My Battle With Bulimia

I  read a story that brought back unpleasant memories. The article was entitled “Too Fat Teen Model Spotlights Fashions Dark Side” You can read the article here.

The article addresses the pressures to be thin. It also speaks to the anorexia and bulimia “epidemic” in the fashion industry.  The most famous tragedy being Anna Caroline Reston who died at the age of 21 from multiple organ failure secondary to anorexia nervosa.  Anna weighed 88 lbs at the time of her death. You can read her story here.

The article was disturbing not only for the mindless tragedy of it all but because I could identify with it.  I can not identity with the pressures in the fashion industry, or being a ‘too fat teen model’ or just a teen model.  I am about as far in looks and in age as you can get from that.  I can however identify with all the adolescent pressures and fears.  Pressures and fears that lead to being obsessed with your body to the point of self destruction.

How can I identify with this?   I struggled with the eating disorder of bulimia. I was not a model. I was just your average kid trying to fit in.  I was a long distance runner as well.  I would run 10-20 miles daily then down a big bag of peanut M&Ms.  I would then head straight to my next best friend, the toilet, to puke it all up.  This behavior was repeated with pizza, fast food etc.   No matter how much weight I lost or how thin I became,  I always saw the same person in the mirror.  It was some beastly kid who still needed to drop a few lbs.  In the span of one year I went from about 270 lbs to 165 lbs at 6’2.  As appealing as that may seem to some, it was a brutal, almost deadly ride that I would not wish on my worst enemy.

I told absolutely no one. I had no one to lean on. I had no support system.

The majority of those who suffer from the disease tell no one.  Eating disorders are some of the most under-reported diseases out there.   Many die of the disease because it goes untreated.  It was difficult for me on another level because it was and still is primarily a female eating disorder.  Males who suffer from it are significantly less likely to seek help due to the stigma. It is estimated that about 10 percent of those reporting eating disorders are male and that number has been climbing rapidly.

You can find a good source for information about eating disorders here.

A Very Inspirational Video Of Matthew Schmoker-worth watching!

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Senior Vice President American Program Bureau  617 614 1642


20 Responses

  1. Wow, I never connected this with males and I don’t know why I always assumed it was just females. Once again Brian, you have overcome a big addiction or non-addiction if you will. I hope there is someone who will read this and change their habits. Of all of my bad traits and tendencies, food is definately NOT one of them. Thanks for bringing this to light and I hope it helps someone else.

  2. Brian reading this about you made me tear up a bit. I could really feel the loneliness you must’ve felt in the 80’s with this. Nice analogy about the cross dressing pimp. Definitely glad it’s not an issue anymore.
    Nature has so far given a fast metabolism for better or worse, but around finals I get by on less than one meal a day for about two weeks. I just got over that and am having a hard time getting back on a normal eating schedule. Part of the reason I threw a party this past saturday had to do with not being anorexic anymore. My friends have to have an intervention every finals week of every semester. It’s embarassing but I just really have no desire to eat because of the pressure to do well. All I want to do is study. Don’t know if that counts…

  3. Great blog. 5 Bands you must listen to before you die: The cure The Smiths The mission UK The fields of the nephilim The automatic Keep up the good work.

  4. I can definitely relate. I struggled with Anorexia Nervosa in high school and my early college years, and my sister struggled with it as well for 8 years. This is definitely an increasing problem in our society. You’re absolutely right that most sufferers don’t tell anyone. The obsessions over food and calories becomes all-consuming and it shields you from the real world. For many it is much easier to hide in numbers and calories than to face their actual emotions or life events that they’re experiencing. The longer the behavior lasts, the harder it is to break. For some the eating disorder becomes their identity. And unfortunately treatment, especially hospitalization and inpatient treatment, for eating disorders is extremely expensive, so many people are treated for the period of time that their insurance company will allow and are then returned to the world, only to regress to old habits. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope more males continue to step forward to share their stories.

  5. In the short time I have been reading your offerings, I would not have guessed that not only this was part of your past, but that you would be so forthright in speaking about it.

    While I can not imagine what you have gone through, I have genuine respect for anyone who approaches such issues with so much authenticity and honesty.

    Bravo, Brian.

    Michael M.s last blog post..Fronte di Verdure!

  6. I just have this to say. I understand the pressures to “look appealing”, but going into starvation mode is just a typical response in our “quick fix” society. To become healthy, shed fat, and have a fit body requires A LOT of effort, focus, time, and most importantly PATIENCE. Running, eating (eating C O R R E C T L Y), lifting weights etc. Eating disorders are very strange, but I would blame our “quick fix” society more than I would the “ideal” images that are supposedly implanted in our brains. I’m sorry, but blaming society for the mental delusions people come up with is ridiculous. Why doesn’t this happen to anyone if that’s the case?

