Dear Bulimia, You fought hard but I WON

This past week I revealed the only skeleton I have ever kept in my closest.  I was recording a podcast with my amazing friends Abel from Fat Burning Man and Kaleigh from The Paleo Angel.  We were discussing Intermittent Fasting and body image issues at length due to some complications Kaleigh had experienced.  During the end of the podcast, for the first time, I revealed that I have struggled with bulimia for the past 12 years and have never told ANYONE. Shortly after sharing this on the podcast, I had the amazing pleasure of recording a very intimate podcast with one of the most compassionate and caring human beings I have ever met, Stefani Ruper from Paleo for Women.  In conversation, I had shared with Stefani my struggles and she wanted to talk to me about it.  I trust her and felt comfortable to share, so we dedicated an entire podcast to my issues, as well as body image issues in men and women and within certain communities like Crossfit.  If you would like to listen you can find that HERE.

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For my amazing friends and family that have always been there for me, please understand that the reasons you did not know had nothing to do with you.  I love and cherish every one of you with my entire being. This was something I struggled with alone, and therefore wanted to attempt to remedy alone.  I ask that you please support me and respect my decisions, and support me from this moment forward on spreading a positive message and using my experience to help others get healthy and love themselves.

 Dear Bulimia, You fought hard but I WON

There are many things about my past that I think contributed to what lead me to this struggle. I am not going to look for a sob story, but I was not the most popular kid growing up. The first time I ever purged was sophomore year of high school.  It is one of the clearest memories of my life. I managed to muster the courage to ask someone to a formal dance.  That was huge for me.  I went to the store to get fitted for my suit, but I was timid and just going through the motions.  The immature asshole helping me was having trouble finding pants to fit me that matched the jacket size.  He was making it loudly obvious that I was an inconvenience and my weight was an issue.  It was the longest hour of my life. I had to try on multiple pairs of pants and with every pair, came a comment to go with it. I remember acting like nothing had happened the whole time driving home.  This was the most dangerous part. This is where the slippery slope started. I cried for HOURS that night when I got home.

I hated myself!

I hated my family life!

I hated everything about my existence!

 

I snuck downstairs to the bathroom at around midnight and for the first time ever, I forced myself to purge.  I had not even eaten dinner that night because I was so upset, so there was nothing to get rid of. Even so, I felt like it made me skinnier because I was in control and it would work.

As anyone with this disorder will tell you(that I have personally known), it’s a rollercoaster.  I had weeks, sometimes  MONTHS of consistently purging and also then years where I was able to fight the urges.

Shame was my motivating force.

At the height of it, during 2005, I exhibited symptoms of anorexia as well as bulimia for 6 straight months.  I had just had my final surgery out of 5 on my legs, and I was at my heaviest weight, around 250lbs. This was the dark hour for me. For six months, I was alone in my barracks room. Sometimes 2-3 weeks without seeing anyone. I would sit in my wheelchair and stare at myself in the mirror.

I would PUNCH MYSELF in the stomach while crying because I was so depressed!

 

I would go three days without eating, and then eat an entire pizza and purge it up 10 minutes later.  To be honest, I am surprised I am still alive for how low my depression was.  I really saw no light anywhere. bulimia Dear Bulimia, You fought hard but I WON

One of the biggest episode triggers I dealt with was the loss of ability to participate in anything fitness related. I WAS SO CONCERNED WITH BODY IMAGE, I would violently spin out of control.  The other triggers were always social events, big ones.  Every time I had to participate in anything that required me to wear a dress uniform, or suit, I would dread going to a tailor. I had flashbacks of that day of my sophomore year so I avoided it the most I could. There were also the simple things like my negative body image when I was in the gym or at the beach. Even being tickled caused negative thoughts and a downward spiral.

One of the hardest things for me to cope with was being a male and experiencing this!

 

It is so rarely talked about and mostly avoided to maintain some macho complex.  Well guess what, F$#K THAT! I am a man, I HAD body issues, I WAS bulimic, I HAVE emotions and I am going to SHARE them with the world. I want to share this with you in the hopes that this may reach even just one person. I’ll know then that I did my job.

