Today I'm really excited to share my interview with Ryan Sheldon, founder of Confessions Of A Binge Eater, in which he shares his journey to overcome binge eating disorder.
Here's a conversation I had with Ryan recently.
1. Ryan, can you share your journey of struggling with binge eating to recovering from the disorder, or as I like to say, ‘liberating’ yourself?
I’ve always been a big eater, going back to childhood, and it seemed normal at that time. I was always a bigger kid, so the fact that I ate a lot didn’t seem unreasonable. Plus, I had a mother who made excuses for my eating habits: She would always say, ‘Don’t worry, Ryan. You're a growing boy.’; and she’d tell others, ‘He’s just big boned.’ So eating a lot was indoctrinated into my life, and my brain. It became normal, and then it became normal to overeat. Then it became normal to think about food all the time, obsess about it, plan meals days in advance, all while binging on fast food, and sometimes really healthy food, in between meals. Food was dominating my life, and not just eating it, but thinking about it non-stop. It’s hard to have a life with all that going.
I have been going to therapy for many years, and when I finally started talking about compulsion it led to me being diagnosed as suffering from BED. Just realizing that BED was real was life changing for me. I wasn’t ashamed any more. Talking about it has helped greatly, as well as knowing that there are many other people who suffer from this. It’s why I started blogging about it. If it helps even just one person it will be worth it.
2. What has your biggest challenge been in terms of being a guy with an eating disorder?
Convincing people that I really was suffering from one. People just don’t think men suffer from eating disorders, and men don’t feel it’s socially acceptable to talk about it. They think women are the only ones who do suffer or should suffer from an eating disorder, because women are the emotional ones, or less able to control their emotions when they are upset or stressed, and naturally turn to food.
I remember telling a couple friends that I had BED and they laughed, they thought I was joking. I’m a funny guy and I come across really confident, so for my friends to think that I was having real problems with food was hard for them to understand, or to take seriously.
3. What are the biggest misconceptions about men and eating disorders?
Well, as I mentioned, people just don’t believe a guy can or should suffer from them. If a man has a big appetite people just say, ‘Well, he’s a guy.’ And if you tell them that you have an eating disorder they think you’re supposed to be really skinny or they think you are joking. They say, ‘You’re a guy, you can just work out and you will lose weight really fast.’
The way people think about eating issues is sexist. But eating disorders are emotional, psychological, and can affect anyone. In fact, just about half of those who suffer from BED are men. I think most of the men out there suffering from BED don’t even realize it’s a disease – they just think they are a big guy and probably eat too much.
Women, on the other hand, are more scrutinized for their appearance and they are much more educated on eating disorder awareness. So they are more open to the idea that they or a friend may have one, and keep a watchful eye for the signs.
No one suspects a man might have an eating disorder, too.
The result of all this is that men don’t feel it’s socially acceptable to tell anyone they are battling an eating disorder, which causes them to hide their problems even more and prevents them from starting to deal with something like BED.
4. What misconceptions do you think people have about BED and what do you want them to know?
They think people who suffer from BED eat a lot at every meal and are extremely overweight. In fact, most people with BED are normal weight to a little bit overweight. They are usually not obese, because, although there is no purging after the binging, there is a kind of dieting after an episode or series of episodes. People also think you are lazy or don’t care, and those are the reasons for your eating disorder. It’s such a problem.
People need to understand that BED has nothing to do with hunger, it is a compulsive disorder. It can happen to anyone.
Ryan Sheldon is founder of Confessions of a Binge Eater, a blog he created to share about his journey with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Ryan hopes his story will help others suffering from BED overcome shame and embarrassment, as well as gain back control over food. In particular, Ryan provides a voice for the many men struggling eating disorders while encouraging them to get help.
Ryan used to spend his days thinking about food, planning for it, and indulging in it. For years, he justified this by calling it “emotional eating” until he realized his love affair with food was spiraling out of control. Ryan was diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder, an illness characterized by compulsive overeating. Since then, he has made it his mission to not only overcome BED but to inspire others to do the same.
Ryan is not your run-of-the-mill life coach. With an infectious personality, he uses both humor and education to help others facing adversary. Ryan finds when you add humor to a tough situation, it empowers you to stop feeling ashamed and start taking action. Join him on his journey through life with BED!
For more information on Ryan, please visit http://confessionsofabingeeater.com
or email email@example.com.