Man Up to Eating Disorders
A book by Andrew Walen
First off, thanks for checking out this book. It’s been years in the making and is as close to birthing something as I’ll ever experience, thankfully. When I completed the first draft and started sending it out to agents and publishers, the feedback across the board was that the topic was good and the writing emotional, but there was no market for it. “Good luck, but we pass.” You see, men don’t buy self-help books or memoirs. According to booksellers, we’re loners when it comes to our suffering.
Not exactly a shocker. As a therapist, I see it every day. Guys hide their issues, try to tough them out, fix their own problems, and keep their loved ones and friends from having to suffer along with them. Or they’re just embarrassed to feel the way they do and fear the same kind of ridicule that probably came from their fathers, male role models (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you coach!), and friends. So the publishers were right – but only to a degree.
I think back to the books that ultimately informed me, moved me and challenged me to make changes in my behavior, and then inspired me to stay healthy. They were stories, not lectures. And they were real and meaningful. Men are notoriously bad listeners (just ask their mothers and wives) and tend not to have the best attention spans (ask their teachers) – part of why this is a pretty short book. But we’ll settle in by a campfire, around a table or along a bar, and swap yarns satirical, poignant, heartfelt and personal. Name one movie about coming of age that doesn’t have this deep need to belong at its center, and my next book is half off.
The purpose of storytelling is to create a bond, to begin to feel like we’re part of a clan, a collection of souls. For much of my life, I felt marginalized time and time again dealing with my depression, anxiety, self-esteem, body image and eating disorder because the only material out there was for women. In the field of mental health, self-improvement and the like, this is still the norm.
Men are left out, in the dark. This book is to help guys come together, create their own tribe, talk recovery in their own language. Straight, gay, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, whatever your background – if it’s anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, compulsive exercise, steroid abuse or some combination of any or all of the above; we are all part of the same brotherhood. We are all dealing with the same core issues of belonging, perfectionism, control, identity, independence, and insecurity. We need to be welcomed by others – to feel the embrace of the tribe and move forward with our lives together.
This book, my brothers, is for you. It’s now your job to spread the word. Strengthen your tribe.
UPCOMING EVENT: Book release with EDN Maryland & ANAD of Baltimore
September 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm
Ascension Lutheran Church
7601 York Rd, Towson, MD 21204
In his book, “Man Up to Eating Disorders” Andrew Walen, psychotherapist, has contributed to the resources for males with eating and body image issues by sharing an autobiographical account of his personal experience with these problems, combined with advice he now uses to help others. There are few books for males who suffer from body image problems and disordered eating and fewer by those who have been through it, recovered and have gone on to make it their life’s work. Walen takes readers into many painful scenarios from his own life that are likely to sound familiar. He is honest and forthcoming about his journey guiding readers to glean the lessons he learned from his experience. Offering insight, hope and practical advice for getting well, Walen’s book is a welcome addition to the field.
–Carolyn Costin, Founder and Chief Clinical Officer, Monte Nido & Affiliates, Author of 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder, The Eating Disorder Sourcebook, 100 Questions and Answers About Eating Disorders, and Your Dieting Daughter.
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“We need more brave men like Andrew Walen speaking out about their eating disorders to break down some of the stigmas that are barriers to effective treatments. Fat bullying and shaming are harmful and often can lead to dieting and shame which can be triggers for an eating disorder in someone who is biologically predisposed.”
– Becky Henry Founder, Hope Network for Eating Disorders Caregivers
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Your kind of work — both your content and your style — are much needed in the female-crowded world of eating disorder recovery. There needs to be a movement for the normalization of men with eating disorders just there was for women with alcoholism. And I believe you are going to be an important part of bringing that about.
– Thom Rutledge, author of Embracing Fear, and co-author of Life Without Ed.
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Mr. Walen tells the tale of his journey from shame and self-destruction to a caring, whole individual reaching out to others to help with their pain. His writing is clear, witty and engaging. Even if you don’t have an eating disorder, his story of courage and insight is inspirational.
– Dr. Elizabeth Winter, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School
Walen describes his years of wrestling with weight and binge eating, and shares the practical techniques he used in recovery. His story is that of an Everyman, and he speaks for suffering men who have been silent for too long.
–Leigh Cohn, MAT, CEDS, Editor-in-Chief, Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention
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Big emotions, a big appetite, a big body, and desperate for acceptance. Andrew Walen tells his roller coaster tale to assure other members of the man tribe that they are not alone in their struggle to control their eating. If you’re a guy who pigs out in defiance and defeat after someone tells you to lose weight, this book’s for you. If you’ve punched a hole through the wall in rage then doused the flames with food, this book’s for you. Using language that speaks to men, Walen gives you a playbook for recovery.
–Cynthia Bulik, PhD, Author of Midlife Eating Disorders,and Director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders
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Andrew gets it. He’s the first person to put into words similar feelings and thoughts I had about my own body and how I ate while growing up. An amazing perspective and wonderful resource! I recommend it to any guy who struggles with his own eating habits or how he views himself.
