Speak Up – A Call Out to the Guys

I was going to college for health and fitness in Toronto when my behaviours became extreme. As my weight and health quickly plummeted no one asked me what was going on. Even at my physically worst I was only ever asked about drug use by doctors, but never a question about food or exercise. Hidden in plain sight, I was a man with an eating disorder.

That was 4 years ago. Now I have a successful career in health and fitness, and I live a lifestyle that is actually healthy, with no extremes. Eating and exercise are now just two of the many fantastic components of my life. Alright, that’s enough of me boasting about me.

How did I turn it around? And why should anyone reading this care?

I turned my life around because I decided to speak. I hope that anyone reading this does care, because I believe that one of the biggest steps to getting better is to speak honestly about it.

In speaking out loud, I realized that I was far from being the only guy to not feel good about his body. In speaking out loud, I was given support and people who wanted to help me get better. In speaking out loud, I started to regain hope that maybe I didn’t have to live such an exhausting life.

Being able to speak out allowed me to understand exactly what I had been doing. My behaviours, my lack of self-worth – it all became more concrete somehow. By getting it out, I was then able to reflect on it objectively. When I realized that no one else was judging me for my eating disorder, I slowly began to stop judging myself.

Sadly, in our society, it is all too common for women to be pestered about their eating habits (which I am sure is annoying ladies, do not get me wrong), with men are rarely asked these same questions. Unfortunately, the job is most often left up to us guys to come forward on our own, and while there may be some added obstacles, I implore any man out there who is suffering to talk about it.

I spend a fair amount of my time talking to people about talking, as I believe that it is a key step in letting the eating disorder out of your system and moving on from it and toward a better life. I personally spoke with family and a few friends at first. I later moved on to professionals, both in group settings and one on one. However, it was that first day that I said anything to my mother that I felt a small crack in the freezing cold ice, when just a miniscule amount of warmth came through. While every person’s path is individual, talking is always a key component.

I leave you with this letter.

Dear all boys, men, guys, dudes: Talk to a friend. Talk to a parent. Talk to a partner. Talk to a professional. Talk to a doctor. Talk to a therapist. Talk to a specialist. There are options out there.

If you live in the Toronto area and are a self-identified man with body image concerns, Sheena’s Place (http://www.sheenasplace.org/) is holding a confidential focus group in order to help them develop a men’s body image help group on October 23rd at 6pm. For more information contact info@sheenasplace.org

Jay Walker is a Certified Personal Trainer through the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. He is pursuing his Masters of Counselling Psychology and will be attending the above noted event at Sheena’s Place.