Most often eating disorders are associated with women. But men struggle with the same body issues. Research shows that between 5 and 12 percent of the male population has bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by vomiting, abusing laxatives, enemas, starving, over-exercising or diuretics.
Because it’s considered a female issue there isn’t much acknowledgement of male bulimia, but Dave McKenzie of Rogersville, Tennessee and Bo Blaze of Hackensack decided to speak candidly about their struggles in order to let others know they are not alone.
McKenzie was a chubby kid who tried diets and nothing worked. He said, “My parents called me ‘garbage belly.’” During his sophomore year in high school, he thought he’d get girls if he was thinner so he started skipping meals. “One day it was like a light switch,” he said. “I’m not gonna eat. I developed the will power not to eat.”
The young McKenzie had it all figured out. His mom slept late, so he skipped breakfast. He started staying in school during lunch hour so he wouldn’t eat then either and his parents were none the wiser. He worked at a pizza parlor at night so he told his parents he’d eat there. But on the nights he didn’t work, his parents made him eat at the dinner table. He’d feed some of his meal to the dog and then go to the bathroom and make himself throw up.
By his college years he started binging too. His addictive habit of pigging out and throwing up happened as often as twice a day. McKenzie’s habit tapered off over the years, but as a middle-aged man he admits to still binging and purging once in a blue moon, usually during stressful times. He’s unsure if his habit caused him any serious health problems, but he does have problems with his throat. “I haven’t gone to the doctor,” he said, “I don’t have insurance.”
Bo Blaze started having problems in his late teens also. He said that nowadays people are more forgiving, but in the 1980s you had to look a certain way, everybody had to be fit. “A lot of people don’t realize men have the same social stigmas women do.”
For every meal Blaze was afraid he’d gain weight, so he’d just throw up. “For guys it’s almost a pragmatic thing,” he said. “It’s a crazy thought in our brain. It’s like, ‘This makes sense in my crazy brain.’ It [bulimia] fit into where my brain was that time of my life.”
He never kept his bad habit a dark secret. “I was weird,” he said. “That’s how I dealt with it.” His friends didn’t pry into his life too much because Blaze had a strong personality. He was always able to carry on with his life in spite of what was going on. “Most people [bulimics] are completely functional,” he said. “Many of us don’t lose any weight. It’s not like you’re getting really thin.”
Like McKenzie, Blaze also has some damage to his throat. He said, “I’m lucky I have ridiculously good genes for teeth. I didn’t ruin my teeth. That’s just the luck of the draw.”
In order to help Blaze overcome his bad habit, his doctor put him on medication for depression. “It’s [bulimia’s] part of an obsessive disorder,” he said. “I was never clinically depressed but I had a lot of feelings in that genre.” When Blaze started using anti-depressives he didn’t feel the need to purge anymore. He feels the anti-depressives helped him move forward and grow as a person.
Blaze is now a life coach who coaches people with bulimia and alternative lifestyles.
If you’re experiencing problems with bulimia, help is just a phone call away. Contact your family doctor, counselor, or a physician who specializes in eating disorders.
For more information, contact Mary Anne Christiano at: MaryAnneChristiano@Gmail.com