By: Ari Snaevarsson
Men: When was the last time you asked a friend if he’s okay?
Why did it take me over four years to even admit what I was going through was an eating disorder? Why, when I confided in others about my dieting practices and intense binge-eating sessions, did I get only a concerned look with an empty platitude to the effect of “you’ll be fine”? Why do my male clients pick up their talking speed when we address how they view their body?
Unfortunately, the male eating disorder experience, which is only a microcosm of the broken male experience in general, has remained a mystifying concept accepted by many but believed by few. It’s apparent where the problem lies, but the trouble is that it’s such an ugly and uncomfortable topic to deal with, so the end result is total neglect.
Lets change that by starting a much-needed conversation. And what is that conversation? No matter how much I try to package it nicely and make it fun and interesting, it comes down to one undeniable facet of the male experience.
Men, when was the last time you asked a friend if he’s okay? When was the last time you pushed through that initial bout of discomfort when an emotional dialogue is coming, so that you could really reach your friend (or family member, peer, coworker, client, etc.)?
This isn’t fun to think about, but it’s imperative. Within most “masculine” male circles, there’s a constant underlying fear that your insecurity will slip out. There’s a fear that you’ll say something about your girlfriend that sounds too “mushy,” or you’ll admit to an interest of yours that isn’t traditionally seen as masculine. Or, god forbid, you’ll talk about how you’re actually feeling.
I’ve lived with six different roommates in my life, and I can tell you firsthand this is not just a “me thing.” Masculinity is a confusing concept that, thanks to a plethora of complex social factors, is much more often feigned and forced than explored and embraced.
Sadly, eating disorders are just as widely misunderstood. We see the caricature representations of eating disorder victims in movies, shows, and nutrition textbooks, and we take this as fact. So it’s no wonder, when these two perplexing issues are combined, that we feel so lost and helpless.
But rather than purport to have a silver bullet solution in here for you, I will only leave you with the courageous and all-important task of carrying on this conversation. How? Here are five of the most important roles you can play:
Having suffered through years of ED-induced self-loathing and isolation, I can tell you firsthand the degree to which you can save lives by being an agent of change in this realm. Empowering men to open up about and seek help for their eating disorders benefits everyone. The atrocious acts of senseless violence and soaring male suicide rates are an extreme depiction of what can happen when the idea of opening up about our emotions becomes scarier than the idea of ceasing to exist.
Ari Snaevarsson is a nutrition coach who works primarily with clients who suffer from disordered eating patterns. He also works as a counselor, dietetic technician, and on-call facilities manager at a residential eating disorder treatment center. In both capacities, he helps clients develop positive relationships with food and their bodies. His book, 100 Days of Food Freedom: A Day-by-Day Journey to Self-Discover, Freedom from Dieting, and Recovery From Your Eating Disorder, outlines a simple, day-by-day process to recovery from one’s eating disorder.