Men Have Eating Disorders Too

Ron Saxen – author, The Good Eater

Ron Saxen can recall being eleven years old, alone in his room and awaiting his father to return home to discipline him. He suddenly recalled that he had fifteen pounds of chocolate in his closet for an upcoming candy sale. “One thing led to another and three pounds of chocolate later I learned something very important: that food, for a while anyway, could relieve anxiety,” he said in our recent interview.

This was just the beginning of a decades-long battle with eating disorders for Saxen, a sports model and recovered binge eater. As the shining body on the cover of Sports Fitness and Training, Ron was faced with extraordinary pressure from the fashion industry, but even more importantly, from himself.

He recounts, “It was euphoria when I saw myself on TV with fashion designer Ermenegildo Zegna, and then sheer panic that it might all go away when I lost control. And of course it did go away, which utterly destroyed my sense of self and self-worth for years to come.”

While Saxen’s story of his amazing success his subsequent fall into the depths of binge eating might sound unique, he is far from alone in his struggle. This year, almost one million men will suffer with an eating disorder.

While gender bias still exists among clinicians in diagnosing eating disorders in men, professionals and the public alike are becoming more aware of how these diseases can impact the other gender.

According to Arnold Anderson, who conducted research for his book, Males with Eating Disorders, men are more often overweight medically before the development of the disorder. In addition, men who participate in certain sports are at sometimes at higher risk, such as jockeys, wrestlers, and runners. However, it’s important to point out that each case is different.

A few of the signs that you may be struggling with eating and should consult a mental health professional include the following: consuming large amounts of food when not hungry, many body weight fluctuations, hiding food or eating secretly, experiencing feelings of guilt and shame around eating, and exercising excessively.

“Get help when and where you can,” advises Saxen. “Don’t wait like I did. And don’t be hard on yourself. It takes time to get better. You didn’t get where you are overnight and shouldn’t expect to get better overnight either.”

[box type=”info”]Read more of the three-part interview with Ron Saxen for more information on binge eating disorder and his new book, The Good Eater: The True Story of One Man’s Struggle with Binge Eating Disorder.[/box]


Ashley Solomon, Psy.D

I am a therapist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness. Visit Dr. Solomon's body image blog,

5 thoughts on “Men Have Eating Disorders Too

  • Pingback: Anxiety Eating Disorder

  • November 11, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks, Jarret! That’s a really telling story. It seems that exercise can play an even bigger role for some men than other symptoms, which I think makes it at times less obvious. People think, “Oh, he’s just really focused on his health” rather than, “He’s not eating.”

  • November 11, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Ashley, I’m really impressed at the wide range of interviews you’ve done lately! Raising awareness for eating disorders in men, in this particular case, is important given the gender bias that you mentioned.

    One of my good friends seemed to have body image issues and signs of an eating disorder.

    One thing that jumps out in my memory is that time that he told me he was trying to work out 4 days per week. We were both pretty busy at the time and I agreed that I was having a hard time making it to the gym that often myself. He replied, “no I’m trying to cut back to four days…”

  • November 10, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    I think there is enormous gender bias in the reporting and understanding of eating disorders.

    Men are often very embarrassed to admit to having what is commonly seen as a “woman’s problem”. And yet without recognizing that their eating has spun out of control there is little chance of them getting help.

    I believe that in many countries it is hard enough for young anorexic girls to get help – let alone anyone else.

    • November 11, 2010 at 12:57 pm

      I very much agree about the gender bias. I think that many men are wary about seeking help and many clinicians aren’t attuned to look for these issues in men.


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