Atlanta man shares secret life with eating disorder

- Judson George likes to photograph the world around him. On Thanksgiving, at our request, the 33-year old Georgia State University psychology student took photos of his family's celebration, after sitting down with us to talk about something he couldn't for years: what it was like to grow up with a secret eating disorder.

"I can remember at a very early age, always realizing that I felt very different than other people," George says.  "I noticed I didn't feel as confident as I noticed other kids acting. I didn't fit in."

Battling crippling anxiety about the way he looked, at 14, George says he began throwing up once or twice a week after meals, as a way to get control of his weight and fears.

"The point where I actually realized I had an eating disorder was I would say around the age of 17," he says.  "I just physically couldn't stop myself from binging and purging anymore.  It was a behavior I thought I had been in control of it for so long, and suddenly, it controlled everything I did. And I didn't have a choice."

George, who now volunteers, running the Instagram feed for the Eating Disorder Information Networks, or EDIN, would eventually be diagnosed with bulimia.It's one of a handful of eating disorders EDIN's  founder, psychologist Dina Zeckhausen, says are more common in boys and men than many of us realize.

"It used to be we were thinking about 10% of the people with eating disorders were male. Now it's closer to  20 or 25%," Zeckhausen says.

But, there's a catch.

"Because this is viewed as a girl's problem, it's a lot harder for males to reach out and get help," Zeckhausen says.

"I felt a lot of shame, and I felt ashamed to be me," Judson George remembers." Because had this problem that I thought was only for women.  Which makes no sense, that a problem could only be for one gender or another. But I felt like it was a secret that I had to keep."

When he hinted about purging to his therapist, he felt dismissed.

"I kind of got smirked at the first time I brought it up," George says. "Like, 'Uh, okay! He is being dramatic.'"

Then 7 years ago, hospitalized and very sick, George hit a tipping point.

"And it was there, that I had sort of this moment of, 'I don't think this is worth my life,'" he says.
That's when he told his parents.

"The severity sunk in very quickly, and, within days, they started mounting the troops to find help," he says.

Zeckhausen says too many young men don't get the treatment they need because of stigma about eating disorders.

"And guys need help just as much as girls need help," she says.  "These are very damaging disorders, they're dangerous, and they can be deadly."

Today, Judson George is in recovery and sharing his story with schools and other organizations as an EDIN speaker.    

"For me, I want to tell my story so that other men know that it's okay, to have these feelings, to have these thoughts to have behaviors that don't feel quite right," Judson George says.  "I think the strongest thing that anyone can do is ask for help, and it's the only thing that saved my life.

Because I couldn't have done it myself. For more information on eating disorders and resources to help, visit myedin.org.

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