What One Eating Disorder Survivor Wishes Other Men Knew
More than 10 million men in the United States will experience an eating disorder during their lifetime. Unfortunately, stigma prevents 90% of these men from ever seeking help for their illness. Instead, they frequently hide their eating disorders out of fear of being labeled “effeminate” or “weak.”
Additionally, many who live with eating disorders fail to realize the severity of their condition until they have become severely emaciated.
Eating disorder survivor Jonathan Smith fit both of these categories. Smith struggled with anorexia, restrictive eating, and compulsive exercise for much of his life. Now, having recovered, he is sharing his experiences in hopes that men with eating disorders will discover they aren’t alone and there is no shame in needing help.
Like many who struggle with anorexia or other eating disorders, Smith’s dangerous behaviors appeared at an early age. After facing ridicule
and bullying, Smith tells Medical Daily that he began removing foods from his diet to lose weight at just 10-years-old. He was regularly teased because of his weight and struggled with body image. By the age of 13, he began purging. After two years, Smith stopped purging – only to turn to over-exercising the lose weight. Throughout all this time, his list of “unsafe” foods continued to grow until he was only eating carrots, kale, or broccoli before or after running up to 30 miles.
“The miles I had to run also grew daily and even coughing up blood wasn’t enough to keep me from [my eating disorder],” Smith explains. “I couldn’t focus on anything other than calories, body fat, measurements, muscles, and miles.”
Finding Strength in Others
Smith’s condition continued to grow worse for years Feeling helpless, he turned to others to give him support.
“I had so many people that were hurting with me and for me as I was slipping further into my disorder,” he said. “Recognizing that made me work harder and continues to keep me motivated.”
Thankfully, this led Smith to seek treatment from the Eating Recovery Center. He is lucky because ERC is one of only a few specialized eating disorder treatment centers in the country to provide treatment to male patients.
Dr. Michael Lutter, a psychiatrist at ERC, told Medical Daily “Many eating disorder programs won’t even accept male patients, because they feel it upsets their female clients or is not worth the investment in treatments.
With time, Smith learned to develop a healthier relationship with eating, but he still struggles with many of the dangerous behaviors he developed earlier in his life. He still has issues with over-exercising and body image in pursuit of an “ideal, perfect body.”
“Especially being a gay man, I sometimes feel like I need to look a certain way to be found attractive or that being more muscular would make me happier,” he said. “It’s difficult to disengage from that narrative but I often have to remind myself that there is no ‘perfect body.’”
Asking For Help is Okay
Despite still struggling with the root causes of his eating disorder, Smith is thankful to have been able to recover as much as he has. He knows there are many men out there who aren’t as lucky.
“I wish men didn’t feel the need to be strong and emotionless, that they felt comfortable expressing body image issues and struggles with food,” Smith said. “I wish they knew they weren’t alone and that asking for help is okay.”
If you think you or someone you know may be living with binge eating disorder, give us a call at (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and find the right treatment plan for you.