I spent so many years of my life feeling inadequate. Throughout my life I believed the only way people would value me was if I gave every ounce of myself.  Problem was, I would often come across as an egotistical asshole while I tried too hard to hide my secret.  I was misjudged because I was too busy crying on the inside to be myself and ask for help.

Those days are behind me!!!

 

This part is the hardest for me, mainly because I know I am past these demons but it is very fresh for me.  The last time that I forced myself to purge was in March of this year. I was competing in the Crossfit Opens and I broke my right hand. Once I was injured and unable to perform at the standards I had created for myself, it forced me to spiral back down the dark path. I was also getting ready to head to PaleoFx and meet all of my Paleo idols for the first time. I started to doubt myself and I was convinced I would be judged solely on my physical appearance.  Once that ball started rolling, it just didn’t stop.

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Once I was there though, I met so many amazing people who just loved me and I was so supported.  Strangers, online friends, and friends I already had, were gracious and encouraging on all I was working on and trying to do. Not once, did anyone ever say anything to me about the way I looked.  Not once did any of them ask about my crossfit abilities.  It forced some self-reflection and I realized that if all of these people I didn’t even know treated me with dignity and respect, why would the people closest to me ever do that?  They must not care either how many pull-ups I can do, or how fast I can run a mile, or whether I have a 2 pack, 4 pack, 6 pack or Keg.

They are going to love me and support me.

 

Even though I reflected, and I mentally had beaten my demons, I was still not ready to tell anyone.  I had the mindset that because it was always only my battle, that since I conquered it, no one else needed to know.  Until one night this past summer, I was attending the Ancestral Health Symposium. I did not have any anxiety leading up to or during the event for any fears of judgments from others (this was huge for me). I ventured out to a bar in downtown Boston with my friend Abel and my new friend Stefani (remember these two from earlier? See a connection yet?). It was 1 am, and the three of us were socializing about websites, goals, dreams, drive, and visions. After a few NorCal margaritas, Abel asked me why I push so hard and do what I do for others. In response he got a 12-year synopsis of my entire history. He showed so much compassion and love for someone he had barely known, it finally clicked with me that I was almost ready to share this part of my story.  I will thank Abel in a later post, but for your reference, he is now my Best friend, business partner, and the man who asked the right question to save my life.

Thank you Abel!!!!!!

 

Here are my thoughts on what I have learned through this journey. I hope that they may help you or someone you know in any way:

  • Write “it” down. Admit it to yourself. Putting it on paper makes it real.
  • Tell someone. Accountability is something some of us struggle with and telling a friend or family what your plans are will help keep you on track
  • DON’T be afraid to admit your struggles and tell someone you need help
  • Being proud should be saved for another time. Your true friends and family are going to love you for you and support you regardless
  • LOVE YOURSELF. When you wake up in the morning every day, think of 3 positive things that you love about yourself and write them on something. Put them on a post it and put it on your mirror. This may sound cheesy, but that sets the tone of your entire day. Positive thinking breeds positive results.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. The small stuff were my tipping factors until I learned that even if my car breaks down, or I get a flat tire, or I have a bad day at work, that I am still alive and able to influence this world in a positive manner. Always be the optimist in every situation. There truly are two sides to every story and I want you to be the positive side.

My name is George Bryant. 

I suffered with Bulimia and body image issues for 12 years!!

 

I am a man and there is no shame in admitting I needed help!!

 

Here is my promise: I beat this and will remain strong and love myself from this point on.  I will lead by example and do my best to guide others on the same!!

 

I can not give you any medical advice on how to address your problems legally.  This post describes what I learned and how I overcame it.  If you or someone you know needs help, check out these resources below:

 **If you chose not to leave a comment, but you would still like to talk to me, You can email me at civilizedcaveman@civilizedcavemancooking.com and I promise I will read it**

There are a lot of people struggling with issues, some will open up and some are not ready, but reading this could benefit them all.  Please share and let’s make a difference!!

