Male Anorexia

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    • 00:01

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Male Anorexia.]

    • 00:10

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD: My name's Russell Delderfield.[Dr. Russell Delderfield, Trustee & Researcher,Men Get Eating Disorders Too (MGEDT).] I'm a trusteefor the charity Men Get Eating Disorders Too and I'm alsoa researcher into eating disorders of males.Men Get Eating Disorders Too is a national charity.It was founded in 2008 to 2009.Its main work is all about supporting men and people

    • 00:31

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: who care for men, the families of menwho have eating disorders, and whostruggle with eating problems.The support takes quite a lot of different forms.We have online, remote help, and we also do peer support groups,and we also work with health servicesto offer led support groups where needed.

    • 00:53

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: Near the main branch of the work that we do is campaigning,is about awareness raising, and tryingto be a faithful spokesperson for men with eating disorderswhen it comes to representation in the media,and when it comes to political decisions,and funding decisions about resourcesfor men who need recovery.

    • 01:15

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: Dave Chawner is an ambassador for our charity, MGEDT.He's also a comedian and a writeramongst many of the things and he hasexperience of eating disorder.And he's a very funny man would be the first thingthat I'd say about him.And he's very passionate about the campaigning workthat we do.

    • 01:33

      DAVE CHAWNER: The show is called Normally Abnormal,because it's about regaining my identity after anorexia.Because last year I did a tour and in the tour, I relapsed.So it's about thinking about who Iam beyond anorexia because it's been like nine years now.In terms of Men Getting Eating Disorders Too,they've been wonderful.

    • 01:54

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: I am a ambassador for them.I'm a media representative for them.So I do all of their press, TV, and radio, and stuff,which is really cool.Robin Williams said comedy is a cathartic way of dealingwith personal trauma.And I think that's absolutely true.People say that laughter is the best medicine.I think it's the best antidote, because, for me, when

    • 02:15

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: you can laugh at something, it takes it down from the shelfand it makes it less intimidating.Once something is laughable, it's manageable.And for me, I could never joke at anorexia.It's a horrible, insidious, awful thing.How I can make that funny is by laughing

    • 02:36

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: around the more ridiculous aspects,trying to make light within the dark.And that can be fun, but it's also,I guess it's a way of breaking it down, and tryingto make it accessible for myself as much as other people.Last year I did a show all about how I have anorexia.

    • 02:60

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: So for the past nine years, I've been anorexic.Everybody needs a hobby.At the same time, you can see me.I'm not butch or tough.I don't even have a strong bladder.If you saw me in the street, you're not going to think,whua, alpha male.You're much more likely to think, oh, vegetarian.

    • 03:22

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: The only thing is you would be right as well.I guess I've always been quite open talking about anorexia.I don't have any public platform or high profile.But people have pointed out to me the gap in the marketfor the first famous man anorexic.It's not a very big gap, but it's just one of those things.

    • 03:45

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: I think I've never been embarrassed by it.I do want to help other people.And I guess I'm lucky in that respectthat I don't feel embarrassed by it,so I want to use that to help other people.And I think that's why comedy is so important to me,because there's a difference between laughing at somethingand laughing around it.

    • 04:06

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: And I think that we've done that with racism.We've done that with feminism.We've helped proliferate that cause using humoras a way to make something more palatableand make the pill less bitter.And I don't see why eating disorders and mental healthshould be any different.

    • 04:25

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD: One of the ways that Dave works isto try and challenge the isolation that men feeland the fear of coming forward and acknowledging that theymight need help with eating problemsby one of the oldest mediums known to man, which is comedy.It's to be funny about his experience

    • 04:46

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: and it's to try and expose it in a way thatgives a lot aware about what he's been throughand what his experiences are.But in a way that's accessible and in a way thatwill hook people in and make sure they hear his message.

    • 05:02

      DAVE CHAWNER: I suppose the show is toeing the linewith everything that Men Get Eating Disorders Too stands forand other charities that I am lucky enoughto be an ambassador of too.But it's just trying to use comedy in orderto take away that hidden silence and just be a bit more

    • 05:25

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: down to earth about it.That's why I want it.When I was a kid, I wish just someone had said,I think you might be anorexic.There's no pressure then and I could have gone like, really?Do you really think that?Cause I just, well, you know.That's much as, rather than people screaming, crying at me,taking away, whispering to me.

    • 05:48

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: And I guess I hope-- I hope-- that Men Getting EatingDisorders Too approve of that approach.And when it's sensitively done, it can help other people.For the first time in my life I had no control over anythingthat I ate.And it spun me out.

    • 06:08

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: Like I couldn't sleep.I was exercising during the night.I was skipping meals.I was coffee loading.I was binging, purging, binging, purging.And one of the teachers came up to me and she said,I've been in therapy three times with bulimia.Have you ever thought that you might be anorexic?

