Sunday, October 13, 2013

Men Struggle With Eating Disorders Too

As Firefly's captain Malcolm Reynolds once said, "I'm feeling kinda truthsome". I have thought about writing this post for some time and now that I'm on the verge of becoming a minor local media "sensation" again, I thought I would use the attention I'm going to receive for a positive purpose.

I am an American male who has struggled with bulimia.

I have always been on the chunky side. I'm 6'1 and 240lbs and, at the moment, wear a size 40 pants.

Back when I was in grade school, and eventually high school, I was made fun of for my size "Julian's got fattitude" is one quote that stands out in my mind. Today, my political opponents sometimes use my looks as a way to attack me.

Between the ages of 12 and 17, I would occasionally make myself throw up after eating, but it didn't become ritual until my senior year of high school. While getting ready for school one morning, my step-mother remarked on how fat I was getting (I wore a size 36 back then and they were snug). I'm sure she didn't say it in a mean-spirited manner but even still, it was the catalyst that made it click in my head to start habitually throwing up after I ate in order to lose weight. It worked. It worked a little too well. I walked to and from school every day during the week (2 miles round trip) and I was losing a pound a day. I went from 225 lbs to about 175 before I plateaued. I wanted to be 165 lbs because I had read that was a healthy weight for my age and size.

Since I plateaued, I have slowly put weight back on, and then some. Starting early in my senior year in High School, I threw up after most meals. In college, I even had friends who were bulimic and while many students were binging on alcohol, we went on binge/purge food runs. Then, in early 2011, I threw up blood. Not a few streaks. Blood.

One of my biggest fears has always been being committed to a psych ward. As a result, I did not seek medical attention, but it was enough to scare me straight. I have not thrown up intentionally after eating since then, but I still deal with the effects every single day.

Raw vegetables, among other foods, cause me horrible indigestion and acid overproduction. I have ulcers so bad it sometimes feels like I'm having a heart attack. My metabolism is pretty much shot to hell. I hit 255lbs last year and have managed to get back down to 240 with some work and care with regards to my diet.

Fortunately, I'm lucky enough to have a girlfriend who is helping me get my digestion and body back into balance. She comes from a family that eats macrobiotic and has provided me with pickled plum paste or "umeboshi" as well as alkalizing pills. Drinking lots of oolong tea has helped me as well.

I'm relatively lucky. Some people who engage in eating disorders end up much worse off. I'm also lucky I was able to stop. For my part, I do not believe bulimia is a mental disorder, but a result of societal conditioning. Pop culture, television, school, and even parents teach that to be attractive, you need to be skinny. Abercrombie and Fitch has even said they don't want unattractive people wearing their clothing. People will go to extremes to try to feel accepted and fit in.

Frequently, eating disorders are portrayed as female-only problems. While they may predominantly occur in young women, they are on the rise with males.

You can help fight eating disorders in your every day life. Stop judging people for their weight. Remind people they're beautiful, or attractive. Surprisingly many people who are, refuse to accept that they are because they have felt pressure to fit a societal norm.

Last night, my girlfriend sent me this cartoon and said that she wished it would be seen in every school. I agree.

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