An Interview With Gary Grahl

     

    Why is Skinny Boy relevant today?

    GG: The number of males owning up to eating disorders is growing rapidly. Statistics generally state that close to one million men suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive overeating, ranging in the ballpark of 5-10% of all eating disorder cases. Many males feel stigmatized to go public with a female dominated illness. For many years this has suggested that male cases have been significantly underreported.

     

    What makes Skinny Boy different from other books on eating disorders.

    GG: It’s one of the only books on eating disorders that emphasize the male perspective on recovery. It focuses on the inner dialogue and warfare carried out by those who struggle with deep-seeded shame and self-hatred. The message that recovery is obtainable and very real is packed into an easy-to-read, creative, witty style. 

     

    What do you hope to accomplish with your book?

    GG: I want to provide hope and encouragement to those who still struggle with eating disorders, and to parents and friends who have no clue how to provide support. I want to send the strong message that it’s okay to talk about the paralyzing struggle inside, particularly with someone who cares and has worked very hard to earn your trust. A person doesn’t need an eating disorder to comfort and hold onto like a teddy bear. There are other ways to cope that work much better and are more enjoyable. I want to use my book as a platform from which to communicate answers and a sense of relief to anyone searching for “how to do it.” 

     

    Why do we need book on anorexia in males?

    GG: The market is saturated with books on eating disorders, but is virtually devoid of resources that cater to the male population. Granted, most of the underlying issues from which eating disorders bloom are very similar in males and females, but there are differences, too. Skinny Boy will satisfy a need.

     

    Why haven’t we had a book about anorexia in males before now?

    GG: Good question. Maybe males are unwilling to go public because of the female-dominated stigma attached. Our culture perpetuates that males will be happy, successful, and popular and will collect lots of women, money, and power by achieving a certain “hunky,” handsome, and suave look. Or maybe there aren’t as many success stories as believed, I don’t know. Eating disorders are private, daunting illnesses. It’s difficult for anyone to admit struggling with one and be held accountable for recovery, let alone do it publicly with a national audience.

     

    As a mental health professional, is there something in your book for other professionals that is not already available?

    GG: A personal account of inpatient treatment and the therapeutic approaches taken by staff that actually worked with me. I tackle the complex, paralyzing inner “voice” so common in eating disorder clientele and provide a first-person example on what I did to stifle and conquer irrational thought patterns. There are questions in the back of the book that can help guide the reader through this process.

     

    Why is there an increase in the number of males with eating disorders?

    GG: As more males gather the courage to speak up about their battle with eating disorders, I think others are uncovering their heads and realizing it’s not such a bad thing to talk about. Of anything the media is doing right, it’s fostering the message that more males are speaking out, which in turn supports the next person in line.

     

    As a Christian, what role did your faith play in your illness and recovery?

    GG: Growing up I equated God as a policeman of sorts. I felt I could never be “good enough” and he was simply one more impossible person to please. This belief became great leverage for IT (my eating disorder “voice”) to grind away at my self-esteem. When my stubbornness finally “cried uncle” and I embraced the fact that Christ loves me for me, and not for becoming “good enough” first, the doors to my shame prison were thrown open to spiritual freedom. It was a gradual, humbling learning process and didn’t happen over night, but today my Christian faith is the best weapon I have to remain recovered. It’s revolutionized my self-esteem and thought process, and knocked shame from the driver’s seat of my life. While going through training to be a professional counselor, I learned that a healthy human being is comprised of achieving balance in the physical, mental, emotion, and spiritual self—and many times in that order. What I quickly discovered was the reverse order needed to take place. My Christian faith completed me, and became the cornerstone to my overall health. I no longer garnish my self-worth and security from “self-help” theology, but from the love God has shown me, which therefore gives me permission to be me.