Eating disorders.I did not know anyone who had one, and to me, they just seemed a little strange.I would wonder “Well, if they do not like doing it, why do they not just stop?”.Little did I know.My name is Jack, and I suffered with Bulimia Nervosa for over 3 years.Today, I am happy to say, I am fully recovered, and I want to give hope and encouragement to other men out there that recovery really is possible.It goes without saying, living with an eating disorder is tough. Although being a man with an eating disorder, I believe adds an extra layer of shame and embarrassment on top. Society’s image of the typical male is someone who is strong, tough, is not prone to mood swings, does not cry, and I am pretty certain, does not stress over the fat content of a rice cake.
I never did open up to my male friends about my eating disorder. They just would not understand, and that is a shame. Heck, I barely understood what was going on myself.
Most of the online forums and support groups are female orientated. So, as a male, you begin to wonder where you belong.
For me, that felt painfully lonely.
This is why I want to share my story today. I want other men to know that yes, we are out there. Men do suffer from eating disorders. But, more importantly, I want them to know that with the right support you CAN recover.
For me it began with a simple diet. I just wanted to lose some weight that I had gained whilst in University. At the start, it was fun, but things quickly spiraled out of control. The number of foods I allowed myself to eat became very narrow, and I began to limit myself to an unrealistic number of calories each day.
And I got hungry, really hungry.
One day, at work, a friend brought in a box of cup cakes. I thought I would have just one, but they tasted so good. I could not stop myself. I quickly ate about five cup cakes before I realized what I was doing. I was engulfed with panic, guilt and fear. I went to the bathroom, and for the first time, I purged.
And, so began my bulimia.
I never enjoyed it. I honestly tried to stop so many times, but I just couldn’t. Each morning I would awake and fervently promise that today is the last day, only to find myself binging and purging a few hours later.
I began to wonder if I was born with some defect, or if I was mentally unwell.
I was constantly tired, worried, anxious and moody.
Life became an endless show where I hid my dark secret and instead I put on my “happy face”. This went on for three years. I was miserable, lost, frightened, confused and terrified for my life.
This had to stop.
I needed help.
I visited my doctor and opened up to him. I told him everything. He referred me to a therapist and that was the official start of my recovery journey.
I also joined an online recovery community and found other men going through the same things as me. It was like a light going off in my head.
I was not alone and recovery was not impossible.
I was more determined than ever to recover.
I told my family about my eating disorders. Initially, there was a lot of confusion and pain, but eventually, they became supportive of my recovery.
I began to follow a structured eating program and noticed a dramatic reduction in my binges.
Recovery was not easy. I had relapses, mood swings, anxiety attacks, bloating and weight fluctuations.
I probably would have given up, but my support team kept me strong, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Slowly, I felt the fog clear. Old parts of my personality that had been buried for years started to reappear. I was less anxious, more centered. I felt stronger and had a better sense of wellbeing.
One day I felt a weird sensation in my stomach. At first I was confused then I realized it was hunger! Normal hunger! Welcome back! I have since learned to use my hunger to tell me when I have eating enough food that is right for me. Not too much and not too little.
My recovery took roughly over a year, but the most difficult part was really opening up and being honest that I needed help. Support is essential for recovery. My biggest regret is not seeking help sooner.
For the first time in a long time, I am optimistic for the future now, and that feels good. I’ve kept a blog tracking my recovery journey, which you can view here: http://www.bulimiahelp.org/blog/jack. It is trigger free, and I hope you find it motivational and inspirational.
Do not hold back because you are embarrassed or ashamed. Seek help. Seek support. We all need help sometimes (yes, even if you are male!).
Good luck in your recovery.