About Me

Me at EDC Lobby Day, 10/4/11. Photo by Jim Knapp.

My name is Matt Wetsel. I’m a late 20-something, regular old boring guy who happened to have an eating disorder in college. I am not a doctor. Though I may discuss or reference things that helped me in my own recovery, this is not a self-help site or intended to be a source of any kind of medical advice.

Eating disorders are an often ignored and trivialized mental health epidemic that claim more lives than any other mental health condition. After suffering from anorexia for two years, I’m a committed activist and advocate for all things ED-related. I’m currently writing a book about recovery and gender, and this blog serves as a companion piece to air ideas and keep me on my toes.

I’m a regular participant in Lobby Day work with the Eating Disorders Coalition, an organization devoted to working on the federal recognition of eating disorders as a public health priority. I’ve been attending twice a year since 2007, and can easily say it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Eating disorders are such an increasingly widespread and deadly problem that without intervention on the federal level, the stigma, ignorance, and discrimination against persons with eating disorders will persist.

Over the years since I have recovered, I’ve had the opportunity to share my story and insights from recovery in various capacities within the community, from sociology and health psychology classes to community-organized talks during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week to interviews with various news sources. In April 2011, I was given the honor of presenting my story at the Eating Disorders Coalition Congressional Briefing following the Spring 2011 Lobby Day (which you can watch here!). Aside from legislation, I believe direct conversations and presentations are the most important way to decrease stigma and increase understanding/awareness of eating disorders. Fear of judgment and feelings of shame often stand in the way of people seeking help for eating disorders. I decided a long time ago that having an eating disorder was nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s my goal to spread that message as far as I can.

On Capitol Hill for the EDC briefing, Spring 2011. Photo by Jim Knapp.

I don’t fit the profile of the “kind of person” you’d expect to have an eating disorder, so I feel my involvement as an activist is important because I’m living proof that eating disorders do not discriminate. As a late 20-something male who doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes, people are often surprised to hear that I suffered from anorexia for two years. If you think about it, though, there isn’t a “type” of person you’d expect to have almost any other health condition, from alcoholism to cancer to diabetes to schizophrenia – no one sizes you up and says, “You don’t look like a diabetic!” Eating disorders, however, have been written off by much of society as a trivial matter. Meanwhile, families go bankrupt to get their loved ones the treatment they need.

Men face additional layers of stigma when seeking support because of the common misperception that eating disorders are a “woman’s disease” or that it somehow calls into question one’s masculinity because of other inaccurate stereotypes. The only thing you can tell about a person with an eating disorder, whether male or female, is that they are suffering from a life-threatening illness.

In the meantime, I’ll be writing, speaking, blogging, advocating, and educating about eating disorders …until they are no more.

Awards & Honors

2014 Love Warrior Award, Eating Disorder Recovery Support, Inc.

2013 Henry Abraham Best Graduate Student Paper Award, The Virginia Social Science Association, for “Eating Disorders, Mental Health, and Medical Necessity”

Media and Other Appearances
2013 – Eating Disorders: Not Just a Woman ThingHuffington Post Live
2013 – Striving For Perfection: Boys & Body Image, The Stream
2013 – Anorexia in Men on the Rise, Huffington Post Live
2012 – The Public Perception of Eating Disorders, Huffington Post Live
2011 – Men with Anorexia, WRIC Channel 8
2011 – The State of Male Eating Disorders, Interview: Huffington Post and my write-up discussing the interview
2011 – Eating Disorders Coalition Congressional Briefing: “No More Gender Bias” Public speech, Capitol Hill
2009 – Guys Have Eating Disorders, Too (podcast, Regence Radio)

Questions, comments? Just want to say hi? Email me at EDsNoMore@gmail.com or just leave a comment below!

16 responses to “About Me

  1. James

    You’re a great advocate Matt, thanks for speaking out, thanks for being brave enough to say ‘this happens to men too’

  2. Alex @ Raw Recovery

    I happened to stumble upon your blog and I think it’s great! I’m also recovering from an eating disorder and I really appreciate the fact that you mention that eating disorders do not discriminate. It is so true and such a little known fact to most people. Your writing is really inspiring, keep up the great words/work!