–Alen Standish, host of The Quit Binge Eating Podcast
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Andrew’s account of developing an eating disorder and finding recovery adds to the chorus of men coming out of the shadows from this debilitating disease. Adding his perspective as a therapist now treating men and boys with eating disorders adds much needed insight as well.
–Brian Cuban, author of Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder
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Andrew Walen’s Man Up to Eating Disorders is a game-changing story for eating disorder recovery and body image advocacy. Walen vulnerably shares his narrative in a way that not only dismantles the long-time misguided myth that eating disorders are a female problem, but also gives voice to binge eating disorder. As a storyteller, Walen takes agency of both his struggle and recovery, and as a therapist offers concrete tools and techniques for readers to effectively facilitate their own recovery. In a society that bullies all individuals into developing shameful and self-loathing relationships with their bodies while targeting food as an enemy rather than survival necessity and gift, Walen’s Man Up welcomes men into the dialogue and conversation for healing like never before.
-Caroline Rothstein – Writer, performer, educator, and body empowerment advocate
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I have to admit that I felt a “lit bit” like a voyeur when I began reading Andrew Walen’s new book, Man Up to Eating Disorders. After all it is made crystal clear from the very beginning that this is a book for the man tribe. One of the goals clearly laid out in the introduction is to provide a place for men to learn about eating disorders and to feel safe and less alone in taking steps towards recovery. I may not have continued reading at all if I didn’t want to write a review for the male readers of The Schmooze. But I am glad I did.
If you are a parent of a son, or a sister of a brother, or a wife of a man, or a friend, colleague, aunt…of any male who is struggling with their weight and relationship to food, this book gives you an inside look at what may be going on underneath the surface. The book inspires empathy, ignites a desire to know more, and is so honest that at times I felt a bit protective of Mr. Walen’s privacy. I suppose I should give a similar trigger warning for this book as I did for Kimber Simpkins’ Full, about the explicit descriptions of the author’s binges and reports of his fluctuating weight throughout his life as he moves closer and closer to recovery. But it is the detailed descriptions that engaged me and increased my understanding of how difficult his (and others’) roads are.
The book focuses primarily on Binge Eating Disorder and is part memoir, part self-help, and part textbook, but the author’s voice stays true throughout the entire book and by the end I found that I had gained a deeper insight into a man’s perspective of struggling with an Eating Disorder. The book is available for Kindle and in paperback.
–Dr. Deah Schwartz
To purchase your copy of Andrew Walen’s book, “Man Up to Eating Disorders”, click on any of the links below:
Strengthen Your Tribe (Video)
Why I wrote “Man Up to Eating Disorders”
Speaking Out About Male Eating Disorders (Video)
Eating disorders have long been thought to be women’s diseases, but new research shows that nearly equal numbers of men and women suffer from binge eating disorders. Psychotherapist and former binge eater Andrew Walen speaks about breaking eating disorder stereotypes.
Therapist Andrew Walen’s New Book Is a Lifeline for Men with Eating Disorders
Man Up to Eating Disorders Shares Author’s Experience to Help Others Struggling with Body Issues
June 20, 2014—Columbia, MD—Starting early in his childhood, psychotherapist Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, struggled with body image. The first sentence of his recently released new book, Man Up to Eating Disorders, available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book format, captures the shame he felt about his weight and appearance in a few powerful words: “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve struggled with thinking I am ugly and fat.” That shame led Walen to develop serious eating and body image disorders that lasted well into adulthood.
Walen, who founded The Body Image Therapy Center in Columbia, Maryland and practices psychotherapy there, wrote the memoir and self-help book to help other men and boys struggling with eating, exercise and body image disorders understand that they are not alone and that, with support, there is a way to overcome these issues. In the book, he shares his experiences with anorexia, binge eating, exercise bulimia, the underlying origins of these issues in his life and his process of recovery and self-acceptance.
“This book is to help guys come together, create their own tribe, talk recovery in their own language,” explains Walen. “Straight, gay, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, whatever your background – if it’s anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, compulsive exercise, steroid abuse or some combination of any or all of the above; we are all part of the same brotherhood. We are all dealing with the same core issues of belonging, perfectionism, control, identity, independence, and insecurity. The book is for all men looking for some way to break the shame cycle of their disorder and find real connection to themselves and their loved ones.”
In his practice, Walen specializes in working with men with eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety and depression. He has appeared on the Today Show and Baltimore/DC area TV and radio stations, as well as in the New York Times as an expert in the field of eating disorders. In addition, he is the author of numerous articles and leader of workshops on eating disorders, body image disturbance, exercise addiction, and binge eating disorder.
You can purchase “Man Up to Eating Disorders” on iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or for an eBook version available in all formats visit: http://my.bookbaby.com/book/man-up-to-eating-disorders.
