Memphis man describes battle with eating disorder - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis man describes battle with eating disorder

MEMPHIS, TN - (WMC-TV) – A lot of people associate it with teenage girls, but new research reveals a skyrocketing increase in eating disorders among young men and boys.

One Memphis man almost starved himself to death.

 "It's commonly thought that eating disorders are a white teenaged girl disease which is no longer true at all," clinical psychologist Dr. Beth Lyons said.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association at least one million males in the U.S. are battling anorexia or bulimia. 

A Memphis man - we'll call him Russ - wanted to remain anonymous while he is in treatment for anorexia.  

"I literally starved myself down to a dangerously low weight," he said. "It's still known as a typical teenage girl disease."

The disease manifested after he was taught to clean his plate, then grew up being bullied about his 250 pound frame.

Until one day...

"I looked myself squarely in the mirror and said I would not put another piece of food in my mouth until I've lost all the weight," Russ said.

Russ went from 250 pounds to 130 pounds in six months.

His daily diet consisted of liquid and exercise only.

"I consider it the same as being a drug addict or an alcoholic," he said.

New research shows the increase of eating disorders among girls is steady. Among boys, it's skyrocketing.

"For men, they come in every variety, but they're so hidden and there's so much shame around it," Dr. Lyons said.

Lyons says the root causes of anorexia are similar among men and women: perfectionism or fear of disapproval and buying the belief that the perfect body brings success.

"Oh this is what I should do if I work on my gut, if I work on my abs, if I stay at my peak then women will love me and I'll have a good life," Dr. Lyons described.

For Russ, no number on the scale was low enough, no clothing size small enough, until his friends intervened. 

"I did not realize how bad that I really looked," said Russ. "My face was gaunt. You could see bones protruding from my collar bone."

Russ's reluctance to come out of the shadows raises concerns about how many cases of male anorexia go untreated.

"Because most males don't seek treatment so we really don't know for sure, it may be higher than 25 percent," she said.

Russ has a message for men heading down that dangerous path.

"My advice to them is don't wait until it's too late," he said.

If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association has a live helpline. The number is 800-931-2237. Or you can visit their website at:


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