Because body image issues and eating disorders are typically seen as “feminine,” most people believe that these problems primarily affect women.
In reality, though, men suffer from eating disorders at an alarming frequency — and they tend to do so in silence. The National Eating Disorder Association reports that one in three people struggling with an ED is male, though they are “much less likely to seek treatment” due to societal biases.
Because of the disparities between eating disorder treatment for men and women, many eating disorder recovery advocates are focusing their efforts on encouraging people of all genders to seek help when they need it. One such advocate is 21-year-old William Hornby, who has struggled with an eating disorder since he was around 10 years old.
Of course, there are many things that attribute to any one person’s eating disorder, but Hornby says that he felt a substantial amount of pressure to look a certain way as a gay male.
“Eating disorders are seen as a feminine issue and that is criticized by masculine society,” Hornby said. “It is seen as a feminine trait to not have a flat stomach as a man because with women in particular, there is a trait of needing a bit of fat around the reproductive organs.”
Gay males struggle with eating disorders at a distressingly high rate. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, though gay males make up just 5 percent of the total male population, they account for 42 percent of all males who have eating disorders.
“I am part of the musical theater community and I am also a gay man, and both of those communities really encourage eating disorders and kind of nourish them,” Hornby explained to In The Know. “[In the gay community], it is men being toxic to men, not men being toxic about women or to women.”
When Hornby tried to seek help for his own eating disorder, he initially had trouble finding resources specifically aimed at males in recovery.
“I came up short and it made me feel very, very alone,” he explained.
Thankfully, he eventually found a registered dietitian and therapist with whom he’s been able to pursue recovery. Now, he is using his social media platforms to help other people — men especially — who are struggling with their own eating disorders and might not know where to go.
He also has some wise words for anyone who doesn’t know how to help someone in their life who is struggling.
“If you are noticing that someone in your life is struggling, don’t comment on their food or their body at all,” he said. “Invite them to talk about how they are feeling and listen. If you get to a comfortable place with them, encourage them towards a registered dietitian … or a therapist.”
If you liked this post, check out our other content around body acceptance.
More from In The Know: