Montana teen explains why it was hard to believe he was anorexic
Zach Schermele lived the typical life you would expect of a boy growing up in Montana. As he describes it, Zach “grew up in a household with no short supply of hunter’s orange, Sunday night football, and diesel trucks.
He was also harboring a secret. Zach Schermele was living with anorexia nervosa.
“I am a stereotypical teenage boy from Montana – and a survivor of anorexia nervosa,” he says.
Out of all forms of eating disorders, anorexia is perhaps the most stereotyped, and it is certainly one of the most stigmatized mental health issues in the world. Many believe anorexia is a “straight white girl problem” or a “gay man’s disorder.”
When we imagine people living with anorexia, we almost always envision skeletally thin young women and waifish gay men, suggesting that anorexia develops out of vanity or an obsession with appearance.
There is some statistical evidence to back this assumption. Of the 30 million Americans living with an eating disorder, approximately two-thirds are believed to be women. Additionally, research has shown that gay men are significantly more likely to develop an eating disorder.
However, that does not mean eating disorders limit themselves to these demographics.
Time and time again, it has been shown that eating disorders affect people of all races and genders. Even more, there is strong evidence that the rates of eating disorders among men are vastly misrepresented because of the stigma of being a man with an eating disorder.
In Schermele’s case, the teen couldn’t fathom that he could have an eating disorder. Even when undergoing treatment, Zach denied that it could be possible.
“Only girls are anorexic,” he used to say to himself.
Of course, no amount of denial would make that true. Zach would continue to spiral downwards until he was close to death.
He would eventually come to terms with his disorder and undergo months of intensive outpatient therapy.
Now, Zach is dedicating himself to raising awareness of eating disorder among men and the unique ways men may respond to these issues. He has become the only male national ambassador for Project HEAL, the largest eating disorder nonprofit in America.
As part of this position, Zach Schermele shared his experiences in his own words in the Great Falls Tribune – one of the largest news sources in Montana.