I’m sitting in a fast-food restaurant with enough food to feed a family. I’m going to eat the lot. My heart is pounding. I’m excited. In fact, I’m very excited.
I’ve been in a state of frenzy since I walked through the doors and the smell of oil and fat hit my nostrils. I know what I’m doing is going to hurt me, but I don’t care. I want to hurt. I want to eat until I’m stuffed. It’s a compulsion. I’m an addict scoring a fix.
I eat quickly, table manners forgotten. I wash it down with huge gulps of soda which helps it all come back up when I purge. For now, though, I just want to eat and eat until my body can take no more.
Like many men, I refused to accept I had an eating disorder for a long time. I have always enjoyed food, and my weight has yo-yoed over the years. I’m 35 now and have only really been comfortable using the word “bulimia” for a year or two.
I’m not alone — According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Conditions, up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S. — and an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. Among gay men, nearly 14% appeared to suffer from bulimia and over 20% appeared to be anorexic.
But men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.
And it's not just in the States — I'm British, and an estimated 180,000 men in the UK suffer from eating disorders. The full extent of the problem could be even higher because denial and stigma lead the statistics to understate the situation, although in 2011, the British Health Service reported a 66 percent increase in hospital admissions for men with eating disorders in England over the last decade.
I began purging what I ate when I was 16 as a useful means of keeping my weight down after a large meal. Since then it’s become an uncontrollable monster. When I get the urge to binge, nothing can satisfy me until I feel the walls of my stomach stretched almost to breaking point.
Purging is a necessary evil, almost a luxury that enables the binge to take place without affecting my waistline. In the moment of the purge, I feel a rush of satisfaction. I’ve beaten the system and gotten away with it — well done, me! Then I’m overcome by emptiness, regret and shame. Later, I get tired and crave sugary food. Sometimes I’ll have a smaller secondary binge and purge on chocolate.
It’s been my little secret for a long time, but I think it’s time men started talking about eating disorders. We need to fight macho stigmas that can ruin lives. Men like me need to be brave enough to speak out on the subject.
If you think you may have binge eating disorder, break the silence and get help. Call the National Eating Disorder Association's help line at 800-931-2237 to be connected to treatment options.
By Antony Harvey for The Mighty
More posts from The Mighty