Can boys get eating disorders?

2 August 2011, by Phillip Hodson

Oh man, they certainly can be affected! As an overweight teenager I developed both anorexia and bulimia (the latter copied from the ancient Romans who I had read about at school – two fingers down the throat and a quick trip to the nearest vomitorium). And all at a time before girls were known to be having psychological trouble with grub.

From the age of nine I gained about a stone a year. I was fit and active, but had an unlimited appetite (which my parents admired). Then when I reached 16, desperation hit.

Calories were cut to 1,000 then 800 a day. Carbs were banned. And amphetamine diet pills were provided by the NHS. Yes, at that time, the Ministry of Health actually put you on speed. I was off my face for the next year.

The other two crazy moments were asking my GP if there were any calories in pepper (if not, I could live on that) and finding out that onions had almost no calories.

One day for breakfast, on an empty stomach, I boiled several Spanish onions and scoffed the lot. By 11 o’clock at school I was emitting such noxious farts that an enquiry was set up as to whether the adjacent sewage farm was leaking effluent beneath our classroom. I slunk home with a metaphorical clothes peg over each nostril. Never ever try to repeat my experiment!

Having said that, I did lose 18 inches from my waistline. I grew as skeletal as this sounds. Ten or 12 inches would have been fine.

It sounds funny, looking back, but it was a costly exercise. My digestion and teeth have never recovered from propelling stomach acid up my gullet. To this day I cannot consume alcohol, garlic, curry, chilli, beetroot or smoked fish without getting 24 hours of indigestion. I suspect that any cancer waiting to slay me takes lingering glances at my oesophagus.

What could have stopped me from behaving like this? And how can you keep an informed eye on your own kids?

In a nutshell:

1. Never allow food to become a battleground. It doesn’t really matter if they miss a meal.

2. Never make fun of your child’s size and shape. They will grow depressed and comfort eat or starve.

3. Never squash their views on life, however leftfield they are to your way of thinking.

Most eating disorders contain a rebellion of the powerless against external authority. If the only thing a child can control is what enters his mouth, he will do it, just like his sister.

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