    • 06:28

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: And just the fact that someone hadsaid it so sensationless, none of that kind of drama.Just like you might be.That really hit me and I accepted it,and I acknowledged it, but I never got help.And I never got help because I never felt anorexic enough.

    • 06:48

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD: I find itdifficult because of my research and my work with the charityto believe that the numbers changingbecause suddenly many men have many more eating disorders.I believe it's about the level of awarenessthat's beginning to take place, and that more men feelthey can come forward.

    • 07:08

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: So we're seeing an increase in less physically obviouseating disorders in men such as the numbers for bingeeating disorder or bulimia nervosa.So for example, men with bulimia nervosamay well be average weight or just overweight,which doesn't necessarily sets alarm bells ringing

    • 07:28

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: whereas anorexia nervosa either in women or in menis normally much more physically identifiable whenthey go to get help for related problems or for their eating.One of the most significant issues with diagnosing malesis getting them to a place where they can bediagnosed in the first place.In the UK, that tends to be a GP, which

    • 07:51

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: implies that the man has got to havean awareness or a willingness to goor someone important to him in his life wants him to go.Beyond that, the other issue that researchers are currentlytackling with diagnosis is the factthat almost all diagnostic criteriais set up around years of data accumulatedfrom female patients.

    • 08:12

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: So often, we found that things that were diagnostic criteria,they're now beginning to be challenged.So a good example of this is menstruation.It's one of the key features of being diagnosedwith anorexia nervosa was about whether or not starvation hadgotten so severe that the female patient had stopped

    • 08:34

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: menstruating.Well, of course, that as one of the key diagnostic criteriafor men, it's just not applicable.And then that has clinicians wondering, well,what's the alternative and what might welook for in a man that proves that he does have this issueand that he will need treatment in order to recover from it.

    • 08:55

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: Psychologically, that's a whole different kettleof fish because of the psychologythat we create in men and women in society.So yes, people are studying the psychopathologyof male eating disorders.People are studying personality traits.People are studying the effects of the illness on men's

    • 09:17

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: self-esteem and thinking.But again, we haven't been researching these kindsof topics very long and so all of thatresearch is still in its infancy.

    • 09:29

      DAVE CHAWNER: The toughest thing being a man and being anorexicis it does reduce your masculinity.Testosterone, a really power hungry chemical,so your brain gets reduced with testosterone flooded.With estrogen, we become camp and feminizedand incredibly womanly.And so that's changed me.

    • 09:49

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: That's shaped my identity.It's reduced my sex drive.You become nigh on androgynous.You revert to a childlike state, because that's safe.When the body starts shutting down,the brain start shutting down as well,and you get depleted testosterone.So in men, that's flooded with estrogen.The place is filled with estrogenso you become very womanly, very camp, very feminized.

    • 10:11

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: My mom once described me as the daughter she'd always wanted.Well, I'll show my sister.I definitely think men coming forward is a big problemand I think that might be a reason that westruggle with men's health.The biggest killer of men between 25 and 40 is suicide.

    • 10:32

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: I think women are much more confident to havea dialogue about when they're not feeling mentally as fitwhereas men are perhaps maybe more reluctant.

    • 10:45

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD: There's a suggestionand certainly the research is beginning to bear this outthat men have an additional layer of shameand they feel the stigma more acutelybecause, sad as it is to say, there'sa genuine sense that they're felt to have a woman'sdisease or they're worried that that's what people will think

    • 11:07

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: about them.They're worried about whether or nottheir eating disorder means that they are less than a man.Seeing things as just masculinity and femininityis not helpful and particularly not helpfulwhen it comes to investigating livedexperiences of eating disorders and other mental health issues.Instead, it's better to consider thingsas masculinities in the plural because there are--

    • 11:30

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: in the world and certainly in the west at the momentand in the UK-- that there's more than one way to be a manand there's more than one image of menportrayed both in the media and in our daily lives.When this becomes integrated into eating disorder theoryand knowledge, the information that we

    • 11:50

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: know that it, is about the idea of a defective male bodyand the idea that one of the thingsyou should be able to do as a man is function physically.And we see this a lot with other illnessesthat are innately male such as prostate cancer.You can end up in a situation where men don't come forward

    • 12:12

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: for help or suffer much longer, for many years,because they feel like their masculinity is letting themdown.In some ways this is changing.I think that there's a growth of menwho are fostering social circles where they can talk honestlyabout their concerns.And specifically, if we're talking about eating disorders,

    • 12:34

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: concerns about their nutrition, their relationship with food,their relationship with their bodies and weightand musculature and exercise and going to the gym.I think it's much more accepted that we canhave those conversations now.But I think it would be naive at best to assume that that'sright across the board.

    • 12:54

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: When you consider some of the social pressuresthat men face and whether or not these are different from whatwomen face, I think there's a dangerof overstating the issue.Sometimes there's been talk of a crisisin masculinity or that men are being somehow treatedas second class citizens.

    • 13:15

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: There's various social commentatingthat happens around that.Interestingly though, when you consider the pressuresthat men and women now face, what's happeningis more of an equalizing.Some men are now experiencing body image idealsand the pressure to conform to certain ways of looking

    • 13:38

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: and being that women have had to dealwith for quite a long time.And it's fair to say at different points in history,men have also had similar issues.We're returning to that.Men are now having to think about,or are made to think about their body imageand about the outward face that they present to the world.We're constantly assailed with images

    • 13:59

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: and we're constantly picked upon our needto be healthy and have healthful bodies in society.For men, these are no different to womenin the sense of how much they may be exposed.But we've definitely left a period,where in the 1970s and '80s, therewas a thought that men were protected from eating disorders

    • 14:21

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: by virtue of the fact that they weren't sexually objectified,they weren't judged solely on their looks,and there's a lot of evidence nowto suggest that that's changed over time.I think there's a circular motion between productproviders in the broadest sense, so I'mtalking about the media that peddlesimages and news and information and ideas,

    • 14:42

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: and literally physical products from the foodthat we buy and consume to the toys-- as I've alluded tofrom the research that's been done-- that we give our kids.All of that currently works toward strengthening beingmasculine or being feminine.Very little of it allows any interplay

    • 15:04

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: between those two binary ends.So much of the way that our society is set upis absolutely about from birth reinforcing qualitiesand physicality and use of products and objectsthat is either labeled as feminine

    • 15:26

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: or labeled as masculine.And we are doing this to our kids from the day they're born.There's an argument saying that it's nobody fault.You can't go around blaming parents, because parentsare as much the product of the society and the culturethat we're exposed to as well as the people who perpetuate itthrough their children.

    • 15:46

      DAVE CHAWNER: I don't like the idea of society and sufferers.I think we've got to work together.I think sufferers have got to understandthat it doesn't make them abnormal, but in the same waythat someone in a wheelchair probably wouldn'texpect to go tap dancing.Somebody with an eating disorder,there are restrictions that they are going feel.

    • 16:07

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: And they probably feel that.In the same way society, in orderto build a more open dialogue, needsto be a little bit more caring and stuff like that.So I think we all need to work together,whether they're sufferers, friends of sufferers,or people that have never come into contact with it.I think it's just the education, the informing, and beingreceptive to ideas as much as being

    • 16:28

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: open and OK to share them.If there is one take home message,I guess it would be this.And it's that we all have our [BLEEP].No one gets through life unscathed.It doesn't have to be eating disorders.It doesn't have to be mental health.It could be anything.And that can make you feel abnormal like it did me.But the fact that that's common to us, the fact

    • 16:49

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: that we all have that is normal.It's about identity and showing that when you're weak, thenyou can be strong.And when you can acknowledge your flaws,you can build them and improve on them.And if we can all do that then we can all work togetherhelp, each other, and I guess we can allbecome normally abnormal.

    • 17:11

      DAVE CHAWNER [continued]: So that is the show.It's been an absolute pleasure.Thank you so much for having us.[APPLAUSE]

    • 17:17

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD: When it comesto what we need to change to improve the loss of menwith eating disorders, I'm a staunch supporter--I've had treatment for an eating disorder--and I'm a staunch supporter of many of the health servicesthat we get access to.Of course, there's always room for improvementand often that's clearly recognized amongst the service

    • 17:38

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: providers.Actually it's much deeper than thatand it's much more systemic than that.What we need is an attitudinal change within society.We've moved, over the last 30, 40,possibly 50 years further towards a gender binary thatmakes men and women more distinct

    • 17:59

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: and tries to bind them evermore to biological modelsthat if you're female, you must be woman, you must be feminine.If you are male, you must be a man, you must be masculine.We've gone further down that road.We haven't really experienced in a true sensethe blending of those lines and the true equality

    • 18:20

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: that was the goal of feminism all those years ago.We're not there yet.We need to continue with that.And it's fair to say that our current focus on appearancesas such a significant indication of who you areand how worthy you are, and whether or not youcare about yourself and about others,

    • 18:40

      DR. RUSSELL DELDERFIELD [continued]: and judging people on appearance,and getting them to buy into all sorts of costly productsthat will give them the appearance and the physique,and therefore the outward appearance of vitalityand strength and togetherness a lot of thatneeds to be challenged, and we needto come together to do that.

Male Anorexia

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Professor Russell Delderfield and comedian Dave Chawner discuss anorexia and its presence in men's health. Their dialogue focuses on how the societal perception of masculinity can occlude diagnosis or even acceptance that the illness can be present.

SAGE Video In Practice
Male Anorexia

Professor Russell Delderfield and comedian Dave Chawner discuss anorexia and its presence in men's health. Their dialogue focuses on how the societal perception of masculinity can occlude diagnosis or even acceptance that the illness can be present.

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