Male Anorexia

It was in my first teaching post that I came across male anorexia. I observed a boy I taught growing thinner and thinner. I remember him mentioning to me, proudly, how he’d spent a whole week surviving on nothing but a box of cereal: he could recite exactly how many calories there were in that 500g box of cornflakes.

This experience stayed with me for years and when I came to write Wishbones, I thought of it again and knew that I wanted to explore the important issue of male-anorexia through my novel.

There are currently 10 million men suffering from eating disorders in the US and many more who remain undiagnosed because men are more reluctant to come forward and to seek help. We have a long way to go in understanding and supporting boys and men who suffer from anorexia: many people still associate eating disorders with girls and women and men often find it hard to talk about their eating problems and harder still ask for help. That is what inspired me to write the character of Clay in Wishbones.

In my research I found a wonderful UK charity, which offers information and support, called Men Get Eating Disorders Too: http://mengetedstoo.co.uk. There’s also a great book by Jenny Langley called, Boys Get Anorexia Too with an associated website: www.boyanorexia.com.

It’s my belief that only when we work to understand the psychological factors behind eating disorders will we be able to help people to lead healthier, happier lives and to develop a positive relationship to food.

The National Eating Disorders Association (www.nationaleatingdisorders.org) also has some helpful resources for men suffering from anorexia. It provides a list of characteristics, which can help us identify signs of anorexia in boys and men – I have copied these below.

Helping people with eating disorders is notoriously difficult because it is such a psychological condition, one often wrapped in secrecy and self-deception and a tendency for the sufferer to isolate him or herself. Nevertheless, I do believe that if we keep our eyes and our hearts open to those who might be struggling around us, like Feather does in my novel, we can go a long way in supporting those who struggle with their relationship to food and to their bodies.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder yourself, I urge you to seek help from a teacher, parent, family member, friend or, if this is too hard, do go to one of the many online resources: it is scary to open up about what is going on in your life but your life is infinitely precious and I promise that with time and support, things can get better.

Behavioral Characteristics:

  • Excessive dieting, fasting, restricted diet

  • Food rituals

  • Preoccupation with body building, weight lifting, or muscle toning

  • Compulsive exercise

  • Difficulty eating with others, lying about eating

  • Frequently weighing self

  • Preoccupation with food

  • Focus on certain body parts; e.g., buttocks, thighs, stomach

  • Disgust with body size or shape

  • Distortion of body size; i.e., feels fat even though others tell him he is already

    very thin

    Emotional and Mental Characteristics:

  • Intense fear of becoming fat or gaining weight

  • Depression

  • Social isolation

  • Strong need to be in control

  • Rigid, inflexible thinking, “all or nothing”

  • Decreased interest in sex or fears around sex

  • Possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation

  • Low sense of self-worth—uses weight as a measure of worth

  • Difficulty expressing feelings

  • Perfectionistic -- strives to be the neatest, thinnest, smartest, etc.

  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating

  • Irritability, denial -- believes others are overreacting to his low weight or

    caloric restriction

  • Insomnia

Physical Characteristics:

  • Low body weight (15% or more below what is expected for age, height, activity level)

  • Lack of energy, fatigue

  • Muscular weakness

  • Decreased balance, unsteady gait

  • Lowered body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate

  • Tingling in hands and feet

  • Thinning hair or hair loss

  • Lanugo (downy growth of body hair)

  • Heart arrhythmia

  • Lowered testosterone levels 



Meet Virginia Macgregor!



Virginia Macgregor is currently Head of Creative Writing at Wellington College. Her debut novel WHAT MILO SAW was published by Sphere in hardback in July 2014 to rave reviews. Sphere have just signed a deal for two further adult novels from Virginia, to be published in 2017 and 2018.


Meet Wishbones!

 Feather Tucker has two wishes:

1)To get her mum healthy again

2) To win the Junior UK swimming championships

When Feather comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother – one of Britain’s most obese women- in a diabetic coma, she realises something has to be done to save her mum’s life. But when her Mum refuses to co-operate Feather realises that the problems run deeper than just her mum’s unhealthy appetite.

Over time, Feather’s mission to help her Mum becomes an investigation. With the help of friends old and new, and the hindrance of runaway pet goat Houdini, Feather’s starting to uncover when her mum’s life began to spiral out of control and why. But can Feather fix it in time for her mum to watch her swim to victory? And can she save her family for good?



By: Virginia Macgregor

Release Date: May 23, 2017 


   One winner will receive a copy of Wishbones. US only. 

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