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Male Eating Disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating in Boys

How Boys Fall Prey to Common Eating Disorders

If you are the parent to a male child, there is no doubt you are familiar with the wide range of eating habits in your child. From boys who are obsessed with food to boys who self restrict their food intake, it is important to know the warning signs of eating disorders in your son.

While commonly thought of as a "girls only" disorder, eating disorders are quite common in boys. In fact, eating disorders experienced in boys are similar to girls: bulimia, anorexia and even binge eating.   Understanding the warning signs of each eating disorder is vital to early intervention. Anorexia in boys is very similar to that of girls in that the condition stems from a mental health complication in which a child may feel they have no control over their life and, as a result, will use food as way to elicit some form of control in their actions. Just as in girls, when your son feels he is unable to control the events around him, making the conscious choice to limit his food intake provides him with a sense of control of his life. Unfortunately, in boys, the weight loss is often more sudden due to the higher metabolic rate. As a parent, if you notice your son losing a significant amount of weight, in a short period of time, it may be an indication of an eating disorder, such as anorexia.

Bulimia is yet another frightening eating disorder that can develop in young boys. This eating disorder is quite common in boys who are part of an athletic program. When initially beginning the sport, when a child is not in as good of physical shape as other boys, it is not uncommon for a boy to experience a complication of bodily self-image. Many boys begin to purge as they face issues of body image and competition which often happens as they begin a sports program. As a parent, it is important to also monitor for the signs of purging also known as bulimia when your son begins any new athletic or new sports programs.

How to Tell

There are some common signs and symptoms that should raise some concern that your son has or is developing an eating disorder, including that he:

Although it may be normal that he wants to exercise, eat healthy foods, and be a 'health nut,' if he also feels that 'he can't get skinny enough' this shouled be taken and considered to be a big warning sign.

At this point, you NEED to bring him to a health professional that has experience treating teens with eating disorders for a further evaluation. You might start with a registered dietician who might be able to help him plan a healthy diet and make sure he is getting enough calories, vitamins, and other nutrients. This would be a good choice if he really wants to be healthy and not just thin, being healthy and continuing to grow normally. Normally is the key word here. You should also work with the dietician in this case.

If your child has developed a good relationship with either a counselor, psychologist, his Pediatrician, or a psychiatrist, this might also be helpful.

If you are not sure where to take your child, the National Eating Disorder Association offers a referral service and can provide you with a list of doctors, nutritionists, counselors, and inpatient and/or outpatient facilities in your area.

Binge Eating

Another significant eating disorder in boy children that has become more prevalent is Binge eating. Because society traditionally accepts the notion that men and boys eat more in general, many parents do not become fully aware that their child is a participant of this eating disorder until their son has gained a significant amount of unnecessary weight.

Binge eating has been attributed to boredom and emotional distress. It is this distress which leads to finding "comfort" in food. As a parent, it becomes most iimportant to provide your children with information on how to make healthy food choices in addition to managing to some extent, the amount of food your children consume daily.

As with any eating disorder, there are health risks and long term effects associated with these disorders that can be life altering which often lead to to cardiac complications, even death.

Boys and Eating Disorders

Although eating disorders are more common in teen girls and young women, males can also develop an eating disorder. For many parents, the focus on eating disorders has, historically, been focused on female children, it has been found that in male children, there is an equal risk for developing eating disorders. The incidence of eating disorders in males also seems to be rising, so it is important to also think about eating disorders in teen boys and young men.

At a minimum, 10% of all eating disorders are found among male children. As a result, parents need to manage the complications and be aware of the possibility in both genders of children.

Rika B.


NOTE/Disclaimer: Inclusion in our list of organizations, books, counselors, and other links and resources does not necessarily indicate a recommendation or endorsement. What is helpful for another survivor may not be right for you. As always, use your own judgment when contacting any of these organizations. Advice given at this website, or in conjunction with Joshua Childrens Foundation activities is not to be taken as a counseling or clinical relationship but only as suggestion based on the founders personal experience as a sex abuse victim resulting in bulimia eating disorder and the healing journey from that. Articles, links, or content contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner, nor should it be inferred as such. Always check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about a specific condition. Joshua Childrens Foundation does not take any responsibility and is held harmless from any actions by anyone associated with the websites we link to.