Binge Eaters Start to Come out of Hiding ; Disorder Is Seen Equally in Both Sexes, but Men Often Decline to Admit It

By Abellin | International Herald Tribune, August 15, 2012 | Go to article overview

Binge Eaters Start to Come out of Hiding ; Disorder Is Seen Equally in Both Sexes, but Men Often Decline to Admit It


Abellin, International Herald Tribune


The eating disorder is seen equally in both sexes, but men are usually reluctant to come forward and get treatment.

After downing 70 chicken wings in about an hour, Andrew Walen finally realized he had a problem: He was a binge eater, and he had no control around food.

"Ultimately, it was about numbing out and self-loathing," said Mr. Walen, now 39 and a therapist in Columbia, Maryland. "There was this voice in my head that said, 'You're no good, worthless,' and I turned to food."

Mr. Walen is one of an estimated eight million men and women in the United States alone who are binge eaters, defined as consuming large amounts of food within a two-hour period at least twice a week without purging, accompanied by a sense of being out of control.

While about 10 percent of patients with anorexia and bulimia are men, binge eating is a problem shared in almost equal proportions by both genders.

"Binge eating among men is associated with significant levels of emotional distress, obesity, depression and work productivity impairment," said Richard Bedrosian, director of behavioral health development at Wellness & Prevention, which works with employers and health plans.

Men who are binge eating rarely seek treatment for what many believe is a "women's disease." Binge eating is not even an official eating disorder in the current diagnostic guide for mental health professionals.

"Guys generally don't come forward for any reason," said Ron Saxen, 49, author of "The Good Eater," a memoir of his struggle with binge eating, which began when he was about 11.

Those men who do seek treatment often have difficulty finding someone to work with them. Before Vic Avon was diagnosed with anorexia in 2006, for example, he scoured the Web for information relating to men and eating disorders. "Everything I saw was written for and by women," said Mr. Avon, 29, a building contractor in Brick Township, New Jersey.

Many binge-eating men do not even recognize that anything is wrong. About 70 percent of all people with binge eating are overweight or obese, but a higher weight is generally more acceptable for men than women.

Men like Mr. Avon and Mr. Walen often struggle to find help. But the tide may be slowly turning as awareness about men and binge eating grows. …

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