The Skinny On "Manorexia"

When we hear about anorexia or bulimia, we think primarily of young women suffering from the eating disorders. But a growing number of young men are coming forward with their own stories of struggle and self-starvation.

When Christian Bale took on the role of a chronic insomniac in "The Machinist," he lost over 60 pounds in a matter of months.

But even though Bale's emaciated frame was created for a movie, the self-starvation he endured to achieve it is part of an alarming trend among young men.

A 2007 Harvard University study showed that 25 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia were men - confirming that men are more susceptible to eating disorders than previously thought.

"Looks have become important, not only in the mating ritual, but in all aspects of society," says Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University. "Not only does the man need to get and keep the girl, he has to get and keep the job."

Images of the perfect male physique are inescapable and many men will stop at nothing to replicate what they see. Some develop an unhealthy obsession with exercise while dangerously restricting their caloric intake.

"All of the fancy photographs of men we see in magazines and in the movies and in advertisements make men feel very insure just the way they make women feel insecure. They are setting standards for what we are all supposed to look like," Fisher said.

Hollywood is not immune to the pressure. Stars like Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Quaid have admitted to having eating disorders, raising the profile of a condition health care providers still know very little about.

Author Gary Grahl documented his own personal struggle with anorexia in his book, "Skinny Boy."

As a young athlete growing up in small-town Wisconsin, Grahl says he set high expectations for himself to perform. Over time, he became obsessed with routines and his weight.

"I'd wake up at 3:30 a.m. to exercise for three to four hours a day, then again after school. I was an All-American boy trying to achieve," he explained to The Early Show's Julie Chen.

This went on for a number of years and Grahl says he was eventually hospitalized six times over a five-year period.

"With the help of some wonderful therapists and a team of physicians, doctors and nurses, I also put in a lot of hard work and had to develop a life-style change to overcome it."

Dr. Ted Weltzin, director of eating disorder services at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin, developed the first eating disorder treatment program specifically designed for men.

While the symptoms of anorexia and bulimia are similar for men and women, Dr. Weltzin says the underlying issues are often very different in terms of self-esteem.

A common issue for men is having been overweight as young boys and being teased about it.

Other issues are athleticism and trying to achieve more. Weltzin says a chemical dependency and substance abuse or alcoholism can also set the stage for an eating disorder in men.

For girls, he says it has more to do with expectations and the fear of becoming overweight, as opposed to men, who may have been overweight.

Because the issues are different, he says the treatment needs to address those specific emotional factors for men.


  • For more information: The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associate Eating Disorders (ANAD)
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