Jay Walker wants to end the myth that eating disorders only affect women.
The 27-year-old personal trainer struggled with food for years — from anorexia to binging and purging — and wants his story told during Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which starts tomorrow.
He said the time has come to debunk the stereotype that men don’t suffer from eating-related illnesses.
“I knew the behaviour wasn’t healthy, but it spiralled out of control and I got stuck in a cycle,” Walker said. “If I talk about it maybe people out there will seek help.”
Walker said the death of his father when he was 17 and other issues started him down the road of his disorder.
He avoids scales, but acknowledged that at the height of his problem, his six-foot frame carried 35 fewer pounds than it does today.
He convinced himself that too much exercise and dangerous eating habits wouldn’t hurt his health.
“People with a healthy weight can have an eating disorder because of stress or anxiety. Food, exercise and the body (image) aren’t the problem. The problem is individualized to each person and is a way of controlling stress and emotional problems,” Walker said, adding media contributes to the problem.
With counselling, Walker has been able to take control of his eating disorder for the past five years.
Sheena’s Place in Toronto, which offers support services for people struggling with eating disorders, wants to use this awareness week to put the spotlight on how men struggle with eating disorders.
“We want to help debunk the myth that eating disorders are only a problem for women. The fact of the matter is, 25% of those suffering from eating disorders are men,” said Deborah Berlin-Romalis, executive director of Sheena’s Place.
“Seventy-six thousand men in Toronto will suffer from some form of an eating disorder in their lifetime, and they need our help.”
Berlin-Romalis stressed more education is needed because when it comes to all mental illnesses, eating disorders are the leading cause of death.
“Of the more than 4,100 registered psychiatrists in Canada, only 12 have any specialized training and expertise in treating eating disorders. Clearly there is much work to be done, and the need for discussion is greater than ever.”
Sheena’s Place — located at 87 Spadina Rd. in the Spadina Ave.-Bloor St. W. area — will host a open house Tuesday from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.