"I was a baby bulimic"

Disregard the sensationalistic title and check out this wonderful essay called "I was a baby bulimic: A food critic comes to terms with his appetite," by Frank Bruni.

What struck me, besides the descriptions of bulimia by a male in the early 1980s, was how early in his life the overeating and purging started, and how it appeared to be an echo of many of his mother's conflicts with food.

What also struck me was his haunting descriptions of his illness and how closely it echoed my own frenzied episodes of binge eating and purging:

To be a successful bulimic, you need to have a firm handle on the bathrooms in your life: their proximity to where you’re eating; the amount of privacy they offer; whether — if they’re public bathrooms with more than one stall — you can hear the door swing open and the footfall of a visitor with enough advance notice to stop what you’re doing and keep from being found out.

You need to be conscious of time. There’s no such thing as bulimia on the fly; a span of at least 10 minutes in the bathroom is optimal, because you may need 5 of them to linger at the sink, splash cold water on your face and let the redness in it die down. You should always carry a toothbrush and toothpaste, integral to eliminating telltale signs of your transgression and to rejoining polite society without any offense to it. Bulimia is a logistical and tactical challenge as much as anything else. It demands planning.

It is interesting, of course, that Bruni wound up as a food critic. This essay was adapted from an upcoming autobiography titled "Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater," which has now gone on my reading list.

Were you struck by anything in particular in the article? What could you relate to? What didn't you like? Share away in the comments section!

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marcella said...

I'm sure that the number of males with eating disorders is GROSSLY under-estimated. I often wonder whether my own grandfather, a captain in the Royal Navy expected to eat gluttonous amounts at official functions and actually provided with the means and encouragement to purge, developed bulimia.

Anonymous said...

At first glance, the title put me off but then when I saw that he was a food writer I figured maybe it was tongue-in-cheek, or that he would write of a very brief period in his childhood when he had that behavior. When I started reading and saw that at least when he was very young he seemed to be having an emotional response (some people throw up when very upset, some cry, etc.) but then when he got to the heart of the story I could see that he meant the title quite seriously.

To be frank, I found the graphic description of his trips to the bathroom quite disturbing and it even made me feel a bit ill. I'm sure someone who had the experience might not have that response but I really had trouble getting through it. And I must admit that I found it a bit surprising to read about a male bulimic, because so much of the media and public discussions focus on women.

In the end, I was very happy to see that he was able to not only end the behavior, but become a food writer. I happen to have a great admiration for anyone who can eat and write about food for a living in today's food-phobic, fat-phobic society.

Anonymous said...

Yep Males with ED, we are out there. My parents put me on a diet at age 11 and I was on one till I moved out. Then there was a bounce back and I ended up over 450 lbs. So you guessed it another diet. over 15 months on it and I'm at 222 lbs (still not small enough yet). I only eat 1000-1300 calories a day and exercise 2 hrs a day 6 day's a week. But I can't have an ED because I'm still obese. I though my therapist was going to hit me when I said that. I realy hate this ED thing, when dietician said she wanted to "stabalize" my weight I went right to barganing that I would follow the eating plan, yeah right. Sorry I am man hear me roar.

Kristina said...

I thought that it was a great article, well-written (yes, funny, even though it was sad too), and although I can't relate to all of the details, I certainly can to some (his mother's conflict with food and how that was projected onto him, for example). There is an excellent review of the excerpt in Salon (http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/07/17/bruni_ed/index.html). The writer points out that while he seems to succeed in "getting a handle" on the bulimic tendencies, he doesn't immediately develop a healthy relationship with food and weight but continues to wage war against himself.

Crimson Wife said...

I couldn't read very far into it because of how graphic he was in his descriptions. I haven't purged in years but I don't need to be reminded of what it's like.

It sounds like an interesting article but it hits a bit too close to home for me personally...

raspberryclover said...

Honestly, I was really inspired by the way he was willing to show the truth of his past to so many people--that takes incredible courage. I've struggled with a binge eating disorder (no purging, just frequent binges and the occasional period of restriction) for most of my life, but I didn't realize what it was until about two years ago. The shame that goes along with an ED is really hard to carry sometimes, and every time I share a little bit of my truth with someone I think the load gets a tiny bit lighter.

Anyway, I've recently been following your blog, and today I started my own...hopefully to use as a tool to help me in recovery. I'd be grateful for any support and will definitely offer it in return. Keep up the hard work dear!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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