MAN in the media

In this case, of course, I’m referring to the apt but tritely wrought acronym for Male Anorexia Nervosa.

Men with body image issues and anorexia have hit the media once again. Christopher Ecclestone’s public discussion, following his autobiography, of his feelings towards his body and his lifelong disordered eating have sparked a flurry of social commentators and campaigners offering their take.

Mr Eccleston described his ED as a “filthy secret”, one that he kept due to his gender, his class and his provenance, being from the north. He echoed one of my direct experiences, namely that people commented positively on his look during his tenure as Dr Who but he was very ill during that period of his life – as was I during the time in my past when I garnered most attention for my weight-loss and outward commitment to health.

Really, here, I want to briefly comment on a campaigner’s response to this. James Downs, in his piece released today in the Metro, regards Eccleston’s story as one that moves beyond the identification that I mention above. Instead, he says that it IS identification: the celebrity’s story makes him feel seen. James shares that medical professionals didn’t understand ‘why a guy would want to be skinny’, as if it were a ‘look’ he was going for. He picks up on Eccleston’s self-professed body-hatred. From a research perspective, let’s not pretend that this is unique to men. Many people with disordered eating have this element apparent in their self-thoughts and self-talk somewhere.

What James leaves us with is just how important it can be to feel seen – even when we are trying our damndest to ‘disappear’. Knowing that we are not alone, that we are (it terrifies me to say) not the only ones who dislike our physicality so much, and that visible men are finding courage to share, can make a huge difference at a time when health services are struggling and may not respond as swiftly, nor as knowledgeably as we might need them to.