Proud2Bme | It's Time to Listen: Men Struggle With Eating Disorders, Too

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It's Time to Listen: Men Struggle With Eating Disorders, Too

By Priscilla Bojorge--Eating disorders can affect anyone. I know this because a close male friend of mine from high school struggles with bulimia. I recently asked him if he felt comfortable speaking to me about his eating disorder, and he opened up about his story, under the condition that he remain anonymous throughout this piece.

The first question I asked him was about how it all started. He told me that he was a sophomore in high school when he developed bulimia nervosa, because he was trying to get fit for the high school wrestling team. At that age, he was fully aware that it was not healthy and could potentially kill him. But with the anxieties of school and pressure from his family, he couldn’t stop, because bulimia would make him feel “neutral, rather than hopeless.”

“I’ve never been a fan of my body so it was easy to fall into these shortcuts to lose a lot of weight really quickly,” he said. As an interviewer, I have only known these insecurities about my own body and the struggle through the eyes of a female, but I could not understand the insecurities of a teenage boy. But what I did understand was the necessity to be in shape for sports. I did soccer, track, tennis, and taekwondo in high school and I felt like I was never thin enough despite being so active.

What I also connected with when interviewing my friend was the pressure he felt from his family to be more attractive. Being a male with bulimia was incredibly difficult because he said that it felt like it couldn’t be an issue he was allowed to have. The fact that he was a male made him feel like no one cared that he was struggling. These negative thoughts led to his mental health deteriorating. At times, he would feel hopeless just because he felt like he couldn’t express his pain. Since no one cared, why should he care about himself? The fact that no one took his mental disorder seriously because he is male really surprised me. While bulimia is more prevalent amongst females, males also are affected, so someone not taking a man seriously over a mental disorder is very detrimental to their own personal recovery.

The final question I asked him was about the turning point that helped him stop. He replied, “I ended up stopping because I almost did die.” This was something I did not know about him. I’ve known him for a few years and never did I think that I was so close to losing him. This is what he said happened in his senior year of high school: “I had fainted in the bathroom and almost hit the back of my head on the tub. It was the only time I’ve ever fainted.” This scare was enough to get him thinking about getting better and looking for help.

He said that what helped him was coming to California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and getting involved with the university’s New Student Orientation program, TAKE, a stage performance of skits about issues that affect CSUN students. Through that program, he was able to create a space where he felt safe enough to open up about his eating disorder. He emphasized that he knows he is still in recovery: “Technically, I’m still in recovery because you don’t ever really just stop having an eating disorder.”

I asked him what advice he would give to people who know someone who might be dealing with an eating disorder. “I would only offer to listen and try to understand what they want and need," he said.

For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237.

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.