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 :)