  3. Scarlett

    I love your blog and what you’ve written here, but I’m curious about your “until eating disorders are no more” sentiment. I know it’s a phrase NEDA has been tossing around recently, but doesn’t it directly contradict the idea that EDs are serious disorders with a strong neurological component? There is a clear subtext that eating disorders are fully preventable and that everyone can achieve a complete “recovery”, and this flies in the face of current research (and I’m referring to the legitimate research here, of course–not the sensationalized statistics that confound body dissatisfaction and dieting with actual EDs).

    • Hi Scarlett!

      The sentiment regarding ending eating disorders has less to do with a simple phrase – although you’re right, I’ve seen NEDA with similar statements such as ‘until eating disorders are history.’ For me, it derived from my work with the Eating Disorders Coalition and the lobby effort for the ‘FREED Act’, which stands for the ‘Federal Response to the Elimination of Eating Disorders.’ Through a combination of education, research, and preventative measures, I truly do believe that we can eliminate eating disorders as a mental health epidemic.

      So to answer your question, no, I don’t think it’s contradictory in the least. You are correct that, for some people, there is a biological or genetic component that can create a predisposition for having an eating disorder, and obviously for those individuals we can’t alter their biology. But we can implement screenings into public schools, make sure that doctors know the warning signs for early detection, fund research that reinforces what we either know or suspect about eating disorder prevalence and mortality rates, all of which will go towards bringing down the cost of treatment (the cost being a significant factor in denial of coverage by insurance companies, which is one of the reasons the death rate is as high as it is). Eliminating eating disorders means creating an informed environment that treats them as the life-threatening diseases that they are and, in turn, providing early intervention when possible and appropriate levels of care at all times.

      I actually wrote a post last year concerning the elimination of eating disorders which further elaborates:

      http://arenomore.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/achieving-the-goal-of-eliminating-eating-disorders-part-1/

      I also encourage you to look into the FREED Act and the work of the EDC. Here’s a detailed look into FREED on the EDC Blog:

      http://eatingdisorderscoalition.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-is-freed-act.html

  4. M

    Hi, I saw your youtube video and it strikes me now that anyone, female or male, can have eating disorders. I’m a 22 year old woman, who has dealt with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Anorexia since I was in my early teens, but the Anorexia part did not hit fully until I was 14. I’m currently doing quite well and am continuing to recover fully from both these illnesses.

    I have a young son and will have another son soon. I guess like most people I thought girls are more susceptible to EDs than boys, but finding/reading more info around the net made me see otherwise. It hit home and I fear if I don’t recover that my habits/behaviours will be passed onto my boys. To me I see ANY amount of risk as big enough to trigger it. It gives me much more motivation to get better, to be a healthy role model for my boys.

    Thank you for opening up & keeping this website…

    M.

  5. tina potts

    i wish you could only help my friend here in ireland, am at a loss of what i cn do. well done you! you give great hope.xxx

    • Thanks for checking out my blog!

      Regarding your friend in Ireland, I asked around and got this link for a group called Bodywhys: http://www.bodywhys.ie/, an Irish eating disorder association. I bet if you look around the site or contact them, they might have some good resources for your friend!

  6. I really appreciate what you’re doing here! Having suffered EDs myself and being currently involved in raising awareness and helping end EDs, I’ve wondered about the diversity in eating disorders. I began a group at my school to promote healthy living and ED awareness and I realized there is a very narrow stereotype for eating disorders. It’s hard to seek help when you feel you don’t fit that definition. I thought because I didn’t have stereotypical symptoms that I wasn’t really sick. So I am really inspired by your blog and what you do and I would like to get the word out about all sorts of people with EDs at my school! Are there any suggestions you have for me?
    Thanks, Kylie

    • Hi, Kylie! Sorry for the delay, I’ve unfortunately been neglecting my blog while I adjust to doing school work again!

