Grand Valley State University Women's Center

Eating Disorders in Males

Anorexia Nervosa in Males--Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, significant distortion in the perception of the shape or size of his body, as well as dissatisfaction with his body shape and size.

Bulimia Nervosa in Males--Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting or other compensatory methods (e.g., laxatives, diuretics, excessive exercise, fasting) to prevent weight gain. An individual struggling with bulimia is intensely afraid of gaining weight and exhibits persistent dissatisfaction with his body and appearance, as well as a significant distortion in the perception of the size or shape of his body.

Binge Eating Disorder in Males--Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsive overeating or binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.


  • Approximately 10% of eating disordered individuals coming to the attention of mental health professionals are male
  • There is a broad consensus that eating disorders in males are clinically similar to, if not indistinguishable from, eating disorders in females

Gender Differences Regarding Dieting and Body Shape

  • A national survey of 11,467 high school students and 60,861 adults revealed the following gender differences:

Among the adults, 38% of the women and 24% of the men were trying to lose weight

Among high school students, 44% of the females and 15% of the males were attempting to lose weight

  • Based on a questionnaire administrated to 226 college students (98 males and 128 females) concerning weight, body shape, dieting and exercise history, the authors found that 26% of the men and 48% of the women described themselves as overweight. Women dieted to lose weight whereas men usually exercised
  • A sample of 1,373 high school students revealed that girls were four times more likely than boys to be attempting to reduce weight through exercise and caloric intake reduction. Boys were three times more likely than girls to be trying to gain weight (28% versus 9%)

Occupational Hazard

  • Gymnasts, runners, body builders, rowers, wrestlers, jockeys, dancers, and swimmers are particularly vulnerable to eating disorders because their sports necessitate weight restrictions
  • The Laureate Research Foundation found that among college athletes:

58% of females and 38% of males were considered "at-risk" for developing an eating disorder

52% of females and 25% of males in the study reported feeling overweight by 5 pounds or more


  • Nemeroff, Stein, Diehl, and Smolak (1994) suggest that males may be receiving increasing media messages regarding dieting, the "ideal" muscular body type, and plastic surgery options (such as a pectoral and calf implants)
  • DiDomenico and Andersen (1988) found that magazines targeted primarily to women included a greater number of articles and advertisements aimed at weight reduction (e.g., diet, calories) and those targeted at men contained more shape articles and advertisements (e.g., fitness, weight lifting, body building, or muscle toning). The magazines most read by females ages 18-24 had 10 times more diet content than those most popular among men in the same age group

Source: National Eating Disorders Association www.NationalEatingDisorders.org

Page last modified June 22, 2010