 

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Comments

  1. George, I’m so proud of you for how strong you’ve become through your journey.

    I also was so surprised, but also not so surprised, to hear that it was Abel who helped you to open up. I, too, think he is such an awesome guy. I only know him through his podcast and blog, but I sense that he is so genuine and compassionate. This blogpost just confirmed what I thought about Abel.

  2. Wow. That was intense. Thank you for sharing. I don’t even know where to begin, but I’ll try to keep this short. I’ve been fighting bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa (ED) for 7 years. ED almost took my life, multiple times. I was a fast moving NCO and it destroyed my career. I was med boarded 2 1/2 years ago because of my obsession and strive for perfectionism. I absolutely commend you for beating ED and all the horrible things that come with it. Your story has touched me so deeply. Very inspiring. I cannot wait to listen to your presentation on my Paleo Con download. Keep up the good work. Oh and BTW I’m 2 months symptom free now. 8 months Paleo. I think as long as you keep sharing your awesome recipes and raising awareness for eating disorders a lot of people dealing with this wretched disease will benefit.
    Forever grateful.

  3. Just thought I should say thank you for sharing. Inspired me to try and get rid of this obsession

  4. Adriana Dietrich says:

    I don’t even know where to begin, other than a big fat THANK YOU. I randomly found this article, and it has changed my life in the last couple of days. After reading through this, listening to your podcast with Stefani, plus her next one with a woman that suffered through bulimia and body image issues as well, a light bulb went off. I can’t even remember how long I’d been unhappy with myself, my body, my personality, everything about me wasn’t good enough, ever. Hearing other people’s stories of their transformations always gave me hope, but I would usually fall back into a pit of self pity and self loathing. You were completely right when you said that if people don’t have the right mindset for why they want to lose weight, workout, change their life somehow, it doesn’t work. I’ve been beating myself up for years for not being fast enough, smart enough, creative enough…. insert any kind of admirable trait here, and then somehow hiding my overwhelming insecurities behind a mask of shyness and silence. I’d been saying to myself, “if I just…” over and over, as if losing 10 pounds, moving to a new place (which I recently moved to Denver) would somehow fix me. Funny thing, I didn’t need to be fixed, I needed to be freed. That lightbulb went off when I heard you say that once you learned to love yourself exactly the way you were in that moment, despite where you were physically, it hit home. Real hard. I’ve been fighting myself for years, it’s exhausting, and downright blows. I’m not saying this change in perspective it’s going to be easy or automatic, but you and all those that have dealt with body issues and eating disorders similar to my own and overcame them by learning to love yourself first have inspired me and changed my life forever. For that I say thank you a million times and I would hug you shamelessly if it were geographically possible.

  5. Debbie Stobaugh says:

    George, Just now read your message and really admire you for sharing your life. It actually must have felt good to get it out, you have been holding all this in for such a long time. I can say I have never gone through this, but I can imagine how hard this and any other addiction would be to overcome. You are a remarkable person and have come a long way. I’am so happy you’re doing so well with your cooking and writing cookbooks, I can’t wait for your cooking book that will be coming out shortly. You are such an inspiration to others dealing with the same problems. Now they will be able to reach out to you and feel better about themselves. They now can feel they are not alone when dealing with their bad days, because of you, they can choose a better life. So proud of how you have changed your life, and you will change the life of others. Keep up the good work, two thumbs up to you. Debbie S.

