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June 2003

European Youth Online Magazine


Eating disorders are
increasingly observable
among sportsmen

Among other sources,
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Beautiful new man?

Anorexia nervosa increasingly frequent among men

By Melanie Reinert

Anorexia nervosa and eating disorders are diseases that were long associated with girls and women. Increasingly, this disease now affects men. Scientists diagnose a dramatic change during the last 20 years.
Advertising and the media present us with the models. Today it is no longer enough for men to be simply men. The image of a successful man includes a slim body, possibly with pronounced muscles. Baroque figures are out, the fat-free steely stomach is in. Since this physical ideal is not easy to achieve, men have come up with a number of ideas: laxatives, dehydration tablets or hours of excessive sport.

What are the most frequent causes of anorexia?

- Childhood or family conflicts
- Problems with becoming an adult
- An orientation towards exaggerating ideals of beauty
- A lack of self-confidence
- Pressure from within the family to perform and be successful
- A subconscious desire to attract attention towards oneself
- A cry for more attention and lovev - A striving for independence and delimitation

Anorexia among sportsmen

Eating disorders are increasingly observable among sportsmen, particularly among those that practise a sport which puts a great deal of pressure on the athletes to be thin. Sports such as ice-skating, ski-jumping and dancing are more frequently affected than, for example: basket ball, football or volley ball.
Take the example of ski-jumping: During a day of ski-jumping a skier loses up to 2 kg. The tension results in a high release of adrenalin (10 - 20 times higher). Adrenalin promotes the breakdown of fat and glycogen. A loss of weight necessarily occurs due to the increased energy consumption and the breakdown of the energy reserves. Most ski-jumpers have a really low bodyweight to start with and have few "rolls of fat" at their disposal. The breakdown of what fat exists therefore leads to physical debilitation. At the same time the jumper also knows: "Light flies long".
Why then put back on the "so easily" lost kilos if it is possible to jump two or three metres further without them?

Homosexuality and eating disorders

Homosexuality is also often considered as a reason for the development of an eating disorder in men. A study reports that 53 percent of men with eating disorders are homosexually oriented. Young persons in particular are affected. The conflict with one's own sexuality and the leaning towards one's own sex can often result in an eating disorder.
The fact that boys enter puberty two years later than girls may explain the later start of an eating disorder among men. During puberty boys tend to put on more muscle bulk, beard growth starts and their voices break. From a psychological point of view, these changes are more protective against a negative physical image.


The types of therapy are the same for men and women. As a psychosomatic disease almost all of the affected persons are treated on an inpatient basis. There are family therapies, partner therapies and behaviour therapies, too. Nutrition consultants are called upon to work out a balanced nutritional plan. The chances of being cured are, of course, greater the earlier that the treatment is started. Of those that have undergone a therapy, 40% of anorexics are considered to be cured, 30 % recover considerably. In the case of 20 % one speaks of a chronicity and 10 % die from the consequences of the obsession.


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