An Open Letter to All Males Struggling with an Eating Disorder or Disordered Eating

John.

John.

Dear male, 

I want to say I’m sorry. I never ever want to discredit or not recognize the struggles you feel in this area. Of course, I have never done this intentionally- but I do fear I may have done so unintentionally. I understand that you- like women, are not immune to societal pressures. Because I am a woman- I gravitated and resonate with women and their specific struggle and so I tend to to address them with the majority in my words. But please never ever think that I do not believe my words or the struggle apply to you as well.

I would be doing a huge disservice to the EDO (eating disorder) and EDO recovery community if I did not recognize our male counterparts. I love the strong community that women have built around themselves but let us not hype ourselves up so much that we exclude and further damage and isolate others. Males in this struggle need just as much love and support and encouragement as women do and unfortunately, their support community is much less. Let us all welcome each other with open arms. 

Unfortunately, EDOs are often wrongly stereotyped to a certain subset of women… I’m sure we are all well aware of what that is. But the wrongful pressures of society do not discriminate between race, age, or gender. We are ALL susceptible to the pressure of societal “expectations” and “ideals” to look a certain way. 

There is a huge cultural movement- body positive. This is an incredible thing. However, it is geared largely toward the female population and I feel this is unfortunate. Because the cultural female “ideal” is so extreme, it often overshadows the fact that there are unrealistic physical expectation for men to reach as well. To not think so would be ignorant. Do you think our boys and men are immune to this message? No. I say it again: Men are not immune to societal pressures or the development of disorder eating or eating disorders. Our men and boys are in dire need of the body positive, intuitive eating, and self love messages just as much as our girls. But because there is a smaller subset of them or because there are existing stereotypes about EDOS, their cry for change and for help is not as loud. I believe men are often stereotyped to be rough, tough, no body image issues, no feelings, no emotions… etc. All of these things may be true for a subset of men (hah), but the rest of them have actual emotions and actual feelings. They want freedom from food and body shape ideals just as much as women do. Unfortunately, men, do not get the support and comradely that women often have and they are left out of the grassroots societal movements in this area.

This topic is extremely close to my heart as I have had and have men in my life who struggle with body image issues, disordered eating and even eating disorders. It breaks my heart. The person who changed everything for me was a male. (Read his story here.) Unfortunately, he passed away. But I want to honor him in every way I can and in everything do. It would disrespectful for me to not recognize his struggle as just as valid as my own. 

Women, don’t we all just want grace? Don’t we all want to celebrate the fact that there is beauty in every one of us and that we don’t need to reach this arbitrary pinnacle of “perfection”? Don’t we all want to tear down these body “ideals” and replace them with individuality? Then we need to extend the same grace and message that we want for ourselves and our daughters to our boys and men. This body positive moment is a two way street. If we are to change the societal ideals it is gong to involve both males and females working together. We can’t just demand change in this area like its strictly female struggle. It’s not. 

This body positive movement is great. This ED recovery community is wonderful. But again: let us not leave behind our male counterparts. Let us bring them into our community and love on them. Let us be open minded when we talk and in the conversations we have. Let us not add to the stereotype that eating disorders are a female disease. 

I for one, will be more careful with the words I write and the pronouns I choose. I never want to be insensitive, exclude, or undermine the male struggle. I encourage everyone to do this same.

Let’s get this conversation going. 

Thoughts? Feelings? Let me know in the comments!

As usual, let me know if you have any further questions about my journey and experience with recovery, If you feel like you need additional support in this, I work with clients one on one in my practice- Nourishing Minds Nutrition