This Is What It’s Like Being A Man With An Eating Disorder


Health

They also share their experiences with self-esteem issues,
overbearing family members and partners, and anxiety and
depression.

Posted on July 20, 2017, 17:43 GMT

Hokyoung Kim for BuzzFeed News

We
asked men in the BuzzFeed Community to
tell us about what it’s like being a guy with an eating
disorder. Here’s what they had to say.

And just a warning: The following stories contain graphic
material and should not be used as substitutes for diagnosis,
treatment, or medical advice. If you feel like you might have
an eating disorder, talk to a doctor or reach out to the
National Eating Disorders Association at
(800) 931-2237.

1. “No one realized I had a disorder,
and they didn’t believe me when I told them.”

“My eating disorder began when I was in the 7th grade. I had
self-esteem issues, I was in middle school, and I was 1/3 of
my way through puberty. I hated my body. I was also dealing
with other issues at the time, like friend drama, questioning
my sexuality, and anxiety and depression.

I started to skip meals — mainly lunch, because that was the
easiest. Then I started to skip breakfast and began to eat
very small dinners. I would work out every day for hours. If
I ever gained a pound, I would have an anxiety attack and cry
myself to sleep. It wasn’t till 8th grade when I started to
explore bulimia and its effects. I wasn’t bulimic for very
long because it was too difficult to keep it a secret. But to
this day if I eat even an average amount of food, I want to
throw up.

No one realized I had a disorder, and they didn’t believe
me when I told them. My sister thought I was doing it for
attention and trying to be ‘cool.’
It was very depressing
knowing no one believed me. The worst was when they said ‘It
probably isn’t that bad, anyway.’ Now that I’m recovering,
I’m trying to teach others that men do go through these
issues and you should never shut them down when they step
forward about it.”

—Isaac

2. “I became frustrated if I didn’t
lose weight everyday, and angry at those who wanted me to
eat.”

“I felt like I was overweight and it was disturbing for me.
In a few short months, I lost weight by eating less food each
day. But this weight loss caused an unhealthy obsession. I
began tracking the calories I ate, not caring about anything
else other than lowering my intake as much as possible. This
led me to refuse going out to restaurants as I was fearful of
eating too much and gaining a single pound. I slept less. I
became frustrated if I didn’t lose weight everyday, and angry
at those who wanted me to eat. When I hit a low point, my
family and friends began to notice, and it became satisfying
to hear people say how thin I was. I believed that it was
nothing more than a compliment and not a sign that I needed
help.

Eventually, I was able to train myself (with the help of
others) to eat foods that allowed me to be a healthier
version of myself. I still weigh less than I probably
should, but I am slowly crawling out from beneath the
crushing weight of an eating disorder. I know some will argue
that since I’ve never been formally diagnosed, I can’t really
say I had an eating disorder. But I’m here to say that when
99% of your day is focused on not eating or figuring out how
to avoid eating just to lower your caloric intake, you don’t
always need a diagnosis to know that an unhealthy
relationship with food has turned potentially deadly.

—Anonymous

3. “Everyone accused me of being on
drugs, but I stayed silent. I’d rather them think that than
know the truth: that I was bulimic and anorexic.”

As a guy, I never thought I would struggle with an eating
disorder. It first started 11 years ago after my first
boyfriend told me I needed to lose weight and played with my
beer belly. After we broke up I lost a lot of weight.
I
was running 5 miles a day in 90-degree heat, wearing multiple
sweat suits, a winter hat, and winter gloves. I definitely
wasn’t getting enough calories. Everyone accused me of being
on drugs, but I stayed silent. I’d rather have them think
that than know the truth: that I was bulimic and anorexic. I
got better for a while, but last year I started starving
myself again. For the first time I spoke up, and told my
current boyfriend, my family, and even some friends. It’s
tough to not have a daily calorie count in my head, and
sometimes it feels overwhelming. People see me eating and
think I’m fine, but little do they know I might only be
eating in front of them.

—Josh V.

4. “It’s a process of reworking my
brain and standing up for myself. But I am committed to
becoming stronger and taking care of myself, so it’s a plunge
I’m going to have to take.”

