How I Want to Use My Experience as a Male in Anorexia Recovery to Help Others
I was born three months premature, weighing one pound, nine ounces. This resulted in me developing cerebral palsy, which affects my walking. Unfortunately, I was subjected to severe bullying growing up because of it. This took a severe toll on me mentally and physically, which eventually led to me developing anorexia nervosa. I restricted my eating, as it was one of the very few things I felt I could control. I became extremely undernourished and was hospitalized, literally fighting for my life. During the hospitalization, I experienced the stigma of eating disorders as being a “female disease,” as I was one of only two other males in the hospital.
Now that I am recovered, I aspire to become a registered dietitian within the realm of eating disorders. I recently completed my second semester in a dietetics coordinated program. I know from my own experience how difficult it can be for those struggling with eating disorders, — especially men. I want to use my experience to work within a profession where I can offer support from a personal standpoint.
Last year I traveled to England, completing a one-of-a-kind Master’s degree in eating disorders and clinical nutrition, as it is currently the only program of its kind worldwide. It is my hope that having this degree will make me more marketable and competitive for a job as a dietitian specializing in eating disorders. Living in England was the furthest and longest time I had ever been away from my parents, but I did not let my cerebral palsy get in the way. I knew I needed to do this to make a better future for myself. I currently have a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Fitness and a Master’s degree in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition, receiving honor recognitions in both.
Completing the dietetics program will be the last piece of education I am required to have in order to begin the career I aspire to do, in which I will be able to help many people. I know from my own experience if I would have had a dietitian (especially a male dietitian) that had personal experience and could relate to the high level of emotions and fear I was experiencing, it would have made recovery a lot easier.
For years, I have done volunteer work with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), in an effort to help those struggling with eating disorders. Additionally, while in England, I volunteered with a UK charity involved with raising awareness of eating disorders in men (which I am also an ambassador for). Additionally, one of my long-term goals is to open an eating disorder treatment center for males, as there is currently only one nationwide. I love helping others in need, and I hope to play a large part in making a difference in the lives of people with eating disorders. I also hope my positive attitude and the accomplishments I’ve made so far (even with the odds being stacked against me) will encourage others to not let their disabilities hinder them. I believe our disabilities do not make us who we are, nor do they dictate our success in life.
A version of this piece originally appeared on NEDA’s blog.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
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Unsplash photo via Joshua Peacock.