COVID-19 Pandemic Has Led to Record Numbers of Boys With Eating Disorders

Record numbers of teenagers including boys and young men have devastating eating disorders led to by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alice Baker who is a certified eating disorder registered dietitian said:

“I’ve been practising for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen such a stark increase in need.” “So many of the support systems that typically aid in someone’s recovery are not there.”

Our culture has instilled in us the idea that we are “stronger” or more “in control” when we eat less. Many talk about skipping meals and restricting food groups as if it is a badge of honor.

And yet…

What really happens is that eating less creates more obsession about food, more angst about what to eat, and more isolation from celebrations and magical moments. Our bodies become more out of control with irregular heartbeats, depletion of hormones, depletion of glucose, difficulty sleeping, hair loss, and the list goes on.

This does nothing to empower a body.

What if culture has it all wrong?

Nourishment brings more stable glucose, dopamine, and serotonin levels, regulating mood, and increasing clarity. Nourishment helps us feel settled and in control. Nourishment brings us into our true authentic power.

It has been said that if we took all the energy spent focusing on eating less and changing our bodies and put it towards our passions, we could change the world. This sounds a whole lot more powerful to me.

Let’s take our power back.

Take YOUR power back.

YOU are worth it.

Oona Hanson, an educator and parent coach at Equip also said: “the ‘Quarantine 15’ memes started, along with a lot of fat-phobia and anxiety about weight being related to COVID risks. What starts out as a fitness routine to help someone fill the time or boost their mood can snowball when there’s not much else for kids to do.”

It’s worth repeating.

The myths and stereotypes about eating disorders make it so much harder for boys and men to get access to diagnosis and treatment.

It’s estimated that about 40% of people with eating disorders are male. A 2020 study indicated that 1 in 7 males will experience an eating disorder by they time they are 40 years old.

Too many young men suffer in isolation and secrecy, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Parents, teachers, and coaches (and even some pediatricians) need this information: boys are not immune to these serious illnesses.

Weight loss can a big red flag, for sure (even if they aren’t considered medically “underweight”—and even if a doctor *recommended* weight loss).

Other signs that warrant curiosity and support: rigid rules around food, counting “macros,” eliminating food groups, skipping desserts and/or snacks that were once enjoyed, trying to “eat healthier,” reading food labels, avoiding eating in public, late-night bingeing, secretive eating (finding wrappers in bedroom, for instance), lack of flexibility around exercise, irritability or other mood changes.

Sean Canfield was 14 years old when he was hospitalized after suffering heart damage from anorexia. He is now 24 and applying for medical school he said the following: “I was really scared” to share his journey with others — “Eating disorders counter everything you’re told is masculinity in our culture”, he says eventually, “I got tired of that. I want people to know that when you have an eating disorder, you can be more — you can have a future. I know what I want, and I know where I don’t want to be, so I choose to live in the present and only let happiness and hope run my life.”

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