Hokyoung Kim for BuzzFeed News

“The moment I realized I wasn’t eating enough was
probably around 10 years old. I went from living with my
mom to living with my dad and stepmom in 2002. I have
always had a difficult relationship with my dad and
stepmom, while also struggling with general anxiety
disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. The combination of high
anxiety and living in a very controlling home caused me
to eat less, and that sort of led to a fear of eating.
When I got a little older, I found out my stepmom had
been sexually abused through her teens and into her 20s,
and that she was anorexic. After learning this, it made
sense why she would always get upset when people ate
around her, and why she always served such tiny
portions.

I believe that I was affected by her anorexia, but I know
that I also eat less when I’m around her because it’s
become a habit. I’m living with my parents again after
finishing school and I can see how my eating habits have
changed for the worse just by living with her. I am
training with a volleyball friend to gain muscle, and I
need to eat more naturally, but the biggest fear I have
is creating tension when I start buying and making my own
food. It’s a process of reworking my brain and standing
up for myself. But I am committed to becoming stronger
and taking care of myself, so it’s a plunge I’m going to
have to take.”

—Anonymous

5. “I was an impressionable teenager,
and I really wanted to look like this one specific
musician.”

“Before I was out to anyone as trans, I struggled with
anorexia. I was an impressionable teenager, and I really
wanted to look like this one specific musician. I remember
thinking, ‘If I want to look like a guy, the only way I’ll be
able to is if I look like him.’ He was really feminine — long
brown hair, brown eyes, and his height and posture, too.
About a year later when I saw him on stage at Warped Tour, I
only noticed his thin wrists, long legs, the gap between his
thighs, and that when he took his shirt off, I could count
his ribs from behind four rows of people.

At my lowest, I’d eat a very small breakfast, throw away
lunch at school, and eat dinner with my parents in the
evening. I started trying to eat better when I fainted in
the hallway at school. No one noticed except my best friend,
who promptly dragged me to the bathroom and asked me what was
going on. I tried to explain, and when she didn’t understand,
I told her I was trans. She asked what that had to do with
it, and I pointed to the band t-shirt she bought at Warped
Tour and said I wanted to look like that musician. She talked
some sense into me and I started eating three healthy meals a
day and a snack after school.
The problem with this was
that my body wasn’t used to the sudden increase in calories,
and in three weeks I gained some weight.

My parents flipped out and said, ‘No one will marry a fat
girl.’ They put me on a higher-calorie diet for six months
and then tried to change it, but I was so used to it that I
stayed on until I moved out. Now, I’m a 5’3″, 120-pound man
with a beautiful husband and amazing, accepting in-laws that
gladly took me in as their own family when my parents
disowned me.”

—Spencer

6. “My ‘slim’ frame is too scrawny for
men’s societal expectations, but it isn’t skinny enough for
my own.”

“I’ve had an undiagnosed eating disorder since I was 14. My
coworkers, especially the other men, give me crap about
needing to bulk up for my wife, but that’s as far as any
conversation about my eating habits or weight ever go. My
‘slim’ frame is too scrawny for men’s societal expectations,
but it isn’t skinny enough for my own. It amazes and saddens
me that I’ve been able to get away with this behavior for so
long.

—Jay

7. “Admitting it to myself was
horrible. Saying the word made me sick. I was stuck inside of
my own mind, guilt and shame ate me alive, and it felt like I
was completely alone with this feeling.”

“I didn’t even realize I had an eating disorder for a while.
I had myself convinced it was just a phase and I could
stop whenever I wanted, but when it got to the point of
binging and purging multiple times a day, and hiding food in
my room, I finally realized I was bulimic.
Admitting it
to myself was horrible. Saying the word made me sick. I was
stuck inside of my own mind, guilt and shame ate me alive,
and it felt like I was completely alone with this feeling.”

—Anonymous

8. “I was so obsessed with fitting into
what I thought was expected of a slightly more feminine gay
man.”

“I’m a gay man living in New York City. When I went to high
school in Manhattan, I had just come out. It was scary and
incredibly stressful. I was so obsessed with fitting into
what I thought was expected of a slightly more feminine gay
man. I started purging and using drugs to suppress my
appetite. It finally came down to me using heroin, mostly to
not withdraw, but also to maintain my weight.
I’ve been
sober a few years now and still get very self-conscious, but
have definitely learned to live a better life.”

