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Page last updated at 06:32 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 07:32 UK
Men 'unhappy' with their bodies
By Anthony Baxter
Revealed Presenter

Depressed man
Men are said to be deeply unhappy with their body image

One of Britain's leading eating disorder experts says as many as one in five young men are deeply unhappy with their body image.

Dr John Morgan said that for every man with an eating disorder there were 10 more who desperately wanted to change the way they looked.

"One in five young men have some degree of quite extreme distress," he said.

Dr Morgan said he had also seen a big rise in the number of men with anorexia and bulimia.

Dr Morgan, who runs the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders in Leeds, told the BBC's news programme for teenagers, Revealed, that men who were unhappy with their bodies would like to change them.

Eating disorder

While the official estimate for the number of men with an eating disorder stands at around 10-15% of all sufferers, the real figure is much higher.

"We know that 1 in 20 young people suffer from some degree of disordered eating and that at least 15% of them are men and yet that's a tip of an iceberg," he said.

"There are men who have problems with compulsive exercise and excessive bodybuilding who have an illness, but we haven't defined them. Our definitions of illness have been focused on women, rather than men."

Dr John Morgan
Dr Morgan said he's seen a rise in the number of men with anorexia
In 2000, a report for the Eating Disorder Association found that not enough was being done to help care for men with eating disorders.

Eight years on Dr Morgan says the situation is now worse.

"When the report was written there were some units that had dedicated expertise in male eating disorders. A couple of these have now closed down," he explained.

"There's a lack of funding, a lack of interest. You're dealing with a situation where you're trying to develop a national service for men across the country, but the Health Service is now more focused on the local."

Seriously ill

At 13, George became seriously ill with anorexia. He says initially doctors didn't spot the problem.

He said: "The diagnosis is very vague, especially in boys. It's not something that someone would presume was the case.

"I was tested for cancer, Aids, gluten allergies, and all various things like that, which really, I knew deep down, were completely irrelevant."

George was eventually admitted to a clinic where he was told he had just four weeks to live.

His body had started to eat its own muscles and organs to survive.

George
George was told he had four weeks to live
"Anorexia dictates everything you do," George said.

"Everything that your healthy mind says is right, 'You can eat this, it wont make you fat at all, in fact, it's completely healthy, it's what normal people do'.

"But then anorexia would jump in straight off and be like - 'What are you doing, this is terrible. You're driven by an evil, deceiving affliction that's not good, it's really wrong'."

Dr John Morgan said he believes images of male beauty in the media are part of the problem, and that there's now just as much pressure on young men to look slim as there is on women.

"The ideal male body image has changed into quite an unhealthy shape," he admitted.

Huge pressures

In the past blokes have been comfortable with beer bellies. Now, men and boys are under huge pressures to look good."

He explains that while the slim but muscular look, a six-pack, big arms, and a slim waist, has become the cultural 'norm', it's not a naturally obtainable figure.

The pressure is increasing on everyone to look better and better and better
Marcus O'Donovan

Dr Morgan added: "It's completely unhealthy, and to achieve that sort of shape you've got to be either working out for hours in a gym, making yourself sick, or taking certain kinds of illegal drugs."

While it's often actors, models and celebrities who are blamed for putting pressure on the rest of us to look slim, it seems stars are under an equally intensifying amount of pressure.

Marcus O'Donovan is an actor who's been in Holby City and the recent Narnia film, Prince Caspian.

He said getting in shape for a role and enjoying a normal life is very difficult.

"The pressure is increasing on everyone to look better and better and better," Marcus said.

Marcus O'Donovan
Marcus O'Donovan says getting in shape and enjoying life is difficult
"I like to eat, it's that simple, I love my food, and I do find that I'm quite worried. I have to watch what I eat and make sure that I train. It's quite difficult to balance that and a really happy lifestyle."

The Eating Disorder Charity, BEAT says that since May this year, it's seen a huge increase in the number of men coming forward and asking for help.

The charity says it thinks high profiled cases of eating disorders, like John Prescott's battle with bulimia, encourages more men to seek help.

Revealedů Manorexia is on BBC2 on Saturday 13 September, at 13.45pm.

If you're worried about any of the issues raised in this report and want to talk to someone about it you can call the BBC's Action Line on 0800 110 100 which is free from UK landlines.



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