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Bulimia in Men: the Truth and Misconceptions

Sep 2, 2008
It was with great interest that I read in the UK Telegraph about the ex deputy prime minister of the UK John Prescott and his battle with bulimia. It is good that man in such a high powered position has finally come out and said he was a sufferer of this insidious disorder.

It was also with interest that the headline in the Times online said "How could a big man like John Prescott have a girl's illness?" This has always been a huge misconception that only women and girls get eating disorders and of course this could not be further from the truth.

Although there are more women with the disease than men, it does not mean there are not many more male sufferers out there who have hidden the disorder like Mr. John Prescott has.

Statistics say that there are many more women with the disease than men but this could be because men will not come forward and seek help. It boils down to the fact that men will not tell anyone because of the stigma attached to people with eating disorders, especially males with this problem: this in turn can easily skew the statistics.

Mr. Prescott put his bulimia down to the fact he was under enormous stress associated with his job as a parliamentarian, working long hours and deriving his only pleasures from eating large amounts of food. He stated himself that he ate huge amounts of food and no one ever suspected he was a bulimic because he was not thin.

This is another misconception; you do not have to be really thin to have bulimia: Mr. Prescott is certainly no stick figure. I have been asked the same question many times by family members of a sufferer who say, but he does not look really thin. My answer back is you don't have to be to be thin to be bulimic.

So why do men contract a disorder like bulimia? Like Mr.Prescott says his was due to stress and this is certainly one of the keys. But it can also be for job reasons and many male sufferers start of being bulimic because of their occupation. We have come across many male sufferers who are dancers, gymnasts, jockeys, airline stewards, male models and many more industries where being a certain size is a must for the job.

Most people, who know little about a disease like bulimia and this includes many journalists, say why can't they just stop: I wish it was as simple as that but it is not. Like Mr. Prescott said he got some weird satisfaction from binging and then purging and all bulimics get the same thing.

When a bulimic purges they get a release of a pleasure hormone not unlike the endorphins an athlete gets after exercising. This feel good hormone is one of the reasons a bulimic continues on with his erratic eating behavior. The problem is the rush they get is very short lived, so they have to binge and purge even more. So asking a bulimic to simply stop is like asking a non-sufferer to give up breathing air: it is not going to happen.

Most non-sufferers and many others think that you can beat bulimia with logic and by pointing out the errors of their ways they will stop. But again this is an impossibility and simply cannot happen. Mr. Prescott and his wife knew for years it was wrong and that he was in danger of serious medical problems, but he could not stop.

If bulimia was a logical disease then he should have been able to stop when he realized he was doing harm to himself, but he couldn't. This is because bulimia lives in the subconscious mind of the sufferer and the subconscious mind does not work on logic, it works on feelings and emotions and these are certainly not logical. The longer the bulimic has the disorder the more ingrained it becomes in the subconscious mind of the sufferer.

There is a way you can see how the subconscious mind works for yourself. The next time you explode at one of the kids or go off for no apparent reason, just ask yourself if it was logical.

I bet you do not have the slightest idea why it happened; it is because it came from your subconscious mind and not your logical mind. There is only one way you can really stop bulimia and that is through the subconscious mind where the bulimia lives. It lives there because it was programmed by the sufferer to be there over months or even years as was the case with Mr. Prescott.

If you are a bulimic or if you are a family member of a bulimic, you should find out about the connection of bulimia and the subconscious mind of the sufferer. This will give you knowledge to help yourself or your family member with bulimia.
About the Author
Dr Irina Webster MD is the Director of Women Health Issues Program which covers different areas of Women Health. She is a recognised athority in the eating disorders area. She is an author of many books and a public speaker.learn more about eating disorders at http://www.bulimia-cure.com
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