Paul's Story

A male’s experience with anorexia


I am writing my story to illustrate that anorexia does not just affect teenage girls, but it is also experienced by boys and adult males.

My concern about weight can be traced back to a rugby competition held when I was about 13 years old. Players were weighed before games and on this day my mother had cooked me a hearty breakfast. When I was weighed, I came in slightly over the weight limit for the competition and was therefore disqualified from playing. I was mortified and extremely embarrassed. From this day on, and for the rest of my life, I have been very conscious of everything I ate. When I was about 15, I contracted a serious bout of pneumonia. Pneumonia was very serious in those days. I had a dangerously high fever and was bedridden for days. When I returned to school, everyone commented on how much weight I had lost and how thin I was. I was never the same after this, always obsessed with how much I ate and the need for exercise but still managing to function ok in society.

At 27 years old, I was transferred to Canberra with my job. At this point my anorexia reached full bloom and nearly killed me. I lived in a single room in a hostel, I had no friends or family and it was very cold.  Outside of work and exercise, I stayed in my room and starved.

After 5 months in Canberra, I was so thin and malnourished that my boss insisted I see a doctor. The doctor called the receptionist in to look at my thin body. He told me and my boss if I didn’t change my environment that I would be in real danger of dying. Fortunately, my boss in Canberra arranged for me to transfer to Darwin. This was only 6 months from the time I started in Canberra.

Darwin saved my life. I loved the lifestyle and the warm climate. I got heavily involved in sport and made great friends. I was, of course, still careful about what I ate but I was over the worst of the anorexia. I got married when I was 32. My wife was a great cook and we had 2 beautiful daughters, all of this helped me immeasurably in my ongoing battle with anorexia.

I am now retired and live on the mid-north coast of NSW. I am now able to live as close as possible to a full and healthy lifestyle.

I never sought treatment, back in the 1960s and 70s there was very little information about anorexia. Today there is a lot more information and support out there and I encourage anyone who feels they need support to reach out. I wish it had been available to me.