In a media driven, appearance obsessed world, it's hard enough getting support and understanding when you fit into the 'eating disorder' bracket of a teen/young adult female. Where airbrushed and photo shopped celebrities drive home impossible standards and the hidden depths of the web make it easy for young women to fall into the ruthless and merciless grips of an eating disorder, the consequences are horrendous and we are yet to do nearly enough to combat this.
Spare a thought also, therefore, for those who don't fall into the stereotypical profile of a skinny young girl who wants to look like a Cosmo cover girl. The elderly, the children, the middle aged and the men who also suffer from conditions that take over a whole life.
In order to find out more for this post, I've been getting to know a relatively young, adequately successful male, who for the purpose of the article I'll call Daniel. Daniel has a partner, a family, a steady job, his own home and, physically, very little would appear to be amiss with him. He isn't fat or thin. But for over ten long years, he has suffered from bulimia nervosa.
"It's a part of my life, going to the toilet can mean three things to me. Purging anything that I eat is as regular and as normal as going for a pee," he explained to me. "I started it to control my weight but now it controls me and it's pointless even trying to fight it now."
Daniel's nightmare was triggered by a throwaway comment from a friend in a PE changing room; a friend he still has today and who would be devastated if they ever knew they had inadvertently sent him down this path.
"We're still mates, he has no idea at all that I live with this, let alone that it was something he said which led me to look up how to lose weight quickly," Daniel shared. "It was just a silly comment when I took my top off getting changed. I don't even remember fully what it was, just something about eating all of the pies."
To a sensitive teenager desperate not to be judged, this was enough. While Daniel was more than likely experiencing what most teenage boys do as he grows, a period of 'puppy fat', he got it into his head that he was overweight and before long, had discovered the idea that if you get rid of the food you've eaten, you won't put on weight. If only it were that simple.
"It felt great at first, I wondered if everybody must be secretly doing this. I didn't have to go on a diet and, after I got the courage to stick my fingers into my throat, it became really easy," Daniel said. "At first I'd been using implements like a toothbrush handle but it had led to throat bleeds."
However, Daniel's body came to become used to the ongoing process of eating and purging and, while he initially noticed a change in his weight, as time passed, it became clear that it is impossible to get rid of all the food you have taken in and weight loss isn't a guaranteed effect of bulimia nervosa.
Guaranteed effects however are light headedness, fatigue, stomach pain, irritability, teeth and throat damage and anxiety. Daniel experiences all of this and more, and is now stuck in such a punishing schedule, that he is certain he won't ever break from it.
"It is now painful to keep food down, digesting anything seems to really hurt. I get acid reflux a lot which is extremely sore and have had stomach ulcers and pulled muscles which have left me in agony for days. There have even been scary times when I have coughed up blood and fainted," he told me. "I plan everything around being able to get rid of food. Mealtimes, going out, work shifts- it all has to be planned intricately. Keeping it up is a job in itself but it's one that my body and my mind won't let me quit. If I stop, and my God I've tried, I'm left in pain and it actually feels like a relief to be sick afterwards, like going to the toilet when desperate. And then there's the underlying thought of, if I stop, think how much food will be in my body and how much fatter I'll get."
It's a cycle that is trapping many men and women of all ages and backgrounds worldwide and we can never know the true statistics due to the secretive nature of the illness. Daniel wants the legacy of his telling the story for those to be more sensitive to men as well as women who may have issues with food and for there to be a greater understanding of just how serious eating disorders can be.
When something takes over your life to such a degree, it IS a serious illness. And it can affect anyone.
For more information and support for those affected directly and indirectly by eating disorders in men, visit: http://mengetedstoo.co.uk/