I recently read disturbing figures that have been released by the Butterfly Foundation in Australia: almost one in three male year 9 students used fasting, skipping meals, diet pills, vomiting after meals, laxatives and smoking cigarettes to keep off weight.
Among adults, one in 10 diagnoses of anorexia is for men, while binge eating disorders have risen among males by up to 5 per cent in the past decade.
Anorexia in males is similar to that in females; restricting food intake and excessive exercise are the two main components. However with boys, there is more emphasis on the exercise factor.
In addition, a new and emerging trend is Bigorexia, or 'Reverse Anorexia', whereby the male becomes obsessed with the idea that they are not muscular enough, and spend countless hours at the gym in an attempt to gain more muscle mass. This constant preoccupation can interfere with school, career and relationships, and in extreme cases, lead to permanent muscle damage.
The onset of an eating disorder in males is usually due to a specific trigger, or set of triggers, including bullying, difficulty dealing with being gay, emotional or sexual abuse and low self esteem brought on by such incidents.
There is a need to increase the awareness of male eating disorders, to reduce the shame inflicted by societal pressure and expectation. We need to encourage young men to reach out for help if they are struggling.
Now more than ever, we need to help young people learn to become psychologically and emotionally resilient to the images portrayed through internet, chat rooms, social networks and the media. We need to help our younger generations preserve their self esteem and believe in who they are.
I am hopeful that the guidelines currently being developed by the national media and industry code of conduct on body image (to be announced in August), will be a solid step towards reducing the incidence of eating disorders.