I would never have said that I was skinny in my teenage years but I was your typical teenage front row rugby front row forward. I was always found on the rugby pitch training, playing for my school or playing for my club. Sadly, a neck and back injury put me out of action and I was unable to play anymore.
From this point onwards is where my eating habits began to spiral out of control, although I didn’t realise it for many years to come. I spent most of those years miserable and I tried every fad diet going to try and combat the weight I was gaining because of my frequent binge episodes.
was in my early twenties when I was finally diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder and I had no idea what it was or how it would be treated. All of the information that I could find was written for women and never mentioned anything to do with the things I felt were relevant to me. I felt embarrassed, confused, ashamed and emasculated which was not helped by most people who I came into contact with assuming I was a homosexual man when I mentioned my eating disorder. It was very difficult to approach the subject with my family and when I did tell them they weren’t 100% convinced that I was telling the truth. They didn’t realise I had a problem because I managed to hide it very well.
The biggest problem I encountered was often with G.P’s or practice nurses that I had to visit for various health reasons. I developed type II diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pains, kidney problems and liver problems to a certain degree. I would often be told that I was ‘morbidly obese’ and I had to change what I was eating and exercise more to get rid of my excessive weight. By this time my BMI was well into the 40% range and each time I mentioned my eating disorder it was completely dismissed. I felt so demoralised and stigmatised that I even asked my wife to sit in on the appointments with the medical professionals to verify my story was true. I used to eat a very healthy diet and stayed away from all of the fatty, sugary foods that were ‘bad’ for me and when I was binge eating it was these foods I was eating to excess.
It is a common misconception with Binge Eating Disorder that it is always junk foods that are used to binge on. For me it was things like dried crackers, cheese, baked beans etc. Far from the crisps, biscuits and chocolates that the medical professionals assumed I was eating to excess. It didn’t matter what I said to them I was always in the wrong and I was always lying about what I ate.
Being stigmatised about my weight and my ‘lack of willpower’ affected my everyday life. I spent most of my time locked in the house feeling like I couldn’t venture out because I was so grossly overweight. When I did venture out I would often get people laughing at me and making sly comments like ‘who ate all the pies’ and being called a ‘beached whale’ when I did try and go to the swimming baths to get some exercise. This fed into my binge eating disorder’s destructive cycle and made things worse.
I am supporting Men Get Eating Disorders Too charity in the UK and also the Binge Eating Disorder Awareness group in the USA to try and raise awareness of the detrimental effects of weight stigma on people during Weight Stigma Awareness Week (September 23rd – 27th.)