Bulimia: Bringing Up Another Touchy Subject…


When one thinks of bulimia, most people associate the female gender with this disorder. Of course, bulimia is not gender specific. But, given the nature of this disorder and that gay men tend to be more concerned with self-image and appearance than the typical straight guy, they are more likely to be susceptible to it. 

1998 was a year of great change in my life. I had been living in Canada for 5 years, and had never lived anywhere other than with my parents and brothers. That year, my parents decided that they were going to move back to South Africa. I was in the middle of my degree, and decided that I should stay and finish it. Both my brothers went back with my parents. I moved into an apartment by myself and was alone for the first time. I don’t really remember specifically what the trigger was: it was probably a combination of factors. But, I became obsessed with my body and what I ate. 

I had been active and health-conscious since I moved to Canada, but I was never particularly aware of or concerned about what my body looked like or how I was perceived physically by other people. Then, a “trigger” caused an obsession with my body and an an unrelenting desire to attain the unattainable: a “perfect” body. I would spend 3 hours at the gym almost every day, count every single calorie I ate, and meticulously keep track of it all in a spreadsheet. Of course, when we deprive ourselves completely of that which we crave the most, it only amplifies the desire for it. Eventually, I started to binge eat and then purge afterward, out of fear for what all those extra calories would do in my quest for the perfect body. I was even ritualistic about my binging and purging: ice cream and cookie dough were my staples. They went down easy and came up even easier. I would eat litres of ice cream and cookie dough by the tube and then barf it all up. To this day, I can still vomit on cue (neat party trick but please don’t ask for a demonstration). I consider myself a somewhat intelligent and logical person, so, why I would do this on a weekly basis doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It truly is a disorder that requires professional help. 

After many months, I finally got the help I needed and got it under control. I still have moments of weakness, but they are sporadic enough for me not to worry too much. I guess my point is to make people understand that it can happen to anyone. And, if you’re doing it and ignoring it, you need to get help- you can’t do it alone! A lot of you that know me personally are probably thinking that you have offended me by making jokes about bulimia or throwing up to get skinny. Not to worry, I’ve heard them so many times that it’s like water off a duck’s back. But, maybe we should all think a little more carefully about poking fun at something very serious. You never know who might be suffering in silence. And, I promise to write something a little more cheery next time 🙂

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  • Thanks for posting this Jamie…

    I appreciate your take on the situation, and the fact that you put your own personal experience out there. What scares me the most, is when our friends creep a facebook profile of a “sandwich” and more often than not the first thing out of someone’s mouth is “How’s his body??” And even an ‘average’ body will get a snicker (a la Susan Boyle’s audience.)

    Nothing pisses me off more, and to be honest, I’ve been known to be one of those people.

    Time to wake up! Thanks Jamie

  • Gay and Average baby…we’re the strongest of all the breeds of gay!

    And yet, I still strive for a flatter stomach and to lose my face chub…sigh.

  • Gay and average indeed…we should print T-shirts Tommy and wear them with pride! I’m not ashamed to be in that club 🙂

  • Unfortunately the reality is it’s part of human nature. Our society puts such a high premium on youth, beauty & perfection. The trick is to finding that balance where you are happy with yourself and realistic as to what you can achieve…specially with body type. I have accepted the fact that I will never be that super muscular beefy guy…I’m just not built that way.

  • mmm, It can’t both be human nature & society. Social constructs, like needing to have a good body, are manufactured over time. There are many different cultures where plumpness = healthy = beautiful.

  • Dude

    Thanks for being brave enough to post this. I used to have the same problem and there is a lot of stigma for men with bulimia as it is associated with a girls disease. For the people who haven’t suffered this, it’s a weird satisfaction of control one has when feeling low about their life – at least for me. Furthermore, it actually does work to reduce weight so in that regard it was great. However I saw a show where some girls teeth got all sick from it, and since I’m vein enough to puke up my food, realizing my esophagus and teeth could get permafucked was a catalyst to me quitting. Running is also a good replacement – or the alternative being happy with oneself (but then who wants to lose ambition 😉

  • todd

    How can we sit here and let this disease kill our friends and family? I have already lost someone to this mess and I pray that people become more aware of this disorder.


  • Well said Topher, I agree that these body image diseases are all a by-product of our culture and ingrained and socialized in us from a young age. Jamie, thanks for sharing.

  • Hi, Interesting, I`ll quote it on my site later.
    Have a nice day

  • Riley

    I had no idea. I related to your post a lot. For me, it was the year 2000. More starving myself than throwing up. Again, it was the quest for the perfect body and the need to regain control of my crazy life. 8 years ago I was the same height I am now (6’0″) and over fifty pounds skinnier. I ended up at the eating disorder clinic at St. Paul’s. People do not understand until they go through an eating disorder what it is like. Nobody chooses to have an eating disorder it is a subtle thing that creeps in. In fact, I was probably the last to know that I had one. I didn’t even realize I had stopped allowing myself to be photographed. You’re right, it is not just women to experience this illness.

  • summer

    this article and comments are exactly why i love this site. you boys are brave, honest and well-meaning enough to put yourselves out there for the benefit of others, with some extremely personal (and difficult to revisit) topics.

    we appreciate it :o) :o)

  • Anthony

    I completely get you… I was 90lbs heavier about 2 years ago… Even still, that I’m tipping the scales at 170lbs, I still find myself incredibly self-conscious. When I watched shows when I was younger I would see these gay men, gay teens etc, going through these various scenarios and I always thought “Well, at least they’re thin”,

    Honestly, I have binged and purged before.. I always felt incredibly embarrassed after… I have starved myself… it never was steady.

    Eventually I smartened up and just watched what I ate..and this will sound ridiculous, but I kind of took up smoking (so juvenile, but it helped my appetite)… I’m not completely happy with my body, but bulimia/starving are never the way to go… again, who I am to really talk though :S.

    Gay men are so forgotten in the eating disorder world. Women are hit so hard but I know that gay men are hit just as hard. We have this adonis standard people expect us to be and most aren’t.

    I don’t even care for the adonis, I just want to be flat haha. That was always my goal.

    So when I see Will & Grace, Queer as Folk etc, mock any man who isn’t in absolutely perfect shape I cringe. I grew up watching these shows and seeing that I was so disgusting to other gay men. It’s a bad state to be in.