I know a dear one who’s struggling with an eating disorder. It’s still not the sort of thing that men openly talk about but that doesn’t mean the challenges of disordered eating, food addictions, are unique to one gender.
My dear one? He’s invited to a weekend of debauchery, Las Vegas style, for a bachelor party. He’s standing up in his best friend’s wedding and he’s managed to keep his eating disorder a secret from those closest to him…for more than a decade. He avoids gatherings with an abundance of food and when pool parties or barbeques beckon, he’s found ways to pop in and out…trying to avoid triggers and temptations. He describes himself as a ‘wicked work in progress’ and has fallen into and out of therapy and treatment since his athlete-induced challenges with food appeared when he wrestled in high school.
The whole business of ‘dropping weight’ to qualify is common in certain sports, and it’s certainly the case with wrestling, or at least it was. I’m not sure how “weight” is attended to in healthier ways these days…I should find out more…perhaps improvements have occurred and I’m unaware. Just the same, when my dear one experienced body dysmorphia and unhealthy relationships with food while wrestling years ago? It was almost as if ‘cutting weight’ gave him a sports-induced free-pass for binging and purging. He had nowhere to go to share and confide, so he did what many of us are tempted to do. He buried his feelings and dealt with the behaviors, no matter how self-destructive.
He’s debated for years whether or not he should tell those he’s closest to about his challenge. In recent years, he’s lied and described his weight fluctuations as a by-product of Covid…or as a result of a stressful job involving too much travel and not enough self-care. Sometimes…he wears padded clothing and layers to disguise his fragile frame in order to avoid queries.
But a weekend with six other guys…in a suite in Vegas? Where will he hide? They know he’s unlikely to drink…thinking he’s chosen abstinence… but the truth is he won’t drink alcohol because of the calories. But the massive buffets? The binge-o-rama that’s planned to hit every trendy restaurant on the strip? He knows he can’t hide for an extended period of time, and he wants to avoid retreating into behaviors that will prompt overeating and purging. While he’s bobbed in and out of therapy and treatment, his doctors have been clear. Too much damage has already been done. Time’s up.
I have no magic but tried to be as open as I can be to receive without judging. This is a friend…not a client. He knew I would encourage openness…he knew I would tell him to trust and share…but still he needs the boost of courage. So, I did what I do. I rely on wisdom that works from brilliant, inspirational brains…like Brene Brown who has a knack for offering wisdom…encouraging bravery and movement…often by taking the smallest steps.
In my dear one’s situation, his inability to control what happens AFTER he confides, and shares is his biggest worry. Yes. That’s the crux of vulnerability. Offering the pain, the truth and then stepping back. But the potential benefit of being seen and relieving the burden of secrecy? It might be time. Or — perhaps he should bow out of the bachelor party altogether. Either way, I’ll be on the sidelines cheering for him. His stress at the moment is about a trip to Las Vegas. My worries are greater…I wish good health and a long life for him and maybe he’s on his way.
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