Input and Output: When Exercise Goes Extreme

I’d like to introduce a guest blogger for this week, Bev Mattocks. I first discovered her blog about three months ago, only to find out that it was a blog-turned-book. Her website actually inspired me to make my blog into a book, too–although I am saving the rest of the blog posts for the book.
I was able to buy Mattock’s book, “Please Eat… A Mother’s Struggle to Free Her Teenage Son from Anorexia.” The blog she wrote details her experiences in dealing with her son’s anorexia, but I would recommend buying the book for an easier read. It helped to see the struggle from the perspective of a parent, especially as my own parents have learned to deal with my eating disorder. It has been a long journey since the moment I told my mom everything.
I think this is a timely post, as we need something about how eating disorders affect males, too. Bev’s story gave me great insight into her son Ben’s world, and while my experiences have not been as difficult, I could definitely see places where we could relate. I am only thankful I did not fall in as deep as he did.


In the second chapter of my book Please Eat… A Mother’s Struggle To Free Her Teenage Son From Anorexia I describe my pride at watching my 15-year son, Ben, win the 1500 metre race at the school sports day in July 2009.

At the time Ben (who lives in the UK) was into a whole range of sports, not just running. Then, over the summer of 2009, his sporting activities got even more intense. He was swimming, running and working out at a local gym every day – and more.
With this came a whole new dedication to ‘healthy eating’, especially fat-free food. Ben quickly became an expert at slimming down recipes, cutting out the ‘baddies’ from his diet and examining the nutritional content of food packaging in microscopic detail.
So at what point did it all go from being a proud mom watching her son evolve into a fit and healthy sportsman to being a worried mom who… well… began to notice that something wasn’t ‘normal’ about the way her son was behaving?
When did the popular, confident Ben begin to withdraw from his social circle and devote most of his waking hours to exercise and ‘healthy eating’? When did he begin to develop curious rituals around food preparation and eating? When did he begin to lose weight?
It wasn’t until the end of that summer of 2009 that I was prompted to take Ben to see our GP. By this time Ben had lost an enormous amount of weight, possibly one quarter of his pre-summer weight and it was quickly heading towards one third. Ben went from being a big burly rugby player to being a skinny waif.
But he wasn’t just changing physically; Ben was changing mentally, too. He began to experience extreme mood swings, deep depression and violent outbursts. And, as he continued to lose weight, his increasingly distorted mind insisted that he was ‘fat’. Night after night he would sit in front of the TV, viciously prodding his skinny abs, astonished that we couldn’t see the ‘disgusting rolls of fat’.
Following the publication of Please Eat… I wanted to see how our story compared with the experiences of other families. The result was my second book: When Anorexia Came To Visit: families talk about how an eating disorder invaded their lives which was published this week and is available on Amazon and Kindle.
Although this book describes the experiences of 20 British families, there will be overlaps and elements that families across the world will recognise. Many parents will find themselves nodding their heads and saying “Me, too!” as they read about families undergoing similar experiences.
Most of the young people described in When Anorexia Came To Visit developed an exercise addiction of some kind with their eating disorder. Like my son, it was a kind of purging, a matter of input and output: what went in had to be worn off with a punishing exercise regime.
It was the Easter of 2011 before my son finally got his exercise addiction under control. But it wasn’t until the second half of 2012 before he was truly free of his eating disorder.
Today, in 2013, 19-year old Ben is well and about to leave for university. He avoids sport and is happy with his body. He still cooks, indeed he’s an awesome cook, but these days he cooks normal, balanced family meals. And all the terrifying eating disorder behaviours and obsessions have gone. You can read more in my book Please Eat… A Mother’s Struggle To Free Her Teenage Son From Anorexia which is available from Amazon.
Getting a son or daughter through an eating disorder is one of the toughest and most distressing things a parent will ever do. So I am immensely grateful to the 20 wonderful families that willingly volunteered to contribute to my second book When Anorexia Came To Visit. But, of course, I must also thank the young people themselves for demonstrating the courage, grit and determination to fight the eating disorder and win.
Being a parent is tough, but being someone who has fought to break free from this insidious illness is even tougher.
Bev Mattocks is the author of Please Eat… A mother’s struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia
Her second book “When anorexia came to visit: Families talk about how an eating disorder invaded their lives” has just been published, with a Foreword by Professor Janet Treasure OBE
Both are available on Amazon and as Kindle downloads
Visit Bev’s blog AnorexiaBoyRecovery

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.

This entry was posted in Anorexia, Guest Post, Male Eating Disorders, Relationships. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Input and Output: When Exercise Goes Extreme

  1. Lily says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I’ve gone through the entirety of your blog in just two days and really applaud your honesty and your effort. I see so much of myself in you. I’m about the same age (going to enter my junior year of college) and struggled with bulimia my freshman year of college. It’s a tough transitional period for any young woman, that’s for sure.

    Some of my thoughts: although I no longer purge, and for the most part binge, I still am very honest with myself and know that I still want to lose weight. ALthough I wouldn’t call myself eating-disordered anymore, I still have a huge preoccupation with food and healthy eating, as well as fitness and nutrition. I drool over pictures of food, look up recipes that I know I’d never make if they weren’t nutritionally sound, and look at menus of restaurants. I believe this is a remnant of my mind that still isn’t “fully” free–yet I find that I may want to hide it under my “love of food” or my “love of health and fitness.”

    I think you’re awesome for doing this, and you touched upon so many points that I think really need to be brought up. I am in a much better place now–through my own effort alone–as my mother was unsupportive and refused to believe I had a problem, and enjoy a wide variety of foods.

    • rachael says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m glad this blog was helpful to you, or at least helpful in the way that you can relate.
      I’m so sorry you haven’t had much support. If you ever need anything, if you have any questions, you have my support! We are all working through this together, even if we ARE geographically far away. I wish you luck as you continue on your journey!

  2. Pingback: Doesn’t Every Woman Have An Eating Disorder? | Running in Silence

  3. Kelly Roth says:

    While I do enjoy your blog and your honesty, I do enjoy how you brought in a guest blogger. I think that it gives your story and many others like it a new voice. Now I want to go read that book! Once more thank you for sharing your story

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