Many men get eating disorders. Beat media volunteer Louie shares his story.
I was 12 years old when I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder. I remember because it was just after Christmas – I was in Year 8 at school and had just recovered from the flu. My dad was the first to notice when he had seen I was storing food that was meant to be eaten at school. At first I just generally cut out foods I thought would lower my chance of doing well in football and running. It sounds ludicrous now, but at the time I used to watch athletes and read about what they fuelled themselves with, and had in my head that this is what I needed to do in order to perform at my best. I used to compete in the 1500m for my local club, and one day I was so nervous before a race that I started drinking water to take my mind off the nerves. When the race started, my stomach was so full of water I immediately got a stitch and struggled to finish.
Something that day changed – mentally I thought that drinking water would make me worse at running, so I drank very little, and after about a month my body went through some drastic changes. I was tired all the time, my skin was extremely dry, and I lost weight very quickly. All of these were signs that my body was screaming out to be hydrated. I was taken to the doctor by my dad for a check-up. I was weighed and examined, and the results were pretty drastic. I'd lost a lot of weight in a month and started to show signs of anaemia.
Things started changing in the normal family household. Morale was very down, and lots of talking was happening when I wasn't around to hear; however, I was treated exactly the same until my mum and dad spoke to me one day and explained their worries.
At first I didn't really understand what they were getting at, and then I began to realise teachers at school and family at home almost watching what I was doing, especially at meal times. I began to isolate myself and do the only thing that made me feel good, and that was exercise. No one seemed to have a problem with me exercising, it was just the nutrition side of things that people really took more of an issue with.
My weight continued to go down and a meeting was arranged with an eating disorder psychologist. I thought it was just me and my parents, but my entire family were there, sitting in a semicircle. It was then I realised that this seemed like an intervention of some sort. After the meeting everyone hugged me and chatted then went home. I continued to go to these appointments weekly to check my weight and mental/physical wellbeing.
Progress was non-existent – I found myself getting upset and angry a lot and arguing a lot with everyone who lived with us. Eventually I was admitted to an eating disorder unit and stayed there for a total of three months. I was 13 by this point, and was in a kind of halfway home with 14 females of a similar age. As if being a teenage bloke wasn't enough, I was around a load of females right at the start of major hormone change. I looked around and knew that I was different. I had to recover from whatever this was.
Louie is now recovered from his eating disorder. If you’re worried about yourself or someone you know, don’t wait to get help. Find out more about getting the support you need here.