A leading eating disorder expert says growing research reveals men with eating disorders are more common than you may think.
Dr. Blake Woodside, medical director of the eating disorder program at Toronto General Hospital says his community study plus two others show males now make up one in three cases of anorexia and one in four cases of bulimia.
Traditionally, the accepted rate has been anywhere between one in 10 and one in 20.
"Men get these conditions, they die from these conditions, they suffer from these conditions. This is not just an illness of women," said Woodside, who is also a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Woodside said men are not coming in for treatment for several reasons. Society, including doctors and nurses, simply do not think men are affected by eating disorders.
"Things that could bring a woman to treatment, or clue a woman's friend in that maybe their friend was sick or family member would say, 'Gee, you're sick,' it just doesn't occur to people with men to raise the possibility they might be suffering from a serious eating disorder," he said.
Men also tend to seek out help for mental health issues less than women, said Woodside. As well, he said there's a misconception among men that eating disorder treatment programs are geared exclusively towards women.
"There isn't a treatment program in the country that won't take men, and men do very well in the programs and work well with a group that's predominantly women," he said.
Grant Calder is one of those men we rarely hear about. When he was 19 years old, at six feet one inches tall, he weighed 132 pounds.
Calder said a verbally abusive boyfriend, combined with the stress of coming out of the closet, triggered his anorexia.
"That was the one thing I could control over my life, that I had power over," he said.
Over a period of 10 months, Calder would starve himself up to five days at a time.
"I could be in a university class and make a Chips Ahoy cookie last me all morning and take it bit by bit and soften it in my mouth," he recalled.
But one day, while counting out the cash register at his job at Polo Park mall, he hit his breaking point.
"I miscounted it and it just frustrated me so much and everything just spiraled and I remember blacking out," he recounted.
"The next thing I knew, I was on the floor."
His mother came and rushed him to the hospital.
"I saw my mom's face in the van, sitting beside her, and how worried she was and upset and taking me to the hospital," he said.
"That's when I put it all in perspective for me that I was sick."
Calder said he believes the emergency room doctor did not give him the same care that he would have if he was a woman with similar symptoms.
His family doctor ended up telling him about yoga, and Calder used that to overcome his battle.
"I had never felt so great in my life. You know, the mind, body and soul in one, that I was connecting with myself and I was experiencing my own illness and ridding of it through energies," he said.
However, Calder conceded that he still has bad days.
"I'm not going to lie and say those don't come once a month and I feel crappy and look in the mirror and point out those flaws," he said.