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Joey Julius and the Reality of Eating Disorders

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Penn State kicker Joey Julius. Photo: Chris Knight/Associated Press

There is a college football player named Joey Julius who struggles with something called Binge Eating Disorder. He is not alone. It is estimated up to two percent of all men in the United States suffer from this problem and the number is higher for women. It is rarely reported and I’m glad Julius is making his struggle known. I’m sure going public with this, particularly for a high-profile athlete who is supposed to be tough and strong, was not an easy decision.

I have a personal reason for commenting on Julius’s brave decision. I suspect I have a borderline case of the problem. Anyone who knows me will laugh. I’m thin and relatively athletic. I’ve never been what anyone would call fat although I have weighed more than I do now. When I find myself in a situation with unlimited food, I have an incredibly difficult time not eating. I eat quickly, and I’ll eat until I’m uncomfortable. If food is available, I’ll eat even if I’m not hungry.

Those are several of the behaviors that define Binge Eating. I don’t have several of the other markers and that is why I consider myself borderline.

I suspect one of the reasons we are susceptible to this disorder is through much of our history, we’ve struggled to get enough to eat. In this time of cheap and abundant food, it’s easy to get more than enough. However, we still have that urge to stuff ourselves while the eating is good. Psychology aside, this is a serious disorder and the fact that Julius is willing to step out and discuss it is a wonderful thing.

I’m certain because someone of his stature is willing to admit this problem and talk openly about it, a lot of people who are less secure and have the same issue will seek help. The statistics suggest there are many young people suffering with this problem and likely in silence. It is probable many of them are filled with self-loathing for their weakness. “Just don’t eat,” is the advice given to anyone with an eating disorder. “How hard is it push the plate away?”

These sorts of comments are not helpful to those suffering. Weight and food related issues are incredibly important in this world and not just to those suffering with them. Many of the healthcare problems we face as a nation are related to being unhealthy. If the people of this nation had a better diet and exercised more it would save literally billions of dollars.

I suspect a large percentage of people think it as simple as pushing away the food. That if people just had a little willpower they’d be fine. There is a modicum of truth in that argument. Overeating, Binge Eating, Bulimia, and other food related disorders are often related to a level of self-control. The problem is we portray it as something that’s easy. It’s not. Dieting and all food related issues are very difficult to overcome for the simple reason that we must eat and we must do it quite frequently.

If you want to quit cigarettes or some other substance beside food, one of the best strategies is to keep those sorts of things out of your daily life. That’s obviously impossible with food.

Athletes and football players in particular are urged to eat a lot to bulk up on muscles. It’s a brutal cycle.

Something as simple as Julius coming forward and letting the rest of us know how difficult it truly is to resolve such issues, reduces the shame for others with related problems.

It’s difficult. That’s the first thing to understand if you are suffering. It’s not easy and many people are suffering with you. Get the help you need. Take the steps required and don’t be embarrassed to admit it.

Well done, Julius. Thank you for trying to help so many and, of course, best of luck in defeating your problem. I’m with you, brother.

By Tom Liberman

Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time. 

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