Eating Disorders Prey on Men, Too
If you can imagine how tough it is for women to be open about their eating disorders, just imagine how tough it is for men. I recently asked a follower to share his experience here on the blog. I encourage anyone who struggles with an eating disorder or disordered eating to speak up when you feel ready–even if it’s just by letting it out through this blog. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I found Rachael and her blog a year ago, and every now and then we’ve talked about our eating disorders, specifically in the realm of raw food and bingeing. Like her, I don’t particularly fit the descriptions of bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating. At this point in my ED, I sway between binge eating and orthorexia. The 80-10-10 diet is always my fallback after a long 1 or 2 week bingeing episode.
It all started when I was prescribed the stimulant _____ when I was 14. Before then, I never really thought about my weight. Because of its appetite suppressing effects, I lost X pounds within a week, effortlessly! Plus, because of its energizing effects, I felt great while doing it!
Being a musician, I started to glorify the “skinny rocker” image we all have when we think of Mick Jagger & Marilyn Manson. Now I had a goal to attain this. I started counting calories, going hard on the protein, working out all the time, all of the precursors of anorexia (Pro-ana websites for males didn’t help either). At 15 years old I reached my lowest weight–but this is when I experienced my first binge.
It was a reaction from all the starving I had been doing, and after it happened, my behavior became more erratic. The bingeing continued, it was something I started to love and think of as a drug… and it became a vicious cycle: Binge. Abuse my medicine to suppress my appetite. Stay up for days. The medicine would wear off, I would sleep for a day and binge once again. I was going through my medicine so fast that my month’s supply would last me only a week. And I was doomed to binge intensely for the rest of the month, until receiving my new prescription. It was hell. I would even binge on the medicine. These were many addictions wrapped in one. Marijuana gave me relief from the depression I fell into, but would make me hungrier. So to counteract the marijuana I would take more stimulants. However, my ED was never about the drugs. The drugs helped aggravate it but my addiction was first and foremost restriction and food.
The day I found about raw food was life changing. This was my ticket out of this cycle (or so I thought). The gurus looked so happy and energetic, youthful and lively. I tried it and two weeks later, all of my physical/mental ailments seemed to dissolve. I was a new person.
But not for long… Fast forward to college. I am still going in and out of raw food. I was buying _____ from college peers, stealing it from friends. It wasn’t only about the appetite suppression anymore, I just wanted relief from how shitty the junk food was putting in my body. The stimulant gave me superficial energy that my nutrition wasn’t. If things got too heavy, I would switch to a raw food lifestyle and detox a little bit before my next toxic splurge. At 21 years old, you would think I would learn, but I the same behaviors are stuck with me.
I’m more aware of my “cycles” now. Right now, it’s been 2 weeks binge-free. I’ve only eaten fruit and potatoes. I feel great. If you asked me 3 weeks ago how I felt, I was completely different: McChicken wrappers stuffed in my desk drawers, eating cheap donuts at the self-checkout at Meijer–I was a ball of shame. It’s funny. Right now, I wouldn’t touch a burger or even a roasted almond. I’m orthorexic for the time being, until I decide to “flip the switch” and lose control. I know my choices of restriction probably make the binges worse, but to me this is completely normal. It’s become my normal.
Oh yeah. Did I mention I’m a GUY? Rachael is one of the only people I’ve shared my ED with, because I feel there isn’t yet a healthy landscape for guys to talk about this kind of stuff. It’s embarrassing. Women are constantly called strong for sharing their ED with the world, but I don’t see the same with men. It’s not masculine, it’s not desirable for men to be this way. I’m convinced so many others like me struggle with this, but are too afraid to share. Even after years of my family finding half-eaten Chef Boyardee cans in my bedroom and diet pills in my drawer, I refuse to acknowledge to them that I have a problem. It’s engrained in me that no matter what, nobody can ever know.
I also wish there was more open discussion about this in the 80-10-10, “30bananasaday”, and raw food communities. Eating this way can worsen disorders in people who already have them, but the perfection-seeking quality of their adherents makes the subject completely untouchable and taboo. Part of what draws me to 80-10-10 is I can still binge, but it doesn’t effect me like eating junk food. So, I’m never not bingeing. Just bingeing on different foods.
Rachael has done excellent things with this blog. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts!
Wow, that was a powerful “share.” It doesn’t matter who you are, female/male, young/old, educated/not, athlete/couch-potato – disordered eating is a problem and the recovery begins with recognizing the problem and then willingness to share it enough to seek help. I cringed to read what this young man was experiencing because the experience is so close to what Rachael’s has been. I see the frustration and the pain and the ever-revolving loop of habits that must be faced and changed. Kudos to you for taking those initial steps and may you have all the support you need!
Thank you for sharing. You have no idea what this meant. The strength that you have shown is incredible. I recently just expressed my desire to get help for my eating disorder to my parents this week. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but it’s the incredible strength of other people who are going through similar things that keep me going. I have been reading this blog for over a year now and sometimes I can relate so much that it is truly terrifying.
Elizabeth, congrats on telling your parents! Many of us understand how tough that can be. I just wanted to say how proud I am of you for taking that step. Keep up the good work, you can do this!!
Please don’t stop here, talk to other male groups in your area. Personally, I have/had a counselor and she did a great job to get me started on the right path, but I really started feeling like I was repeating myself, not moving forward, and truly unfocused with her. I started to realize that a female can’t understand how emasculated I feel by the whole situation. No offense, because I can’t understand their ED other than the result of it – PAIN.
Here’s a bit of my own story:
Thank you for sharing your story! That was powerful; my heart goes out to you.
Would you mind if I shared the link on my Running in Silence Facebook group page?
This is important to know! I must confess, whenever I hear about eating disorders I usually think of women. There needs to be more support around men with eating disorders so that they don’t have to feel hopeless in the shadow of an ED.