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Danette Dooley
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Women - and men - fighting eating disorders know, their greatest challenge is how they see themselves

It was well into the interview before Glenn confided that he hadn't eaten in four days.

While his eating disorder didn't cause serious problems until several years ago, the 45-year-old says there were indications early in his adult life that something was wrong.

"I remember I was training to do the test for the RNC and I was exercising and that got out of control where I was eating just a grapefruit every day and jogging every day. I just kept going and going until I remember my father said to me, 'I don't know what's wrong with you, but you're looking really sick.'"

It was well into the interview before Glenn confided that he hadn't eaten in four days.

While his eating disorder didn't cause serious problems until several years ago, the 45-year-old says there were indications early in his adult life that something was wrong.

"I remember I was training to do the test for the RNC and I was exercising and that got out of control where I was eating just a grapefruit every day and jogging every day. I just kept going and going until I remember my father said to me, 'I don't know what's wrong with you, but you're looking really sick.'"

Those who loved Glenn watched him waste away, but whenever he looked in the mirror the image staring back at him was a person who was terribly overweight.

"At that time it was toying with me, but somehow I managed to stop," he said.

A father of two, he recalls how he found a way to test the temperature of baby food without putting it to his lips.

"I remember heating the food on the stove but I wouldn't taste it because I thought if I did, I'd gain weight. So I'd dip my finger into it rather than putting it in my mouth."

Stress impact

Six years ago, his eating disorder spiraled out of control.

"I was going through some financial problems and the stress of that left me trying to control something."

The one thing he could control was what went inside his body.

"I started exercising and walking every day. Then I was running every day. I was dieting to the point that I was only eating a banana and drinking juice every day."

Glenn's weight dropped from more than 250 pounds to 170 in less than four months.

"My brother said that I looked like a Holocaust survivor. I felt sad, to some degree, to hear those comments, but it didn't really matter to me. I was on a path to self-destruction."

Eating disorders have been described as a slow form of suicide.

Glenn says that's how he felt at times, because of his low self-esteem and self-hatred.

"The doctors were telling me that I wasn't going to last much longer. He said, 'I'll give you two months and you'll be dead.'

"And even when they said that, I was ambivalent to it."

People with eating disorders often feel they have control over their own body, when in fact the disorder is controlling them.

"I'd allow myself to have one meal a week," Glenn says. "It didn't matter what that meal was as long as I was willing to restrict for another week after I ate the meal."

Breaking stereotypes

Wearing a Boston Bruins ball cap, shorts and T-shirt and navy sweat jacket, Glenn looks more like an athlete than someone battling an eating disorder.

While many people equate eating disorders with young girls, a New York Times article in 2005 noted that in a study of 10,000 Ontario residents, University of Toronto researchers found that one in every six anorexic people was male.

Glenn has been diagnosed with anorexia as well as a non-specific eating disorder.

Over the last six years he has been treated on four occasions at Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, Ont. The centre offers programs in mental health, addiction and eating disorders.

"You learn that it's not about the food, it's not about the eating," he explained. "It's about control. It's about obsession."

Support important

Glenn now works with professionals in this province who are helping him understand and manage his eating disorder.

"I'm grateful for the support and understanding of so many people over the past six years: Dr. Olga Heath, Valerie Crewe, Bev Carter, Carolyn Little, Patricia Waddleton, Dr. Robert Woodland and Dr. David Craig," he said.

"They've all been there for me and so have my family, friends and co-workers."

Glenn says though it's not easy living with someone who has an eating disorder, his wife does her best to encourage him.

"Since I've come back from Homewood this last time (February 2008), I've been doing really well ... but this is Wednesday and I haven't eaten since Saturday. It concerns me that this might continue into the old cycle. But, at this point, I'm just saying that I'm in recovery. I've slipped, but I can get it back on track again."

He will rely on his dietitian and counsellors to help him do that.

Glenn said he was pleased that Vince Withers established the Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador to help people struggling with eating disorders.

The new treatment program means people don't have to leave family and friends and go to another province to get help.

"This will allow people to come forward (when) they know Homewood isn't an option for them because of their family and job commitments," Glenn said.

While he didn't go on to join the RNC, he's a longtime employee of the Department of Justice.

He's speaking out to let people know that eating disorders can affect men and women of all ages.

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Boston Bruins, New York Times, University of Toronto Homewood Health Centre Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Justice

Geographic location: Homewood, Ontario, Guelph

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