National Eating Disorders Association

Stories of Hope

How Being a Guy Stopped Me Getting the Support and Help I Needed to Recover from Bulimia
By Jack Harper

For me, being a guy with an eating disorder was tough. I mean really tough.  Sure, it’s common for anyone with an eating disorder to feel ashamed or embarrassed. But, being a male with and an eating disorder adds a whole extra layer of shame on top.  If you were to look at the media, you probably wouldn’t think that men got eating disorders. Even I thought it was just something that effected teenage girls (little did I know!). I felt a constant worry about anyone ever finding out that I was bulimic. I would like to myself how could they possible ever understand?! It was exactly this type of thinking that held me back from seeking recovery for three years.  And the truth is, when I eventually did tell someone about my eating disorder my world didn’t explode, I didn’t suffer a heart attack, I didn’t have a mental break down…I felt relief, and that felt good. My eating disorder started when I was 23. I decided to lose some of the weight I had gained through college. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I was determined to be successful at everything, even dieting.  Yet, the more I restricted, the more food took over my life. I became obsessed about how little I could eat, about how many calories were in anything.  And I was hungry, really hungry all the time. Then one day, at work, a colleague brought in a bag of treats. While trying to maintain my cool I suddenly engaged for the first time in bulimic behaviors as panic and fear rapidly set in. My life with bulimia soon began. My binge/ purge episodes became more frequent and in time they became part of my daily ritual. I tried to stop. I really did. But my willpower was useless against the intense urges of an eating disorder. Eventually I would always give in.   My life began to crumble. I transformed from an average, normal guy to an insecure, anxious, miserable mess. I became gaunt, my face was bloated, I constantly looked ill. I was moody, tired and prone to bursts of anger. I felt like a dark cloud had engulfed my entire being. I was trapped, lost, confused and mostly terrified. After three years and particularly painful eating disorder episodes, I realized I can’t do this anymore, I needed help. I opened up and told my local doctor everything. It was one of the toughest things I had ever done, but in hindsight one of the best. He was very supportive and understanding. He referred me to a local therapist who specialized in bulimia treatment. I also joined an online self-help support community and for the first time, I reached out to other people in the same situation as me. Suddenly, I wasn’t so alone anymore. Suddenly, there was hope. I began to follow a structured eating program. It was tough, but each day was always easier than the day before. Eventually, I told my family about my bulimia. They were shocked, hurt and confused, but in time (and with many long conversations) they became a pillar of support.   My recovery wasn’t all roses and flowers. I had set backs, tough times, mood swings and relapses. At times I desperately wanted to quit recovery, but (thankfully) my support team kept me going. One day I remember laughing at a joke I heard on TV. It was a real, deep, gut felt laugh. That was when I realized I hadn't laughed like that in years! My laugh was back! Slowly, bit by bit, the old me was coming out of the fog.  I began to feel a strange sensation in my stomach.  What was that? It was hunger! Normal hunger! Woohoo! I learnt to trust my body and to listen to my hunger. This helped ensure I never let myself get too hungry or too full. Normalcy returned! Recovery for me was a big challenge, but the hardest part was getting started and opening up to the world that I needed help. I only wish now, that I had done it sooner. Right now, I am a 28 year old healthy man. My job is going well, I am close with my family and I am slowly starting to reach out to the world and make new friends. I have since learnt that I don’t need to be perfect and that it’s OKAY to be me, the way I am right now. I kept a blog throughout my recovery journey, which you can view here: Jacks Recovery Blog  http://www.bulimiahelp.org/blog/jack (It’s trigger free). Hopefully you will find it inspirational and motivational. Recovery is possible. Just reach out and get the support and help you need. Don’t let fear, embarrassment and shame hold you back (yes, even if you are male).

 

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