I Survived an Eating Disorder
As Told To Christopher Lisotta | August 18, 2008
Eating disorders are not just a problem for teenage girls. Many gay men with body issues obsess about their weight or appearance, but some take it so far they are literally starving themselves to death. Christopher Lisotta spoke to one eating disorder survivor about how his behavior began and what it took to get back to a healthy way of life.
I grew up in a really chaotic home. Both of my parents were alcoholics and I felt invisible and out of control.
For me, my first relationships were actually more with food than they were with anything else. That was a form of self-care, of self-nurturing. When I felt invisible I would eat. And I did that for a number of years in my adolescent years up in to my teens. I was almost 100 pounds overweight.
I was teased a lot, and I really didn�t feel comfortable in my body. The gay issue was there but not even really present yet because I didn�t feel like I fit in for various reasons.
It really started when one evening, I felt really full... queasy, and I ended up getting sick. There was some kind of a strange empowerment there. I felt like I was in control of what I was ingesting at that point. I began to overeat and then purge, oftentimes late at night after my parents had either passed out or gone to sleep, and that�s when the behavior really started. I would say I was about eight.
There was a certain amount of sexual abuse in my home when I was growning up, so I�m sure that was a key element in feeling out of control. I had disassociated. I didn�t really have recall until I was an adult.
Growing up in a predominantly Hispanic home, food was always a key element, so that�s where the nurturing through food began. I would overeat and then overnight I would purge, and I would even have seizures because my electrolytes and my brain chemistry were so out of whack.
As I started to lose weight I started to gain attention, so that flipped on a switch even further. My father died when I was 13, and the behavior just continued and continued and continued. I started to diet and lose more weight, and get more attention. The family knew something was wrong, but it was one of those things, especially growing up in an alcoholic home... you hear the syndrome of the �white elephant in the room.� You all know its there and nobody really talks about it.
I had a family member who actually said to me, �I know what you�re doing, just make sure you clean up after yourself.�
Each one of us had our own little secrets, so to speak. We just didn�t talk about them.
It went on into my high school years. My mother passed away when I was 17, and I was 92 pounds when I graduated from high school. I was seeing a therapist, and I was never told I could possibly have any form of an eating disorder because I was told that�s something only girls have. I actually diagnosed myself through some research I had done. They said, �You had similar behavior patterns, it�s quite possible because you grew up in a home where you were predominantly around females and that�s why you think you may have an eating disorder.� And this is in the early '80s.
There are more conversations now, but I wouldn�t say there is more diagnosis.
One of two things would happen when I was stressed or felt uncomfortable, I would either overeat or I would calorie restrict to the point where I would be so cautious, I would spend two hours looking for a specific type of food to eat. I would weigh myself 10 to 12 times a day.
What shifted for me was my relationship with myself and food. I recognize when I�m stressed or feeling uncomfortable, one or two of those things will occur. I will go and buy a package of cookies, or some kind of favorite food, and take two hours to eat that and really enjoy that and be present and mindful rather than be stressed and go get a gallon of ice cream, two bags of potato chips a whole pizza and three liters of soda and purge that.
I think eating disorders are a huge issue with the male population, but I don�t necessarily think it is specific to the gay population anymore because the media plays a huge role in how we feel about ourselves.
You look at the Abercrombie & Fitch ads, and they have these beautiful men, many of whom self identify as straight, so it has crossed communities now to where its not specifically a gay male disorder.
I look in the mirror and that fat kid is always going to be there. I have some self-talk that I go through with myself so that I know what I'm seeing is not who I am. If I can take a look at myself and see what everyone else sees, I know I'm doing OK. – Issued by Gay Link Content