  7. I can certainly relate to this. I was brutally teased through all of 5th grade and it was in 6th grade that I decided to cut calories and exercise. And then I realized that if I cut almost all the calories and exercised through all of my free time, all the weight would go. I was my height now, 5’4″ and 85 pounds. At most I would eat a slice of toast and a tomato. I even remember counting raisins. It wasn’t until people started asking me if I was dying, or if I had cancer, that I finally began to see what I was doing to myself.

    It’s great that males share their experiences, because I think too often women are targeted as being anorexic, or bulimic. It’s not really associated with men. That was a very inspirational video, thank you for sharing it.

  8. GREAT Eating Disorder article!!
    clarified you CAN be male and heterosexual male and still have eating disorder. It’s tied up with possible criticism of my artwork, my paintings, things that felt genuine and REAL to me. MY stuff, my creativity. That stuff is identity, a lot of eating disorders are tied in iwth identity so envisioning your artwork and moving forward with that creates clarity and focus!! Other factors for me could be Guilt and depression mood swings of not being around people.
    I hid from MYSELF that I had an issue with this. I did running events which honestly are great for cardio and health but are TERRIBLE for eating balance. To be fast, you can’t be a “healthy weight”. All the fast runners were lean, mean, and looked anorexic, they looked like skeletons. Running was okay. It relieved stress, kept cardio, but I really think it contributed to my interspersed, sporadic bulima/anorexia. It was always only for a few days 3 days or so maybe once a month every few months, so it never seemed to big of a problem. Me not being “homosexual” or “female” also contributed to the false belief that the problem didn’t exist. I realized it was primiarly driven by a lot of identity factors. Being interested in a few fields like painting or dance that were eclipsed by computer and “business work”. Acting’s my thing, the identity is forming. Also strangely I think “money” was wound up in there. Earning money for a profession-hobby-pursuit is a form of validation of that activity.

    Other Side effects are Excessive overheating and temperature problems.
    Fast and irregular heartrate — caused by increased weight gain.
    Hormonal imbalances
    Nutritional imbalacnes

    Your body should be a biological scientific mechanism for the soul and mind. barfing and eating causes massive problemas..

    DAMN I feel REALLY Great! Listening to my recordings and tony robbins did hte trick. I’m aware of identity, tying back in Junior year, which I had to put on pause to TRY EVERYTHING ELSE OUT (accounting, english, computers, psychology, anthro, running, etc. etc) crap I SUCKED at naturally ( I taught myself to be good in those areas of sorts and I AM good in some of those areas, but REALLy I stay most focused with clarity and focus and need art, too and science balances that. I don’t want ot eliminate anything that keeps me in balance), so I could finally get back to PASSION to what could truly make me successful. Ironically the stuff that my biological family condemned nad “hid”. I have anger at them for that because I feel like they were what? Trying to prevent me from experiencing success which would lead to financial independence b/c they wnated me to stay financially bound to them?

    Other alternative perceptions are: they were scared by all my painting, acting, poetry, and art — being primarily a “business biofam”??

    I don’t like having anger towards that. But there’s still a lot of confusion wound up with me painting furniture, acting, learnign dance (ballet, modern) for the play.

    The painting was ridiculed by my father. He called it shit and said things like “oh you aren’t going to start painting again are you?”

    But then what about all my websites? What about my other writing? What about my other projects I’ve poured time into? He doesn’t comment on those. Other people loved my artwork.

    This was all very confusing because I thought that my bio-fam was unintentionally or intentionally signalling out keying out, identifying thigns that I could uniquely be successful with, and condemning them.

    It’s hard to believe they would do that on purpose. They could have just thought my art was junk in their eyes (they painted over most of it).

    I don’t want to have anger towards my parents because they’ve supported me financially and in many other ways. It’s just BEWILDERING and INTRIGUING why, if they’re SOOOO supportive of so many things, WHY were they so critical of painting, acting, poetry work? They had ZERO comments on those things. Here are some ideas of what their motive could be:

    They aren’t interested or can’t relate to poetry, acting, dance, art.
    They recognize those as making me successful and feared me leaving upon achieving success, so they wanted to sabotage that pursuit.
    They want me to be like them and poetry, art, acting isn’t them.
    They’re scared by poetry, art, dance, and acting because it’s so unfamiliar to them.
    The negatively emotionally anchored many outbursts, and disagreements to “art, acting, poetry” when really those had nothing to do with outbusrst or disagreement. Those were cathartic and expressive.

