not to put too much emphasis on eating disorders because many men would feel too embarrassed to come.

"It is still very taboo,'' among men, said Julie Parsons, eating disorders treatment coordinator at the health center.

Parsons said the health center offers individual, confidential treatment for students, which includes a medical evaluation, physiological consultation, group treatment and nutritional advice.