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Eating disorders put male population at risk

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Hugo Bryan Castillo
Staff Writer

In our diet-oriented society, we are always looking to the latest trends in weight loss.

Whether it is by taking a pill or getting surgery, more and more people are willing to do anything to look a certain way.

And while we may tend to think women have cornered the market on obsessing over diet and weight loss, an increasing number of men have become obsessed with losing weight and wanting to reflect a certain physical image.

According to Cindy Denne, ULV Health Center director, 10 percent of people affected with an eating disorder are male.

The National Eating Disorders Association confirms that one in 10 of those suffering from eating disorders is male.

But what causes one to have an eating disorder?

Rick Rogers, director of the University Counseling Center, said that many factors come into play when it comes to developing an eating disorder.

Some are internal, such as poor self-esteem and insecurity. And some factors are external, such as peer influence and messages from family about what their relationship with food should be.

It can also be based on culture. “Body type ideals are different in every culture,” Rogers said, “Eating disorders can be based on cultural norms.”

Rogers said that eating disorders in men are concentrated within the gay community. “Body weight, size and shape are (emphasized) in the gay and lesbian community.”

According to the NEDA, “Homosexual men may be at an increased risk for developing an eating disorder because of cultural pressures within the homosexual community to be thin.”

NEDA’s Web site also states that social factors can contribute to eating disorders through “cultural pressures that glorify thinness and place value on obtaining the perfect body.”

On the other hand, most people tend to agree that the media is to blame for subjecting people to images of perfect bodies. As for men, the media projects images of men with slim, washboard abs, huge biceps and chiseled chests.

Sergio Cazorla, a junior business major, said that such media sources as MTV, advertisements and Calvin Klein models, are to blame for this problem.

“The media definitely brainwashes the older crowd (with) physical images,” Cazorla said.

“It seems that if men look better, they will get the better looking girls. A lot of men are narcissistic,” he said.

Senior criminology major Jorge Pineda also thinks television is to blame because he can remember watching cartoons as a young boy and thinking that the cartoon heroes with their muscular bodies were cool. Now, he works out, but only as a past time.

Geoffrey Gillison, senior behavioral science major, also agrees that society is the cause of men having eating disorders. In the past, Gillison used to be overweight, but now he likes the way he looks: being physically fit.

Gillison does work out, but only to be physically fit for the California Highway Patrol exam.

Men feel comfortable knowing that when they workout, they are building their muscular bodies and gaining the look they want.

They feel confident knowing that they have the desired body (robust arms, smooth abs, broad chest and strapping legs) they have seen all around them in magazines, billboards and television.

More men today find themselves dealing with anorexia nervosa, the act of self-starvation.

Rogers said that five out of 10 men will be affected with anorexia in their lifetime.

Over exercising, being underweight for your age and fear of gaining weight are signs of anorexia.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, some of the characteristics of anorexia nervosa are: intense fear of getting fat, refusal to maintain body weight at or above minimal normal weight for age and height, excessive self-weight evaluation, purging, etc.

Some of the consequences of anorexia nervosa are slow heart rate, low blood pressure, reduction of bone density, muscle loss, severe dehydration, dry hair and skin and hair loss.

Even though women are affected by it more often, men are also affected with Bulimia Nervosa: a disorder that is characterized by various times of binge eating followed by vomiting, taking laxatives, doing excessive exercise, etc. to avoid weight gain.

According to NEDA, some behavioral characteristics of bulimia nervosa are lack of control over eating excessively, recurrent purging to avoid weight gain, hiding food or eating in secret, frequently weighing self, disgust with body size or shape, distortion of body size (feeling fat when actually skinny), etc.

The emotional and mental characteristics are intense fear of becoming fat, depression, social isolation, possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation, feeling of worthlessness, etc.

Some of the physical characteristics are: constipation, loss of dental enamel due to self-induced vomiting, swollen salivary glands and lack of energy, and fatigue.

Rogers said that there is a solution for people with eating disorders. People can either get therapy or join a self-help support group.

Rogers also said that people can go to their local bookstore and find books on the matter.

Rogers suggests working with a physician, nutritionist, or personal trainer. However, he does not recommend taking diet pills to help minimize the problem.

“None of us have the natural ability to have the body type like our governor,” Rogers said.

If you or someone you know might have an eating disorder or issues with body weight and shape, or for more information on body images and eating disorders, contact the counseling center at ext. 4831, located on the second floor in the Hoover Building.

The Counseling Center is open from Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Rogers can be reached at ext. 4832 or ext. 4650.

Hugo Bryan Castillo can be reached at

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