    Don’t you think it’s worth investigating WHY my parents were so critical of that? It’s worth investigating because my parents ARE so SOOOOOO supportive of SOOOO many things!! IF they were generally critical people, then them criticizing art, poetry, etc. wouldn’t be a big deal because that would be normal for them, but this was a HUGE aberration. My parents being critical of ANYTHING means something is up because that’s an aberration.

    I automatically assumed that I was “wrong” that poetry, art, acting, etc was “bad” and should be done. But being around fellow artists, I realize how valuable and incredible such art is and it’s encouraged. So now I know that’s right, and am REALLy perplexed at why my parents preached such an opposite message.

    What do you think?

  9. I can fully identify with this. I am a 44yr old male who eats all I want and i dont puke it up but i’m still skinny. So much so that as I write this I’m only a hundred pounds @ 5foot 9inches. I dont see a healthy man in the mirror just a stick man. There is NO help for people like me. I’m resigned to wasting away alone. I suffer from no diseases HIV/AIDS included which is what people assume. This is killing me and I’ve no one to ask for help because no help exists. I’m just gonna die i guess. On the upside it will only take my brother to carry my casket.

  10. Hey — I was anorexic (5′ 10″ and 115 lbs) at university. I thought — after my mom died of cancer — that food was going to kill me. No fat, salt, coffee, alcohol, sugar and I sure lost a lot of weight. I only got “healthy” after I realized that a vegan diet could be healthy — gained about 50 lbs back in a year or so….

    Our relationship with food, in this age of (Omnivore’s) Dilemma, is messed up. Although the fat people certainly have got issues, the hyper skinny people do as well. Food is good, don’t screw it up with loaded psychological issues.

  11. I feel like blips of Schmoker’s message and experiences have happened to me. My HR has been 40 bpm after mexico. I’ve been wired up to hospital machiens. I once weight 135 at 6 feet I droped 30 pounds in a few months once. I was interested in proving to people. Etc. Of course it wasn’t as extreme as schmokers, but he was telling a bit of my sotry, too.

  12. The internet also allows people with eating disorders to group together for support and to further their disease. I have been part of private communities that were primarily pro-ana where the praise of the disease is the foundation. A tool for people with the strength to control their will and compete to push the limits of their bodies. Congratulating one another as the continue to shed the pounds, which the body is so desperately clinging to. These groups emerge in many of the social networking sites that are build for people to gather around common interest.

    I find this all very interesting as a former purging anorexic and being male as well. Maybe when I'm older I will find better coping mechanisms, but still now I struggle to fight that banshee screeching in my mind to lose weight.

  13. I dabble in throwing up after I eat. I was unfortunetly forced to stop doing it at work because I was discovered by some co-workers. It’s hard to do it at home too for fear that my family will hear me.

    I genuinely wish I could throw-up after everytime I ate becasue I’m simply too weak to cut out eating all together. Your story and the story in the YouTube link all further make me determined to actually keep up this habit. I honostly see no negatives to it. Worse case scenerio is that I lose my life, which is fine. With the excpetion of my mother no one will miss me and I wouldn’t have to deal with being an overweight 27 year old still living at home with no chances of a decent love life or career.

    I can only pray (though thats hard as I don’t believe in god) that I can find the will to vomit more.

    This may sound like some sort of trolling or joke, but I’m being dead serious. Truly, I am envious of those who had the will power to loose weight like this.

  14. How can you not enjoy a cheeseburger or some suicide wings? Hard work (exercise) and determination over a long period of time coupled with eating (non-barfing it up after, thats cheating ur body out of nutriens) is the only way to improve your physical stature while boosting your strength, immune system, and confidence. Eating disorders are rooted in your MIND. Its about mind over body. If you don’w understand what I’m saying then you probably never will. Fix your head and fix your body, you can’t have them seperately.

  15. Thanks for sharing this part of your past, Brian. My mother’s close friend lost her daughter from anorexia many years ago, and I know it was quite painful. These are quite difficult disorders and few understand the pain it causes family members as well. Kudos to you for getting past this and for sharing it.

