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Former Penn State footballer Joey Julius discloses struggle with eating disorder

Former Pennsylvania State University (PSU) footballer Joey Julius addressed a near-packed auditorium on Nov. 13, 2017, as part of the university’s Mental Health and Wellness Week. In his 10-minute speech, he candidly discussed his struggles with body image issues and a binge eating disorder since he was nine years old. From his childhood, Julius’ weight had made him a constant target of teasing, bullying and snide remarks, both on social and mainstream media. Instead of being acknowledged for his football skills, Julius was better known as the “overweight kicker” or “Big Toe”.

Over the years, Julius silently endured the suffering. The negative effects manifested themselves in the form of increasing self-consciousness, low self-esteem and thoughts of being a loser. “I became a viral sensation because of the way I looked,” he said. The build-up of these emotions led to the development of depression and anxiety. In March 2017, when Julius reached his breaking point, he told his trainer that he planned to take his life. He subsequently sought professional help to recover from his suicidal thoughts and eating disorder.

Before undergoing treatment, Julius was unaware that he was battling an eating disorder, resulting from a complete lack of knowledge about the subject. As a nine-year-old, he used to accompany his father, a soccer coach, for practice. On their way home, they would stop for a quick bite, unknown to his mother. He would also eat what his mother had cooked. “So, for the next five years, I basically ate two dinners every night,” he said, admitting that the binge eating would make him feel sick.

Learning to accept his body

Obsessed with his son’s weight in high school, Julius’ father put him on diet pills and diuretics. These proved to be ineffective. Julius started hiding food in the garage or his backpack to prevent his father from finding out. Due to his weight, he had to forego college football scholarships and even a chance to try out for the U.S. national team. He finally joined the PSU and became a kicker on the football team, thinking it would make things easier for him.

The setup at PSU aggravated Julius’ eating disorder. With unlimited meal points and unrestricted access to the common dining area, he ate whenever and whatever he wanted to. The absence of close family meant that his erratic behavior went unnoticed in college, leading him to gain even more weight. He was eventually convinced to seek treatment by his mother and the football team’s medical staff. His stint in rehab taught him to accept his body. “When I went to treatment the second time, I learned that acceptance came from within,” he said.

Julius also made a very important observation: “Socially, we have always been told we need to be skinnier, taller and better looking.” According to him, comparisons with others lead to complete despair. His “hours and hours of therapy” taught him to love himself, as did surrounding himself with friends and people whose presence he benefited from. He acknowledged this in an October 2016 Facebook post.

Proper diagnosis and treatment critical for eating disorders

Although Julius still struggles with his eating disorder, the diagnosis and treatment has made him understand his symptoms and behavior and react better. This is true not only for Julius but for millions of other men and women who are often silent victims of eating disorders.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), more than 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. will experience an eating disorder at least once in their lifetime. Early diagnosis and effective treatment greatly improves the likelihood of recovery. If the disorder is not adequately treated, or remains untreated, it can be fatal. Two of the most common causes of death among individuals with eating disorders are heart failure and suicide.

Dealing with eating disorders

If you or a loved one is suffering from a binge eating disorder, contact the Recover Mental Health. Being a repository of resources for mental health treatment, it can help in your recovery by connecting you with the best binge eating rehab centers in your vicinity. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-593-2339 or chat online with one of our representatives for more information.

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