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Symposium Speaker Series: Eating Disorders in the Male Population

The 9th Annual Veritas Collaborative Virtual Symposium on Eating Disorders brings together national eating disorder and diversity experts to drive the conversation around the treatment considerations for diverse eating disorders populations. Our Symposium Speaker Series provides an opportunity to meet our presenters and begin to engage with the topics that will be explored in greater detail at the Symposium. 

Brian Pollack, LCSW, CED-S, is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. As the Founder and Clinical Director of Hilltop Behavioral Health and a former board member of the National Association for Males with Eating Disorders, Brian has spent much of his practice advocating for greater awareness around males and eating disorders. We recently caught up with Brian to discuss the unique issues facing males and his upcoming keynote presentation at the 9th Annual Veritas Collaborative Symposium, “For the Guys: Eating Disorders in the Male Population.”

Veritas Collaborative: One of the biggest misconceptions about eating disorders is that they only impact affluent, young, white women. How does this perception impact males who suffer from eating disorders? 

Brian: The lack of visibility around males and eating disorders means that men and boys are not just overlooked—they are critically underdiagnosed. This directly translates to a lack of access to the care and support needed to recover. For too long, eating disorders have been treated and approached as a “female” condition and it’s had a significant impact on research and diagnostic criteria. These misconceptions have also created barriers to care, as many males with eating disorders struggle to reach out for help. It is vital that we shed light on the various factors that inform the male struggle and eliminate barriers to care.

Veritas Collaborative: What are some of those barriers to care facing males struggling with eating disorders?  

Brian: Being seen—and I mean that quite literally. In contrast to the association of thinness with feminine beauty ideals, “male thinness” is often regarded as muscularity or physical fitness, which promotes disordered eating behaviors more than it inhibits them. Family, peers, and other people typically see these behaviors in a positive light. The warning signs are there, but are often ignored because they align with traditional ideas of masculinity, strength, and power.

Veritas Collaborative: Let’s talk more about the social structures that keep males with eating disorders from accessing the care they need. It’s fairly well-documented that women and girls can be negatively impacted by images they see in both traditional and social media. Is a similar phenomenon happening in the male population?

Brian: It’s similar and it’s different. If we had known to start paying attention in 1959 when Barbie arrived on the scene, we would have been able to watch, in real time, how women’s views of themselves changed over the following six decades. We’re now seeing a similar trend occurring in men and boys around the media they consume, from men’s health magazines and movies to action figures and social media influencers.

The context of these media messages is different for males—the focus is on getting bigger, stronger, and more muscular. It’s important to recognize how these differences influence the presentation of eating disorders in men and boys who tend to engage in disordered behaviors such as protein binges or sports enhancing drug abuse in order to build muscle mass. Regardless of gender, eating disorders are driven by a need for control and acceptance.

Veritas Collaborative: Tell us a little more about your keynote presentation at the 9th Annual Veritas Collaborative Symposium on Eating Disorders. 

Brian: As a therapist, my priority is figuring out how we can enhance the therapeutic experience. This presentation will take a look at how we can recognize and support males with eating disorders during therapy. We’ll overview the lesser-known differences in diagnosing eating disorders in males compared to their female counterparts. We’ll also examine a number of factors that influence the male struggle—including social structures and stigmas—and give attendees a useful framework for helping men and boys identify when they experienced an internal shift from feeling accepted in their bodies to feeling a constant preoccupation with or need to work on their bodies. Healthcare providers will learn how to ask the right questions to help males discover the personal insights that promote healing and, ultimately, recovery.

The 9th Annual Veritas Collaborative Symposium on Eating Disorders is a one-of-a-kind virtual experience will provide you with the opportunity to network and connect with your colleagues, collaborate and interact with our lineup of national eating disorder and diversity experts, and enhance your education in the treatment of diverse eating disorder populations – all while earning up to 26.0 continuing education credits. Don’t miss this opportunity to be together, be inspired, and be the difference. Register today for Veritas Collaborative’s completely virtual 9th Annual Symposium on Eating Disorders.