—Robert

9. “I took a scale test in some health
book (later proven to be a scam) and it told me I was on the
verge of obesity. I started dieting the same day.”

Hokyoung Kim for BuzzFeed News

“I hit puberty at 11 years old and I immediately gained a
lot of weight. At 16, my friends would mock me for having
man boobs, which made me quit swimming. I took a scale
test in some health book (later proven to be a scam) and
it told me I was on the verge of obesity. I started
dieting the same day. Being young and ill-informed, by
version of dieting was mainly depravation.

Once it became obvious that I was not OK (I was pale,
always dizzy, and sleepy), my family started pushing me
to eat more and my mother began to oversee my every meal
to make sure I was well-fed. I hated her for this and
hated myself for the great sin of actually eating. I
purged for nine years. In return, I lost my hair, three
teeth, and ended up with a permanent sore throat.
Sometimes I coughed blood.

Last year I managed to stop purging, but to this day,
I am still afraid of food. I can’t recall the last time I
enjoyed a meal, and I am still embarrassed by my
body.
Whenever I look in the mirror, a voice in my
head repeats the words ‘fat’ or ‘lard.’ I am 28 and I’m
exhausted. Even though I’ve been a gym regular for seven
years, I am still unable to add any muscle mass because
of my bad nutrition. Oh, and I still don’t swim.”

—Tariq

10. “The toughest moment was opening up
to my girlfriend — mostly because it was embarrassing being a
25-year-old guy with what people tend to see as a girl’s
disorder.”

“After I came to terms with what was going on, the toughest
moment was opening up to my girlfriend — mostly because it
was embarrassing being a 25-year-old guy with what people
tend to see as a girl’s disorder. It just adds more stress
to deal with something and also have to hide it every day for
the sake of seeming both ‘manly’ and ‘not crazy.’
It took
months to figure out when and how to tell her.

Now that it was personal, she also seemed to change how she
talked (and joked) about things like body image, gender, and
stereotypes. We’re married now, and I’ve been getting help
for a couple of years. And although we rarely talk about it,
knowing she’s there for me with no judgement keeps me going.”

—Anonymous

11. “It seems I jump from one disorder
to another regardless of where my life goes.”

“I’m a binge eater, especially when I’m depressed. Simple as
that. I would rather eat than cry. Spending the last
decade to build an emotional wall around me caused me to turn
to food as a means of comfort. As a young boy, though, I was
the opposite. Being called a fatty at a young age made me
bulimic at 11, I was scrawny and weak and had no energy.

It seems I jump from one disorder to another regardless of
where my life goes. It’s just the kind of attitude that
utilizes food to fit my emotional needs no matter what they
are.”

—Marv

12. “It makes me sad and no one really
understands that part.”

“I turned 28 today and I have had an eating disorder since I
was 13. I can’t even enjoy popcorn at the movies without
the feeling like throwing up because I’ve destroyed my
digestive system.
It makes me sad and no one really
understands that part.”

—Andy

13. “I feel like I’m unfairly cheating
the system when I talk to girls with eating
disorders.”

“I feel like I’m unfairly cheating the system when I talk to
girls with eating disorders. I’ve been able to maintain an
abnormally low weight and restrict my diet because teenage
boys are supposed to be skinny… ‘Oh, he’s just a picky
eater.’ I wish someone would reach out and ask, ‘Hey, are
you okay?’ I’d probably break down in their arms right then
and there.

—Anonymous

14. “When I showed up at the hospital, I
was covered in sweat, my eyes were bloodshot, and I was in
fetal position with a distended abdomen.”

For about two years I had been cutting calories and
restricting and purging. I had been to the ER twice before,
but during my freshman year of college, I was taken for the
third time. I was in the shower and I bent down to grab my
shampoo when I started dry heaving. I tried to stand back up
but my entire body felt like it was cramping. I crawled out
and my roommate called 911.