  6. George,
    I recently discovered your blog. I am also a former (female) Marine! When I read this post, it was a little shocking, not because you are a man, but because until this post, I saw you as this physically fit person who is *obviously* awesome in the kitchen ;) I admire you for being brave and sharing your story. I have lived with (not suffered, I refuse to let a mental issue control me) anxiety for a long time. At one point, a corpsman wanted me kicked out for it. This was before Iraq and anxiety in uniform was less common. For so long, I was afraid people would judge me because I was not “normal”. It is a scary feeling and such a lonely place to be. I finally went to therapy and sought help. It changed my life, but I still have to work to never get to that scary point again. Anyway, Thanks for sharing something so personal. Thanks for sharing your love of food and cooking. I am going to attempt to be patient in the kitchen and try some of your recipes this week :)

  7. Thank you for this. Ive always had body image issues and suffered from depression, then struggled with an eating disorder and even worse body image issues being a dance major in college. Just recently diagnosed with many food allergies and health issues that have caused weight gain and major life changes, I have found myself in that dark place once again the past year. Your story makes me feel a little less broken also having an off and on struggle with food for 10 years, and gives me a sense of comfort and confidence that I can too find the strength to get back to my usual self and stop letting it control my life again. I love food, am new to paleo, and suck at actual cooking haha so your story and site have been perfect for me! Thank you so much for sharing you are truly an inspiration :)

  8. I have to be honest, when I first saw the title to this blog I just stared at it… I was thinking to myself I am so proud that he has the courage to talk about this part of his life. I too have suffered with Bulima and Depression. A lot of feelings you talk about I’ve been there also. Thank you for being so vulnerable and speaking from your heart. You have given me the courage to share my own story one day and I too hope to touch lives even if that may be one. Keep being you, you are incredible and inspiring man.

  9. AnthonyD. says:

    George, thank you for sharing this. I can’t say i wasnt floored by your admission of being bulimic. After reading your story about an altercation at your local whole foods and your military background i took you for a rough and tough guy with no weaknesses. You reminded me like i have to remind myself who used to box as an amateur that just beacuse we did tough things, we are still people and its ok to have an issue like this bulimia, depression and anxiety. Thanks for sharing.

    On a side note my ex wife was bulimic so I understand the struggles. I wish you well in your continued recovery.

    Anthony

  10. Thanks so much for this.

  11. WOW! This is me. I missed it the first time you posted it. So glad I found it now. I am at the lowest point of my life and struggling to get back on track. Thank you for sharing. Now I’ll go listen to the podcast you mentioned.

  12. Donna Magrini says:

    I wish I could hug you. You are an amazing person. Brave and amazing. I was a fat kid and asthmatic. A nightmare in gym class. I fight with body image to this day…..and I am almost 50. :(. But it is nice to know we don’t fight alone. I started going to hot yoga, and my teacher is big on nonviolence….especially towards yourself. It is helping! So know that you don’t fight alone….and you are amazing. Thanks for all you do!

  13. Lori Carroll says:

    George, I must have missed this before as well, but it appeared to me now at just the right time. My daughter suffers with body image issues as well, and happens to have arrived last night for a week-long visit… I’m sure that once I share this with her that you will have the same positive impact as Abel had for you.

    As for me, even when I was at my all-time best physically, I was never satisfied. I was always pushing, pushing, pushing (typical type-A personality, Leo, stubborn red-headed Irishwoman with a military mindset… YIKES!!!) Having been injured and broken myself, and having to take the baby steps on the road back to wellness have been a life-changer for me as well. The stories of so many folks in the paleo community on how they have turned things around for themselves have been inspirational to me… and you are no exception. I admire you even more for having the courage to speak out and share your backstory. Thank you… even though I never did the binge and purge thing, other parts of your story resonated for me as well.

    “It takes the strength of a warrior to ask for help”. You are a true warrior, George. Keep on rockin’ with your bad self!!

  14. Anonymous says:

    This is kind of amazing timing. I struggled with bulimia for 5 years through high school and college and never told anyone beside my parents and therapists. Paleo has been so important in getting my health back on track. But every once in a while, like last night, I’ll slip up and binge and purge. I’m sitting here in bed feeling horrible about the havoc I’ve wreaked on my health once again! It’s so nice to hear about someone who kicked it completely. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Heidi Gurley says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have been following you for so long, but missed this insight in to your history. I have always struggled with body image and feel that I am at a pivotal point in my struggle. Thank you for sharing your story and know that it will change many because of it.

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