Body image: not just about teenage girls
I'm a 47 year old man and like many men of my generation I have never mentioned my problem until recently.
14th February 2013, 9.52am | Written by Dom Atreides
"My name is Dom Atreides and I have an eating disorder."
Does that surprise you more than, say, "My name is Mary Atreides and I have an eating disorder"? I'm a 47 year old man and like many men of my generation I have never mentioned my problem until recently.
I have always been very underweight for my height (six feet) and became accustomed to brushing off frequent questions such as, “Do you have AIDS?” and “Are you a heroin user?” with mumbled excuses such as, “I've always been thin,” “I've not been well,” and “I've not had time/money to eat that much recently.”
I was subjected to a barrage of blood tests, scans and intimate probings and my weight taken on every subsequent visit.
Last year I was dragged kicking and screaming by a good friend to see a GP. I was diagnosed with severe depression and substance misuse issues. I was subjected to a barrage of blood tests, scans and intimate probings and my weight taken on every subsequent visit. My body mass index was calculated to in the underweight danger zone.
I was given tablets for my depression and signposted to other organisations that helped me deal with my alcohol and drugs issues. At no stage was my weight problem ever addressed. It was only when my friend mentioned it to my GP that I was put on weight gain drinks.
When I went to collect the drinks from my local chemist I was given 60 bottles of some foul-tasting banana flavoured goo. At the time I was so ill I was not strong enough to carry the 60 bottles home in one go. I collected two bottles a day and persevered with the drinks for about 3 weeks but found they were making me sick. I am an old hand at making myself sick so I knew the difference between being sick and making myself sick.
During this time I frequently went out to eat with the friend who had dragged me to see the GP in the first place. She would indulge my love of junk food and said she was just glad to see me eating something. She would always opt to have just a starter or a bowl of soup. She is a medical professional of many years standing in her mid forties and would often grab her handbag and disappear to the ladies before and after a meal. At first I assumed it was just “women's problems”.
She is a very attractive woman with men queuing up to ask her out. It came as a shock to find she had had a gastric band fitted and was still exhibiting bulimic behaviour many years later.
One of the ways I dealt with my depression was to write about it and talk about on social networks such as Facebook. As editor of the Welsh Icons website, I had a platform to raise such issues and start a debate. It became clear from my post bag/inbox many people also had issues with depression and many of these people also had body image issues with a large minority worried about the effects medication was having on their weight.
I am not medically trained and always advised anyone with worries about their weight to go and talk to their GP but as I have found, many GPs do not even want to talk about the issue.
In the post-Christmas period this year many of my male friends started expressing doubt about their body image as thoughts turned to New Year diets. I had thought that every bloke in Wales was happy with their body image as long as they either looked like prop forwards or had a beer gut and a jolly nature. How wrong could I be?
Eating is still an effort as my stomach has shrunk and yet with a bit of slap I can still look much younger than my 48 years. Many of my peers are now bald and overweight and getting very concerned about it. Body image is not just about teenage girls. It applies to just about everyone who owns a mirror. I know I have many things to address but at least I now know which demons I have left to fight.
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