When I was looking for a subject for my fieldwork research, I noticed that a lot of people post very personal things on the internet. I was surprised how many people, mainly women, would poor their hearts out in a public forum or anything of that sort. For my research, I studied a forum where people dealing with binge eating would post their frustrations and disappointments and support each other. As much as I think it is helpful for these women that they have a place to share, I started wondering whether people might use forums like this instead of seeking professional help.
When scrolling through the forums, I came across a lot of websites that provide people with self-help posts. For example, I stumbles upon website launched by a man who is a happiness and health expert. He wrote a piece about recognizing and getting over emotional eating. Since this is mostly a female problem, I thought it was quite interesting to read how men would advise to deal with this. A lot of it made sense to me, but according to the comments, a lot of women experiencing emotional eating did not agree with some of his solutions. I think this might be a gender-related difference in dealing with emotions and problem solving.
I tried finding a forum that would mainly deal with emotional eating by men, as I thought it would be interesting to find some differences between male and female writing behaviour in this respect. The only thing I could really find in public forums is that men would in general consume different types of food than women. Furthermore, I found that men’s forums dedicated to this issue are usually private where women do not have a problem posting about this in public forums.
Fact is that much more women than men are dealing with serious eating disorders and it is wider recognised for women to go ask for help and support than for men. I think however, that the causes of having eating disorders, both being overweight and underweight, for men and women come from the same environmental influences. Where women get the idea that they have to be thin and beautiful in order to be socially accepted, men are given the image of a muscled and tanned man as the ideal. Having these images as an ideal may lead to both starving yourself in order to try to live up to these requirements or falling into emotional eating as a result of being depressed that you can never have that body.
I feel that nowadays, people start surfing the internet for self-help forums when they recognize that they might be dealing with a problem. However you can not solve every health problem by a 5-steps-to-get-over-something plan. For some problems you need professional help and a real person giving you support, when you are dealing with an eating disorder in particular.