360,000 Australian men living with an eating disorder
(Sydney) Tuesday, 11 June 2019 – The Butterfly Foundation has called for an urgent change to language and awareness this Men’s Health Week (June 10-16) for anyone who plays a role in a young man’s life to stop increasing levels of body dissatisfaction among Australian boys.
Butterfly Foundation CEO Kevin Barrow said, society can often make young men think if they don’t have the so-called “perfect body” or if they are not muscular enough or thin enough, that they are not worthy.
“Boys’ bodies come in a range of shapes and sizes, and the judgements used by adult men around young boys and men can have a significant impact,” Mr Barrow said.
“During Men’s Health Week it’s important for everyone to understand the reality that eating disorders and body dissatisfaction for boys and men in Australia is on the increase. They experience body dissatisfaction just like young girls and women, which can lead to changes in behaviours and attitudes about their bodies and how they value themselves. These are strong risk factors for developing an eating disorder.”
There are an estimated 360,131 males with an eating disorder in Australia in 2019.
“Body dissatisfaction is a pervasive problem with increasing impacts on young boys and men. We are seeing more young boys overvaluing body image, which leads to evaluating their self-worth based on appearance,” Mr Barrow added.
Psychologist, Dr. Scott Griffiths, is a leading expert on body image and eating disorders in males. He wants all Australian men to be aware of the negative language used around men’s weight, shape and size, and the serious consequences it can have on impressionable young boys.
“If a young man hears a message from someone they trust, especially an adult male, that denigrates or makes a derogatory judgement about a person’s weight or shape, they internalise that judgement. It becomes part of their internal reference points for what is good and bad about people’s physical appearance, and the value of this to the people they trust and need approval from,” Dr Griffiths said.
“Adults who are responsible for young boys need to be acutely aware that when someone is experiencing body dissatisfaction, they can become fixated on trying to change their body shape. This can lead to unhealthy practices with food and exercise.
“These practices don’t usually achieve the desired outcome (physically or emotionally) and can result in intense feelings of disappointment, shame and guilt and, ultimately, increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.”
In 2018, Butterfly Foundation launched RESET – Australia’s first digital body image program for adolescent boys – designed to start a deeper conversation about negative body image and eating disorders which continue to increase.
To date, the RESET program has been reached thousands of young boys and men across Australia.
Dr Griffiths was the expert contributor to the development of RESET. He noted that parents of young men would be astounded to learn the impact judgemental language about body shape and size can have on young boys.
1 Paying the Price, The economic and social impact of eating disorders in Australia 2012 – Deloitte and Butterfly Foundation – 2019 projected prevalence data for all males across all diagnosis of eating disorders.
“Family, friends, acquaintances, teachers, the media and especially social media, all have an impact on how a young man sees and feels about himself and his appearance. If a young boy lives in an appearance-oriented environment, and receives negative feedback about his appearance he is at an increased risk of body dissatisfaction,” he added.
“No young boy is excluded from this risk and we need to be mindful of the messages and role modelling behaviours.”
Braiden Fitzsimmons, 24, from Geelong recovered from Bulimia Nervosa in 2017. He directly attributes body dissatisfaction, and the pervasive and internalised negative criticism about his physical shape and size, as a key trigger to his eating disorder.
“It started after I had lost a significant amount of weight when I was 16, and I was terrified of putting the weight back on. People were praising me for the weight loss and that felt great in the beginning, and then I went into a deep depression. I would often isolate myself, and I was afraid to eat in public and around my mates. The secrecy was overwhelming,” said Braiden.
“I have always paired having a ‘ripped’ or ‘muscular’ physique to being successful. This idea of having the perfect body kept my eating disorder alive.”
- Over-exercising and an extreme pursuit for muscle growth are often perceived as healthy behaviours for males
- 90 per cent of adolescent boys report that they exercise primarily to gain muscle
- Two-thirds of adolescent boys report making specific changes to their diet to gain muscle
- 25 per cent of people experiencing Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are male
- Almost an equal number of males and females experience binge eating disorder
- Eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric disorders
- Suicide rates are 20 per cent higher in eating disorder patients than in the general population
As a special promotion for schools during June, in recognition of Men’s Health Week, Butterfly is offering schools and teachers a 20 per cent discount using the code (RESET20) on the download fee of $95.00. Available from www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/reset
NOTE TO ALL EDITORS AND PRODUCERS – Please refer to the Mindframe Guidelines for reporting of eating disorders. Please include help seeking advice in all media coverage.
Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact Butterfly’s National Helpline 1800 ED HOPE on 1800 33 4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14
0412 273 673 | email@example.com
Facebook – thebutterflyfoundation
Instagram – @thebutterflyfoundation
Twitter – @BFoundation