Since I started the original Normal Eating Support Group in 2002, only a tiny fraction of members have been men – well under 1%. And those few men who joined have never stuck around. In contrast, many of our female members have been active participants for years. (I’m very grateful to those who have found recovery and stay to help newcomers.)
When I developed the Normal Eating logo with the silhouette of a woman, a member wrote to me and said I shouldn’t use that because it will make men feel less welcome. I considered her point, but men weren’t joining the forum anyway, so I just went with it.
Recently I did a Web search on emotional eating in men and it’s generally thought that men constitute just 10% of emotional eaters. But I’m not sure I believe this. I wonder if men are just less likely to admit it. I had an experience today that reinforced this idea.
BookExpo America is underway this week, and I’ve been attending because of my book, Normal Eating for Normal Weight. At one of the panels yesterday, I got into a conversation with the man sitting next to me. When I told him the title of my book, he started talking about his own eating and life. He struggles with the same issues we talk about in the forum. I gave him a copy of my book. (You can’t go to a book show without lugging around copies of your book.) Today I ran into him again on the show floor and he thanked me – said the book was helpful to him.
There are just as many men with weight problems as women. It seems unlikely to me that for men it’s mostly a question of bad eating habits and lack of knowledge about nutrition. If losing weight were that simple and straightforward for men – just bone up on nutrition and change some bad habits – there would not be any fat men.
I know there is greater pressure on women in this culture to look a certain way, but men feel pressure about appearance, too. And while women are the traditional caretakers, men also can get into this role, taking care of others feelings and needs to their own detriment. Perhaps the main difference is that men don’t want to tell anyone what’s going on. It’s not manly to admit it.
I wish that Normal Eating could do a better job at reaching out to men who struggle with emotional eating – eating when you’re not hungry, cyclical dieting that never works, blaming yourself for failure, etc.
I’d love to hear from men who struggle with emotional eating. Why the cone of silence? What is the best way to help? Or maybe you know a man (or boy) who struggles with this?
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them.