By John Keilman, Chicago Tribune reporter
July 11, 2012
Dr. Ted Weltzin, medical director of eating disorder services at Rogers Memorial Hospital, said male eating disorders can go unrecognized for years for one simple reason: Few people expect to encounter one in a man.
"People aren't necessarily shocked that a woman has an eating disorder," he said. "There's a lot more confusion over a guy developing one. I think the awareness is pretty low."
While much remains unknown about how and why these disorders develop in men and boys, Weltzin said there are a few common risk factors:
• Males tend to focus on muscle definition rather than losing weight. "We're seeing an evolution as to how men are portrayed in print and magazines," Weltzin said. "It's going down the same tired path as what happens with women, but it's an overvaluing of muscularity."
• Men with eating disorders are more likely than women to have been overweight in the past and are more likely to have suffered "weight-based victimization" in their childhoods.
Eating disorders are significantly higher among gay males than heterosexual ones. The reasons for that aren't clear, but Weltzin said it might be related to the emotional stress of growing up gay or how body image is valued in the gay community.
• Athletes who participate in sports in which body weight is a major factor — including everything from wrestling to high-jumping — can be susceptible to eating disorders.
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