Recovery from Anorexia is Possible: From a Man's Perspective
From NEDA:Stories of Hope
By Zachary Ihli
My name is Zachary Ihli. I'm 21 and a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire studying Nursing. I'm a part-time barista, a friend, a son, and your average twenty-something guy. I also have suffered from Anorexia Nervosa for the past 2 years of my life. Eating disorders are often labeled as "woman's" diseases, however I am living proof that men can (and increasingly do) have eating disorders. My struggle with Anorexia has effected every area of my life. I was forced to leave school, lost my friends, lost interest in my dreams, and lost hope in myself. Food became the only thing I cared about during the day. My mind was constantly worrying about what I ate and what I was going to eat. Every day was an exhausting battle in my head; a feeble attempt to cope with the pressures of life. As my disease progressed, my body eventually had enough; life needed to be put on hold. I entered treatment for the first time and was horrified. I didn't recognize that I had a problem. Contrary to my beliefs, treatment took longer than a month. I was in and out of the hospital, residential, and day treatment for about a year. For the first time in two years, I can see what recovery is. Recovery isn't some fairy tale that a lot of people think it is. It's life without an eating disorder. Life without constantly worrying about food, weight, and shape. Life that is actually worth living for. There were a lot of times during treatment where I felt like giving up. I had my fair share of dark days. I felt so alone being one of the only males in my treatment center. A lot of the other patients weren't able to understand where I was coming from. This made it difficult to open up during groups and therapy sessions. Eventually, something clicked. I realized that living your life and living with an eating disorder cannot coexist. My life was living proof that an eating disorder ruins everything you are striving towards. Recovery is possible. I'm living proof that recovery can happen. With hard work, dedication, and hope - you can recover from an eating disorder. Now, I'm not saying it's easy by any means. The toughest step is admitting that you need help. Males, especially have trouble with this. There's no shame in asking for help. In fact, admitting you need help is a sign of strength - not weakness. You're taking charge of your life. Recovery is awesome. My passions and dreams now seem real to me. They are tangible goals I am working towards, instead of far-off fantasies when I was struggling with Anorexia. Keep hope. Recovery is possible. You are worth it.