Jane Jakubczak, dietitian at the University Health Center at the University of Maryland at College Park, hears the same questions from students that she did when she took the job five years ago.
"What can I eat to get the fat off my body?"
"What can I eat to get rid of the love handles?"
What has changed, Jakubczak said, is that male students are posing the questions. With increasing frequency, she said, young men are starving themselves in pursuit of bodies that fulfill a magazine ideal.
"I have students asking, 'What can I eat to get rid of love handles?' And they pinch, and there's nothing there," Jakubczak said.
Three years ago, Jakubczak saw about four male students during the school year who were asking for help to lose weight. These days, she said, she sees at least one a week.
In addition to asking about how to look like someone on the cover of a fitness magazine, male students are doing extreme dieting, exercising compulsively, using food supplements or combining all three, Jakubczak said.
Randi Wortman, a clinical psychologist who works with men and women with eating disorders at her Bethesda office, said the increase in male eating disorders is only about five to 10 years old.
"For women it comes from the Twiggy generation," Wortman said. "Since the fitness craze with the glossy health magazines, men have become part of society's overinflated vision of what is the ideal body type."
Jakubczak said some of her male students have taken all of the fat out of their diets in an attempt to "get the abs of the guy on the Men's Health cover."
"They are coming in desperate," she said. "They come in to see me for what are distorted eating habits and distorted body images."
Signs of an eating disorder include excessive dieting and fasting, a fear of becoming fat or gaining weight, a preoccupation with food and a low sense of self-worth.
Health officials say the experience at the University Health Center mirrors what is happening nationwide.
One of every 10 people with an eating disorder who comes to the attention of mental health professionals is male, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
Julie Parsons, a clinical social worker and coordinator of the eating disorder program at the University Health Center, said eating disorders remain more prevalent among women than men, but the numbers of men "who are aware they are bothered by their relationship with food" have increased.
Parsons said a survey at the University of Maryland last year found that one in two male students indicated they were dieting, eating special foods or taking supplements to lose weight. Two in five men were upset or depressed by their appearance.
Parsons said men are experiencing what women have dealt with for years. They are bombarded with magazine versions of body images that are almost unrealistic.
"They are being presented with a picture of what is considered ideal, of the buff guy with the six-pack abs," she said. "They then feel like, that is the way I have to look to be a man or to get the girl."
Last year the university's Center for Health and Well-being held a weeklong program to educate male students about the differences between improving body image and pursuing such changes obsessively.
Next month the center will host a program to discuss dieting and body shape and size. The program, set for Oct. 12, targets men, but organizers did not focus on eating disorders because they fear many men would feel too embarrassed to come.
"The hard part is to get the dialogue open without turning people away," Jakubczak said. "It's a slow process making men aware of the issue."