FIRST PERSON

Men Living With Anorexia: How It Begins, How It Ends

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Growing up, my dad was anorexic. He too was always a slender man and the disease hit him in his 40s when his body softened. We never spoke about it. The only time it was evident he was weathering the disease was when he’d lower the car window and shout to joggers, “stop eating dead animals!”

Dad overcame his anorexia after he was diagnosed with anemia. He just started eating again. It was unceremonious and he no longer looked like a man who was haunted by his weight. However, years later, when he saw me at 118.3 he faced his ghosts and asked, “are you anorexic cause of me?”

I woke up one morning to my heart racing and tightness in my chest. I hadn’t eaten in two days and feared the worse. I thought of Jeremy Gillitzer, the once beautiful male model who lost all bone density in his face and had starved himself into an early grave. I didn’t want to be in a coffin at twenty-four. I wanted to live.

Like my father, I too just started eating again. Eating again was the easy part. However, anorexia does not vanish, no matter how much you feed it. It’s living with the disease daily that’s difficult. Even now as I look at photos of me at 118.3 I have to stop myself from thinking my stomach looked bloated or that my arm had too much fat on it

In the years since my anorexia, I think of all the possible origins for my disease: rebelling against male stereotypes in the Cuban-American culture I was raised in, subconsciously following in my father’s footsteps, or my gender-bending attempts to be one of the girls. It’s callow to point fingers and truthfully, none of these were the cause of my disease. My anorexia was my own doing and I needed to come to terms with my changing body.

I’m heavier now. I don’t own a scale so I don’t know my exact weight, but I try not to care. Some days are easier than others but I eat healthy and have a strict gym regiment. I’m glad to be winning against my disease because I now truly understand what it means to be invincible, to see yourself in the mirror and see someone fuerte—not physically, but spiritually fuerte.