No one would know I am among the 10 million men suffering from a clinically significant eating disorder.
20 years old, 340lbs, and the campus doctor informed me I was morbidly obese. He suggested weight watchers because it worked for him. Upon hearing the words “morbidly obese,” I was planning my binge at the 7-11 one block away. Nothing quiets shame and a loud head like a good binge.
Looking back, no one told me my obesity could be a symptom of an eating disorder. Why should they? Every diet tells us how to lose weight, every book tells us what to eat, and the Biggest Loser shows that willpower can conquer all.
During high school will power really did work. Sitting outside the gym, I remember eating an entire loaf of bread, followed by at least an hour of working out praying I could exercise off the calories. After restricting food my last two years of high school, college was a history of bingeing myself to 340 lbs.
I couldn’t restrict. I couldn’t chew and spit food out anymore. While some were binge drinking, I was binge-eating alone in my dorm room. I don’t remember much of my college years. On the outside I was smiling, fat, and a good student.
It’s amazing how the feeling of being out of control never led me to have compassion for myself. It just propelled me into shame followed by more binging to quell the feelings. That is disordered. That is addiction my friends.
The school psychiatrist put me on Prozac for depression. I was excited because some people lose weight. I gained weight. I had a problem but no one suggested I might have an eating disorder.
I was a man, and I just didn’t fit the eating disorder mold. Bulimia, Anorexia, and societal pressures on women’s body image were getting a lot of attention. Meanwhile, obesity was becoming an epidemic in our country.
The reality is Diets tell us how to lose the weight, but none of them really tell us how to maintain it. Diet books can reinforce the good or bad approach to eating, and the Biggest Loser glamorizes weight loss as the ultimate goal.
In 2013 Binge Eating Disorder was finally added to the DSM-V. Before it was just listed as a sub-category of eating disorder not otherwise specified in the DSM-IV. In all honesty, having it listed in the DSM did not help me find an answer to my problem. I sought help years before and I wake up each day knowing that I am blessed to no longer be active in my addiction regardless of its classification.
The reason I share my story is because I wake up knowing I must make a choice to abstain from acting out. Some days I feel so new to life. I feel new because I lost those formative years to an eating disorder and obesity.
I can’t deny I’m a little underdeveloped. So I embrace it. I strive to embrace my newness as something exciting and maybe even brave. I strive to be honest with people about my lack of dating, and experience with women.
I strive to embrace a healthy body image. I strive to define my manhood based on my standards and values. I strive to own my experiences regardless of the shame that may arise.
Sometimes I don’t understand why I care so much or why I feel the need to advocate for men with eating disorders. I walk around and no body would know I was 340 lbs.
No one would know I am among the 10 million men suffering from a clinically significant eating disorder or that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Imagine the countless number of individuals who have passed away from heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, when these were actually symptoms of an untreated eating disorder.
I don’t blame the DSM, I don’t blame the recovery communities under representation about these issues. In fact, I don’t blame anyone. I do however look in the mirror and know that I am responsible.
I’m responsible for knowing that as a man with an eating disorder, I must be willing to share that I am alive, thriving and it’s scary as hell. I must also ask that the recovery community hold space for not only men but obesity as well. We are not an exception, but quiet sufferers who have no voice.. A voice of individuals who are sensitive, strong, bold, and courageous. I’m tired of shame. I’m tired of people pleasing. I’m tired of the bullshit.
So here it is…”What up Bruh?! I’m a man, and I have an eating disorder…”
Video: YouTube / Matt Shepherd