Old, fat, male … and bulimic?

John Prescott's recent revelation reminds us that eating disorders aren't just a female thing.

Topics: Broadsheet, Eating Disorders, Love and Sex,

“Does John Prescott’s admission that he suffered from bulimia while deputy prime minister deserve sympathy, suspicion or ridicule?” asks the Guardian’s Matthew Weaver, introducing a roundup of the British media’s coverage of Prescott’s recent revelation. Unlike Princess Diana, the last famous British bulimic I can recall hearing about all the way over here, Prescott is old, male and fat — triply turning our stereotypical image of a person with an eating disorder on its head. Predictably, this means the coverage includes mockery from those who think the portly politician must not have been trying hard enough at bulimia, as well as endless variations on the theme of, “But … but … eating disorders are for girls!”

You Might Also Like

While shame is a hallmark of bulimia in general, Prescott notes that his own embarrassment stemmed specifically from the emasculating aspect of having a disorder that’s typically associated with young girls. Of his first visit to a bulimia specialist, Prescott has written, “I turned up and found his waiting room full of young women. I was the only man there. I felt a right twerp.” Former bulimic and professional weirdo Uri Geller, quoted in Weaver’s roundup, puts an even finer point on it: “No one expects a man, especially a successful one, to have an eating disorder. It seems such a weakness.”

But naturally, we’re supposed to expect weakness from girls. (Can you imagine me rolling my eyes?) The stereotypical image of an eating disorder sufferer — a scrawny, attention-seeking teenage girl — makes the problem seem simple enough to solve. You just send a tough guy in to demand that she eat normally and quit barfing, already! But now John Prescott has gone and threatened to wreck that image and reveal something much more complex: that 10 percent of diagnosed bulimics and 20 percent of new cases are men; that a compulsion to throw up your food isn’t just about weight control, and most bulimics are not underweight; that these disorders aren’t restricted to kids who will eventually grow out of it; and that bulimia is not a personal weakness but a dangerous mental illness.

If you really can’t figure out whether that’s something that deserves sympathy, suspicion or ridicule, I don’t want to know you.

Kate Harding is the co-author of "Lessons From the Fatosphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body" and has been a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>