Binge Eating Disorder and Male Athletes

Male on Pommel Horse representing binge eating disorder and male athletes fighting EDs

After years in sports, it came to my attention that male athletes had been overlooked when it came to eating disorders,” [1] says Rebecca McConville, a registered dietitian who specializes in helping athletes with food, weight, body image, and sports performance.

McConville, who has worked with both the University of Missouri Athletic Department and the Kansas City Chiefs, believes there are several misconceptions regarding binge eating disorder and male athletes and struggling with eating disorders. This includes the assumption that male athletes do not struggle with societal body image concerns.

However, both Mike Marjama [2], who played catcher for the Seattle Mariners and Patrick Devenney, who played tight-end with the Seattle Seahawks, have discussed the pressures male athletes face with body image. During the NFL draft, Devenny felt the need to look lean and muscular to improve his draft stock, “If you show up to the league looking like a gladiator, you literally —no joke—just made a couple hundred thousand dollars just by first impressions.” [4]

McConville lists two other assumptions often made about male athletes.

  • Assuming that male athletes in strength sports do not face weight pressures.
  • Dismissing disordered eating patterns in male athletes such as bingeing as normal

McConville notes, “For many of these male athletes, their behaviors around food had been normalized for their gender, making it that much more difficult to seek help.”

Not only do eating disorders among male athletes go unnoticed, but the training, schedule, and travel demands also set them up for bingeing.

Dr. Riley Nickols, a sport psychologist, certified eating disorder specialist, and director of The Victory Program at McCallum Place, states that several unique factors make male athletes vulnerable to binge-eating disorder.

Male athlete throwing the javelin“First is the significant energy demands and training required for sport. As a result of having greater muscle mass than non-athletes, athletes need to be especially proactive and consistent with their fueling (eating and drinking) throughout the day. If they are not meeting their energy needs, it will likely leave them feeling ravenous and make it difficult to be aware of, and responsive to, fullness cues.”

Additionally, Riley notes, the hectic schedule of an athlete can lead to binge eating. “With the rigor of practice, training, travel, and academic commitments happening at such a hectic pace, finding the food and time to properly fuel can be challenging and set up athletes to binge when food is available.”

Unfortunately, many times, these behaviors go unnoticed, are assumed to be normal, or the men, because eating disorders continue to carry the false stigma of being a female disorder, are fearful of seeking help.

If you are a competitive athlete and struggling with binge eating, you are not alone, and help is available.


REFERENCES:

[1] R. McConville, personal communication, November 25, 2019
Lelinwalla, M. (2019, February 25). This Major Leaguer Quit Baseball to Help [2] Men With Eating Disorders. Retrieved November 25, 2019, from https://www.menshealth.com/health/a22176584/mike-marjama-seattle-mariners-eating-disorder/.
[3] Burtka, J. (2019, August 30). Male athlete eating disorders often overlooked. Retrieved November 25, 2019, from https://globalsportmatters.com/health/2019/08/28/hidden-figures-male-athlete-eating-disorders-often-overlooked/.
[4] R. Nickols, personal communication, November 25, 2019


About the Author:

Travis Stewart Headshot PhotoTravis Stewart, LPC has been mentoring others since 1992 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 2005. His counseling approach is relational and creative, helping people understand their story while also building hope for the future. Travis has experience with a wide variety of issues which might lead people to seek out professional counseling help.

This includes special interest in helping those with compulsive and addictive behaviors such as internet and screen addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, and perfectionism. Specifically, he has worked with eating disorders since 2003 and has learned from many of the field’s leading experts. He has worked with hundreds of individuals facing life-threatening eating disorders in all levels of treatment. His website is wtravisstewart.com


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published November 29, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on November 29, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.