When I showed up at the hospital, I was covered in sweat, my
eyes were bloodshot, and I was in fetal position with a
distended abdomen. My heart felt like it was being torn in
half and my beats per minute were incredibly low. They had me
on an IV drip with potassium, which was on of the most
painful experiences of my life. One of the nurses suggested I
eat — possibly one of the worst things she could’ve said to
someone in my situation. I had gotten to the point where
my stomach was so small that even a bagel hurt to have inside
me. My teeth were weak, my hair was falling out, and my nails
were dented and scratched.
I couldn’t ‘just eat.’

When I was finally ready for treatment (about a month later),
I wanted to be in a facility. But so many of them are
women-only. It’s really great that they have these spaces for
women to get better and focus on themselves, but honestly,
I’m not sure how separating the genders helps anyone. We’re
all there for the same reason.
Ultimately, I had to put
together my own team of a doctor specializing in EDs/drug
addiction recovery, an ED specialist (therapist), a general
therapist, and a registered dietitian/nutritionist. It was
really a tough time, and 13 months later it continues to be a
struggle to feel as healthy as I once was. It gets easier
every day, thanks to the support of my family, friends, and
doctors, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

— Aleckxi

15. “I played football all throughout
high school, so I was athletic and in decent shape. Not
ripped or anything, but not unhealthy. For my girlfriend at
the time, that wasn’t OK.”

Hokyoung Kim for BuzzFeed News

“I played football all throughout high school, so I was
athletic and in decent shape. Not ripped or anything, but
not unhealthy. For my girlfriend at the time, that wasn’t
OK. It began slowly at first, with her pointing out
how other guys on the team were so jacked and that their
girlfriends got to brag about it. Wanting to be a good
boyfriend, I starting working out more, eating better. I
was making gradual progress, but it wasn’t good enough
for her.

She had a history of berating me — calling me an idiot
and putting me down at every chance for two years by that
point. So when she called me fat and disappointing, I was
already broken. I didn’t break up with her, I didn’t get
help. I worked out constantly. Every extra second I had,
I was working out. And I stopped eating entirely.
She
had convinced me that I was unhealthy, and threatened to
leave me every time I broke down and nearly started
eating again. Guys can’t be anorexic, right? And
certainly not a football player. So when I passed out in
the middle of class, that’s what I told myself. That’s
what I told my best friend when he came and visited me in
the hospital. He was the one who convinced me to get
help. He learned about my toxic relationship — something
my parents and my other friends completely ignored
because ‘guys don’t get abused.’

I got the help I needed, That relationship has been over
for three years, and I’m happy to say that I’m in a
healthy one now.”

—Sam

16. “Are there times when I eat too
much, maybe even to the point where it’s considered a binge?
Yes. But they are few and far between, and I know that there
is so much more to life than what I put in my
stomach.”

“For me, the biggest problem was the initial positive
feedback. I had always been a little overweight, and when I
began eating more health-consciously, it worked, and I began
to slim down. People noticed, and their compliments became
an addiction. I loved hearing things like, ‘Have you lost
weight?’ and ‘You look great now!’ So much so that I strove
to continue to change my appearance. I told myself that what
I was doing was healthy, and for my own good.
I wasn’t
skipping meals, so my parents weren’t too concerned. However,
my obsessive exercising and calorie counting led to far less
caloric consumption then what I needed as a 16-year-old
teenage boy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my
habits began impacting my entire life. My workouts, which had
started out as something completely positive for my body and
mind, became a war with my body to burn as many calories as I
could.
Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I
had a problem, but that didn’t change my habits much. I told
people that I was trying to gain weight, but I was so
concerned that I would gain it all as fat that I really was
not trying at all.

Then the binging began. There were nights when I would come
home and, with the rest of the family asleep, I’d eat
everything in sight, especially the foods that I had so
religiously denied in previous years. After every binge, I
would break down into tears, hating myself for what I had
just done. More often than not, my crying would wake a
parent, who would try and console me, telling me that it was
probably just my body trying to gain back what it had lost.
It wasn’t until I got professional help that I realized they
were mostly right. Thanks to their love and support, I can
happily say that I made a near-full recovery. Are there times
when I eat too much, maybe even to the point where it’s
considered a binge? Yes. But they are few and far between,
and I know that there is so much more to life than what I put
in my stomach.

—Jacob

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