Meet the Author
Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, is a psychotherapist and founder of The Body Image Therapy Center, a practice dedicated to treating eating disorders and other related disorders. He recently published Man Up to Eating Disorders, a book that shares his personal experiences with binge eating disorder (BED) and his recovery. The book also provides readers with guidance and advice for men living with an eating disorder.
Q: There are a large number of books and other resources for women and girls with eating disorders, but very little support for men and boys facing those issues. Is that because the problem is less common with men?
Andrew Walen (AW): Not at all. Of the approximately 30 to 40 million people in the U.S. struggling with all forms of eating disorders, 30 to 40% of them are men, but less than 10% of them are actively seeking treatment. While we saw nearly 120% increase in children hospitalized for eating disorders from 1999-2006, there was a near 400% increase in the number of men and boys hospitalized during that period.
The reason that there are fewer resources that focus on men and boys with eating disorders has to do with our cultural definition of what a “man” is. Men are not supposed to express emotion or they risk looking vulnerable. They’re supposed to “man up” and keep their problems to themselves and not seek outside help. That creates a vicious cycle in which men’s eating disorders are kept secret, so the individual man feels even further isolated from his peers, his family and community.
In other cultures—South America, Greece, Southern Europe, the Middle East—men showing emotion is far more common and is not only accepted, but celebrated. What we need to do in the U.S. is normalize the experience of showing emotion and exposing one’s inner life. I don’t think that process will be easy and it will most likely take decades, but that should be the goal.
Q: What inspired you to write Man Up to Eating Disorders?
AW: A number of things. First, my own experiences with BED and the process of recovering from that disorder. Second, when I first started working in this field, I could only one book about men and eating disorders. Over time, a few men have published memoirs about the effects of eating disorders on their lives, but all of those books focused on the horrible aspects of eating disorders, not on the details of the recovery process. It’s like they talk about having an eating disorder and then skip to end, fall in love, and say now they’re recovered. They don’t talk about how they got better. By and large, men don’t want to talk about getting help and what therapy is like. I wanted to demystify the experience and help break down one barrier to getting help by providing a realistic look at what it takes to recover from an eating disorder.
Q: What was your personal experience with binge eating?
AW: I remember my first binge at the age of five and by ten I had a fixation on food and body image. Growing up, the message I received at home was that I was too fat and unacceptable. My mother, a psychologist, was anorexic at the age of 12 and had lifelong body image problems. My father was a physician and frequently made critical comments to me and my siblings about weight and appearance.
I studied music all my life and worked as a professional singer/songwriter for 11 years in Nashville. The atmosphere in the music business reinforced all of the eating disorder messages I had heard growing up: “You need to be thinner. You need to be more attractive to be successful. You should get a nose job.” I developed a fixation with losing weight and had an out of control eating disorder cycle of starvation, compulsive exercise and binge eating. I realized that I was never going to have the body I needed, but I didn’t acknowledge that I had a problem.
Then I met my wife, and while we were expecting our son, she was extremely ill and couldn’t eat. She was admitted to the hospital 8 times during the pregnancy. While she couldn’t eat, all I could do was eat to cope. Our son was born with a serious heart condition and I continued to binge to numb my feelings of fear and sadness. That’s when I hit rock bottom, but I still wasn’t ready to ask for help.
I started going to grad school at night and decided to become a therapist since I had always been the person people came to with their problems. During the course of my studies, I found myself focusing all my papers on eating disorders, obesity prejudice, and how body image affected how people are treated by others. I finally realized that I had an eating disorder and sought treatment.
Q: What was the process of recovery like for you?
AW: I felt like an outcast. I couldn’t find other men going through the same experience or books about it. That’s what drove me to create this space in the therapy field and focus on treating men and boys with eating disorders. Since I started my private practice in 2008, I’ve strived to be an active participant in expanding understanding and awareness of men’s eating disorders. I’m the Vice President of the non-profit National Association for Males with Eating Disorders and have spoken at conferences and appeared on national T.V. and other media talking about the issue.
Writing this book was another part of the recovery process for me. The first section, which recounts my personal experience with binge eating, was very cathartic and healing. Writing about therapy was tougher. I had to sort out what issues I was working on and which of my experiences and insights would be helpful to others.
Q: What do you hope readers get from your book?
AW: My goal was to give men a realistic look at what it takes to recover from an eating disorder from my perspective and from the perspectives of other men who shared their experiences with me. If you think an eating disorder is just about eating too much, you’re missing the essential point. It’s about changing your relationship with yourself and addressing and expressing your emotions more directly. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and actually feel. Don’t numb out your emotions.
I don’t really expect men to seek out my book. I hope that their loved ones read it and recognize the symptoms of self-loathing, depression, anxiety, fixation on body image, and the use of body shaming language so that they can really understand their loved one and support him rather than just telling him to “man up” and get over it. Believe me, if we could “man up” and be “normal”, we would. I hope those loved ones will share the book with the men who need it. We need an outlet and we need to be part of a collective of new voices, a tribe of recovered men who are here to support other men through their recovery. That’s the first step.