Ron Saxen’s decade-long struggle with binge eating began at the age of 11. He eventually ballooned to 280 pounds, sometimes eating as much as 15,000 calories of burgers, fries, candy and ice cream in a day.
“Guys generally don’t come forward for any reason,” Mr. Saxen, the author of the memoir The Good Eater, told the New York Times in an article that examined the often-hidden issue of binge eating among men.
Binge eating, also known as compulsive eating, is defined as the consumption of large amounts of food during a short period of time that happens at least twice a week – “often in secret and often carried out as a means of deriving comfort,” according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
According to the Times, an estimated eight million men and women in the United States binge eat. But while only 10 per cent of patients with anorexia and bulimia are men, binge eating – also an eating disorder – is equally divided among both sexes. Men, however, are less likely to admit to binge eating. They also rarely seek treatment. And those who do often have a hard time finding help. Most of the literature on binge eating is of little help as most of it focuses on women.
“Everything I saw was written for and by women,” Vic Avon, a 29-year-old building contractor, told the Times. Mr. Avon flipped between anorexia and binge eating, weighing 300 pounds at one point. “I was so ashamed because it was a girl’s illness, I thought. I didn’t have any guys to look to.”
And many binge-eating men don’t even realize they have a problem because it’s more acceptable for men to eat large amount of foods and be overweight. It’s a double-standard has a simultaneous negative effect on both men and women.
“Eating heartily, according to food and restaurant commercials, is just something men are expected to do,” wrote Jezebel blogger Doug Barry, “while women are supposed to smile and eat salads — this is world we apparently live in, a world that puts unreasonable social pressure on women to abstain from eating and on men to indulge.”
But awareness of the issue is growing. According to Chevese Turner, founder of Binge Eating Disorder Association, more men are starting to seek help for binge eating: The organization has seen a 5 per cent increase in its calls from men over the last four years. Now one in five of their callers will be a man.
Do you think more needs to be done to address binge eating among men? Is there a stigma associated with seeking help?