December 31st, 2011

2011, A good year for male eating disorder sufferers?

2011 has been a whirlwind year for me, Men Get Eating Disorders Too and of course my colleagues and I think this year we have seen some brilliant recognition of not only the charity but also the very reason we exist. While we still have a long way to go in what we do and what we want to achieve as it is the last day of 2011 I thought it would be a good idea to recap what has gone on!

First off at MGEDT we released our first ever national leaflet and poster campaign which was distributed around the UK to healthcare professionals, voluntary organisations and distributed heavily at events and conferences we attended throughout the year. This was shortly followed by our first ever national conference to address the issue of men and eating disorders, which featured some of our supporters, professionals and staff from the charity. We also had some good media coverage this year, including appearances live on national television, national and local radio, print and online articles and various blogs and guest columns.

Possibly the biggest achievement this year was the launch of our first ever live support chat sessions, the only sessions of their kind worldwide to offer specific support to men with eating disorders. This pilot session will continue to run into early 2012 but I personally feel it has been a massive success, giving men the opportunity to speak out about their issues in a safe environment, easing the isolation they have as a result of their issues.

Personally, I have had some fantastic experiences this year, from media appearances to challenges with Sarah, all the way to sitting on a research panel for Oxford University and the Men’s Health steering group. If anything it proves that the issues of eating disorders and body image in men are starting to be taken seriously, with more organisations and bodies realising the need to have representation of these issues, which is a big step in the world of men’s health.

It has also been a fantastic year for press, with several high profile research studies and figure releases highlighting the very need for increased service provision, better awareness and more support availability, both peer and professional.

In July 2011, the Royal College of General Practitioners released figures showing a 66% rise in the number of men being admitted for the treatment of eating disorders in the UK, urging GP’s to be more aware of the symptoms of eating disorders in men.

In August 2011 another set of statistics were released regarding the rise in eating disorder cases in young people, including a large amount of boys. This again led to national scale publicity in most major publications, radio and television.

In September 2011 there was a slightly different release which was all about the rise in weight loss surgery in young people, including a large amount of men. This was a good release as it is important to recognise that eating disorders are not necessarily restrictive but lesser known disorders such as binge and compulsive eating can cause just as many problems for sufferers and yet are not seen in the same light in restricting disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

A lot of other stuff went on too, including the UK’s first ever fat talk free week, a highlight of self-harm in young people and a lot of focus on the effects of bullying to the mental health of all young people. We also saw really busy periods in both men’s health week and eating disorders awareness week. So much more happened in what I think has been our biggest and busiest year yet, but I have concentrated on some of the really key points here.

Undoubtedly, we still have a long way to go to make sure the appropriate recognition is given to male body image, eating disorders and mental health as a whole, but I would like to think that in 2011 we made a very good start. We have lots of stuff going on in 2012 to make sure that eating disorders and men’s mental health will remain firmly on the agenda and hopefully go that extra mile, building on what we have achieved this year. I would personally like to get out to more universities, deliver more training to professionals and stay on the media train to get our message out there.

All that is really left to do is thank everyone that has supported our campaigns, told their stories and contributed to the massive successes this year. It has been a good year for our cause, we have a long way to go still, but all in all, I think we made a good deal of progress.

Until 2012!


September 9th, 2011

Eating disorders are serious and complex conditions, affecting people of any age and gender, with the condition Anorexia Nervosa carrying the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

I recently wrote for Mental Healthy articles about the rise of eating disorders in men and the rise of young people being admitted to hospital for eating disorders and yet despite these alarming figures there is still a distinct lack of research in the area of men and the experiences of young people.

Read more via the link

August 1st, 2011

"Today, the NHS has released figures showing a worrying trend in the number of young people receiving treatment from the NHS for eating disorders.

The figures indicate that in the last three years 98 children between the ages of five and seven were admitted to hospitals due to disordered eating, alongside 99 aged eight and nine and almost 400 between ten and twelve.

Also around 1,500 teenagers between thirteen and fifteen have been hospitalised for severe disordered eating in the same period.”

Read more and my opinions via the link.

July 16th, 2011

My Article on Mental Healthy (formally uncovered magazine) about the rise in eating disorders among men

"Yesterday, the Royal College of General Practitioners urged GPs to look out for symptoms of eating disorders in Men after reporting a 66% rise in male admissions to hospital for eating disorders in just ten years.

Research from the charity beat estimate that around 1.6 million people in the UK are suffering from an eating disorder, they also estimate that around 1 in 5 of those cases are male.”

Read more of my article on the Mental Healthy Website here

July 13th, 2011

Are eating disorders in men really on the rise?

So today has seen a bit of a storm, well a media one anyway. All day on the BBC, in the Independent and in various other outlets eating disorders in men has been a hot topic.

This is following a report by GP’s that there is a rise in men seeking help for eating disorders and a whopping increase in the amount of men being hospitalised because of them.

I had my stint on BBC Oxford today talking about the issue and also a little bit of how I became involved in MGEDT and Eating disorder & Body image campaigning, this was a great opportunity for me to air some of my views on the subject of the rise in eating disorders and I wanted to put some of them in writing this evening, so here it is……

In my eyes we can look at this rise in several ways, first and foremost in my mind this morning when this was all going on was a simple fact, while there is still a long way to go, men are beginning to find doctors and health professionals more approachable. With the massive rise in men’s health awareness and mental health publicity and of course the work charities like the one I work for do to raise awareness, it could be said that the issues is out there, people are slowly become more aware and the stigma is slowly being broken down.

This, alongside the improved peer support, would theoretically make it easier for men to seek help for disordered eating, are we as a society actually becoming more accepting of mental health, especially of a mental illness which has a real gender stigma?

We then of course have the flip side of the argument, could there be a genuine rise in the number of cases of eating disorders in men?

With the pressure in society ever on the increase to attain a certain physical attraction or look a certain way it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if disorders around body image, disordered eating and self-esteem issues were on the increase. 

But I have also always maintained that the way you feel about your appearance will never alone cause an eating disorder, but it can certainly fuel the fire. I have always strongly believed that they are an unhealthy coping strategy of sorts, a way of trying to deal with difficult circumstances, negative emotion and problems you face. But with the constant bombardment of advertising, negative talk about bodies and the assumed body ideal constantly flaunted could it indeed trigger the start of an eating disorder?

These are questions that I don’t think I will ever answer, because an eating disorder is very different from individual to individual, some people will harness the route of their problems surrounding food with body image while others will take life experiences as the root cause, some, like me, may even feel it to be a combination of the two.

So my first question to myself was ‘are eating disorders in men actually on the rise?’ I have managed to ask myself a few more questions since then, but I don’t think the answer is that cut and dry.

Maybe more men are coming forward to seek that all important help, but maybe it is also the case that more men are falling foul of eating disorders.

It would make sense to me for it to be a combination of both factors, it would fit with the pressures and shift in today’s society on both levels, both the pressure to aspire and the openness for discussion to take place about sensitive issues.

Regardless, I think we need to see what has been reported today in a slightly positive light, because for the first time ever, more men are actually coming forward and seeking help, and have not been ashamed to do it. If the men that have created this statistic have come forward, then it means everyone can make that brave step towards recovery.

What do you think? is it that men are feeling more compelled to come forward? or is it that eating disorders are alarmingly on the rise in men? Could it indeed be a combination of factors? do let me know your thoughts.