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Binge Eating in Men: An Eating Disorder Hidden Behind Outdated Gender Ideas


International Men's Health Week promotes health and exercise, but many times eating disorders are not discussed.

Men, for many years, have enjoyed a much broader range of “acceptable” body sizes than women.

However, more and more men have begun to fall victim to eating disorders but are struggling in silence because of fear and embarrassment. Additionally, eating disorders like binge eating may not get the attention they deserve because overeating can be seen as a normal behavior in men.

Binge Eating in Men

According to the Binge Eating Disorder Association, about 40 percent of the estimated 10 million Americans who binge eat are men. A recent study published in The International Journal of Eating Disorders surveyed 46,351 men and women ages 18 to 65. About 11 percent of women and 7.5 percent of men were identified as suffering from binge eating disorder.

Binge eating is more likely to go unnoticed in men than in women because being overweight or obese is found to be more acceptable for men. Because eating disorders still carry a stigma, particularly among men, binge eating disorder sufferers are exposing themselves to a high risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other weight-related health conditions. Furthermore, there can be mental health issues that go untreated such as depression and anxiety.

Signs of Binge Eating

Those who suffer from binge eating disorder often ingest thousands of calories in one sitting and are plagued by an overwhelming sense of shame and self-loathing, which can lead to further binging. Binge eaters may suffer from low self-esteem, past trauma or bullying and could be using food to cope with stress.

Both men and women experience the following symptoms:

  • Eating large amounts of food in short periods of time, without purging.
  • Eating in secret or hiding food.
  • Eating without feeling hungry and until uncomfortably full.
  • Eating to numb emotions and/or cope with emotions.
  • Feeling shame, self-hatred, disgust or despair after overeating.
  • Yo-yo dieting or other methods to try to control weight and hunger.

Finding Help

Unfortunately, what aggravates eating disorders further in men is that they don't seek treatment because they are afraid to be judged and appear weak. Furthermore, for those men who do seek help, being diagnosed and getting treatment can be difficult because many therapists are not experienced with or prepared to treat binge eating disorder in men.

However, the treatment that is typically used in women with eating disorders has been shown to work in men as well. When treating binge eating disorder, cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and nutritional counseling are usually implemented. Support groups and eating disorder treatment programs are also suggested as part of a recovery treatment plan.