      Unfortunately, stereotypical and misinformed representations of eating disorders often lead people to think they might not have a problem or that it’s “not so bad” because they don’t look like the extreme cases that make the news or tabloid publications.

      In any activism I do, I have some criteria which I absolutely think is imperative. Just discussing the subject can be difficult or triggering for some people, so in the spirit of creating a healthy dialog and providing as safe a space as is possible, it’s important to:

      1) Avoid specific numbers. Weights, foods, calories, etc. Shock value statistics, ‘lowest weights’, and other such things are very often the first questions I get asked or that are presented in the media. Magazine covers with headlines like, “I only weighed XXX!” do nothing to promote eating disorder awareness. Instead, they reinforce what you already mentioned – the misperceptions of what someone with an eating disorder might look like. Hearing numbers casually thrown around can also have a triggering effect on people struggling with ED/that are in recovery. While they might be relevant to your doctor/nutritionist/etc, I think we need to tread carefully when creating a public dialog so that we don’t get distracted by this type of information. I’m far more interested in how people are feeling about themselves than what the scale might say.

      2) For the same reasons that numbers need to be avoided, specific ED behaviors should be avoided too. You never know what might trigger someone else and you might even give someone ideas about other ways they can engage in ED. Again, it’s a matter of being socially responsible to a diverse and public audience. Read through my blog – you won’t find a single reference ever to specific weights or ED behavior, and it’s very intentional.

      3) Oftentimes, discussions about positive body image turn into discussions about “healthy eating.” These are two separate things, and I think there’s a lot of overlap between body shaming/weightism/negative body image and food shaming. The initiatives against obesity and mainstream messages about eating healthy often just result in body shaming and giving people socially acceptable means to engage in weightist behavior. You can’t assume just because someone is skinny, thin, average, full-figured, or obese that they don’t eat “well.” I know plenty of thin people who aren’t very healthy at all, but they’re largely exempt from body shaming because they blend into social ideals, and no one is criticizing their food choices. It’s a complete double standard.

      4) Since this is at your school, I would try to coordinate with any university counseling services. Maybe a good place to start would to see if they already have any eating disorder awareness activities/events/etc and if not, maybe you could help start something with them. It’s also important to involve health professionals so that resources for people are recognized and available. There’s also a chance that they could go about it all wrong – I’ve seen some counselors focus on all the things I’ve warned against in 1-3!

      5) There might already be general mental health groups on your campus – sometimes groups like NAMI (National Alliance for Mental illness) has university and/or state chapters. They might be interested in doing some ED-specific stuff. Reading groups, guest speakers, etc. can all be great ways to start conversations to educate people about the prevalence and seriousness of eating disorders.

  7. HA, matt you are ANYTHING but boring, omg. Well…you’re also not any other bad or negative things. You ROCK!

  8. I already saw your video, but I didn’t know that you have a blog.
    Don’t listen to negative comments like Sheelie’s one.

    I live in Italy and suffer from anorexia and bulimia.
    This is my blog: http://www.disordinialimentari.wordpress.com
    I’ll write about anorexia and eating disorders too.

  9. It’s very important all what you do.

  10. Catherine Dexter

    But for some reason he choose not to acknowledge my comment. Just mine.Thank You. How kind that we fight this together but really we don’t, it only depends on our media presence it would seem.

  11. Thank you for your genuine honesty. I think your words and your blog is beautiful. This disease is so complicated and I’m so marveled at the amount of power out there that is fighting back against ED. I started my recovery blog when I first got sober – alcohol and drugs – but continued my blog through my own recovery journey. I’m still fighting ED but I’m so happy to see strength in your message. I’m going to be linking from my recovery blog to yours, I hope that’s okay. I think everyone or anyone needs to see your blog. It’s remarkable and empowering. Thanks, Brittany

    • Hi Brittany, thanks for your comments, and congratulations on your own journey through recovery. The only way any of it will change is for people to talk about it, which is what got me started in the first place. By all means, feel free to link to me. Thanks, and be well!

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