  16. (This is a reply to Chris)

    Hello. MY name is Regina.
    I have had bulimia since I was 12 years old. That was 20 years ago.
    I am writing this to tell everyone that bulimia is not a solution to any problem, it is a horrible addiction that will rob you of your life.
    To the young man who said he didn’t care about dying, please don’t be so flippant about your life. You may be 27, living at home, with, what you believe, is no hope for your future, but you are just not thinking clearly right now.
    I was like that my self until I actually almost died for real.
    It is very scary to be very sick and near death. It is an awful feeling to feel so helpless and out of control.
    However, I know exactly how it feels to not care about dying. When I was in my early teens I was actually using bulimia to try to commit a slow suicide. I didn’t care at all about living, and was actually angered by anyone who tried to get me to stop or help me. I was trying very hard to make my self as sick as possible so that I would die. One night I fell on the living room floor and starting having convulsions, and my mother said she was going to call for an ambulance, and I remember trying to yell out “NO, just let me die!”
    I was angry that she wanted to save my life because I truly wanted to die. I went on after that, back and forth to the hospital, eating disorder clinics, counselors, etcetera. But I never actually wanted to get well, so nothing helped me get over it.
    I couldn’t go to school, so my dream of becoming an artist, or having any career, never came to fruition.
    I always thought of bulimia as kind of a friend to me. The only comfort I had in this world.
    It kept me thinner than most other girls, and I felt like that was the one thing I had going for me.
    But after I started to get a little older, and start thinking a little bit clearer, I realized that I actually do want to live and have a decent life.
    But, as a result of years of bulimia I started to see the effects it had on health. My teeth, digestive system, skin, hair, and my whole life have been totally wrecked by bulimia. I have lost so much of my life to it.and it is such and ungodly waste of time and money.
    Your relationships will suffer, you will have a hard time working and staying employed, you won’t think clearly and you will act strangely. You will waste massive amounts of your money on this disease, and you will do things for food that you will be ashamed of later. Addictions make people act like monsters, no matter what the addiction, you are not acting like you self because the addiction has so much control over you.
    And also, it will cause you major dental problems. Vomit literally eats away at your teeth enamel and causes terrible problems. And fixing dental problems is very expensive. I had to have most of my teeth in the front or my mouth veneered and now they are crowned. But I worry everyday that the crowns will come loose and I won’t have the money to get the replaced. It is really scary to think of having no teeth, or that they might break off.

    I know that you act as if you don’t care about your life, but if you really think about it, you know that isn’t the truth. You just want a happy life, a good life, comfort, peace and joy. A life with bulimia is not the answer.
    When I was younger, I held on so tightly to this awful bulimia because I thought it was what I wanted.
    But now I wish I could just be free from it and have a normal life.
    Please don’t give your life away to this awful thing.
    Please, if you are unhappy with your weight try to find a different way to control it. Develop a love for a sport or exercising. Let being the picture of health be your ultimate goal. To be toned, trim and full of energy, not sickly and unhealthy.
    I myself want to try to become a vegan to try to control my problems with food. And get into exercise and maybe running or walking. I love the outdoors, I love animals, and a vegan diet seems healthier to me than a meat based diet, lower in calories, and lets be honest, you don’t see a lot of fat vegan’s.

    I know this is long, and you probably think I am very silly for writing all this. But I am only trying to convince you that this is not something you want for your life.
    Sorry if this is rambling, I just have so much to say.
    I truly just want to be helpful. I really don’t want anyone to get trapped by this eating disorder or any other addiction.

  17. i've always had some psychologycal problem related to food.. well at least since i was a a puber.. it first started out like a binge eating disorder..but i didnt like to feel so full to the point of feeling sick..

    so i decided to go for bulimia.. and it was kind of realifing but painful..and the acid hurt my throat ..

    so i decided it would be better to control calories..and there began my anorexia..i became an obssessed with calories girls, always counting them.. i never saw myself as sick , i felt so in control,i saw myself not fat but to me there was always a littl e to lose although i was a walking skeleton..

    it was a grat struggle.. until i started eating ..

    and now i have bulimia again.. it's so painful and fruistrating not being able to feel that im in control.. it sucks..and although it doesnt hurt anymore cause somehow i manage to keep the food somewhere above my stomack witing to be expelled..without any acid.. its not the way i wanna live!!

    i wish noone these issues.. its the worst thing ever.. and although i respect however anyone wants to live i do not recommend it …

  18. I have been attempting to lose weight for months. Pills, diets, programs… nothing proved helpful! At the end I awakened to the fact that I had to change my eating routine and sweat. I’m losing a lb every week by eating 500 calories less than I burn on a daily basis 🙂

  19. this is terrible!!! i used to have an eating disorder, only temporarily, but it was definitly NOT NOT NOT fun. this is when i weighed 85 lbs,was "skinny as hell", and didnt have a brain. thank goodness i found it, cuz dealing with anorexia felt anything but good. and im only 14!

  20. I know that in wrestling there is a lot of pressure for boys to lose a lot of weight in a sort amount of time, which leads some to eating disorders.

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