A rare and very necessary book.
Before I start this review I want to clarify one thing – an eating disorder is a mental illness. Very rarely is it ever about the food, or even about weight. Nine out of ten times it is a symptom of an underlying issue. A need for control. A feeling of worthlessness. A desire for perfection. A coping mechanism.
These are all problems experienced by both men and women, yet eating disorders tend to be predominantly associated with women. There are many factors that may play into this which is a whole article in its own, but for now lets just acknowledge that this is not a gender-limited disorder.
Weight Expectations – One Man’s Recovery from Anorexia is a candid look into eating disorders from a guys experience. Author and comedian Dave Chawner presents a stark and relateable book/journal/self help read that I hope all men struggling with an eating disorder gets to read. Even if it’s read in secret, men – go and get this book.
I first discovered Chawner through his Ted Talk. I stumbled across this informative, heartbreaking and humorous speech because I needed help. I was in the throes of an eating disorder myself (and still am), and as a man, I was very confused as we aren’t really brought up to acknowledge such conditions in ourselves.
As a comedian Chawner takes a lighter approach to a serious issue in both his book and his talk. And as someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, this was quite refreshing.
I felt as though I was reading Dave’s diary. As though he wrote it with the intention of no one ever seeing it, thats how honest it is. I don’t think I have ever stopped mid-chapter in a book and thought “oh my god I am not the only one” as many times as I did with this book.
“Days became ruled by calories, exercise and weight. I began weighing myself first thing in the morning, always before I’d eaten. I wanted to be as empty as possible to get the lowest feasible number”. This, for example, is something that I dealt with every single day for so long, without even realising that it was a problem.
And that is why I believe so strongly in spreading awareness about this book. Because for the very first time as a man dealing with this illness I didn’t feel alone. I felt like I was having a conversation with an old mate going through the same thing that I was, comparing notes.
As a self proclaimed activist against the mental health stigma in men, this book has been a pivotal piece of my journey. And I hope that it can have the same effect on someone else that may be struggling.
Guys, it’s okay to reach out. And if you are not quite ready to, then simply picking up a book to help make you not feel so isolated is a massive step in the right direction. And if you feel you have or are starting to develop an odd relationship with food, a read like this will only help you.
This book has given me hope and made feel like I have a friend that understands. And I hope by reading this, you have felt the same way.