Recently, People Magazine came out with an article about Ashley Hamilton talking openly about his struggles with an eating disorder. I applaud Ashley for coming out about having an eating disorder. The shame, guilt and misunderstanding of eating disorders makes it hard for anyone to come forward and get help, but it is so much harder for such a public figure to do so. He is very courageous!
He will inspire other men and bring awareness to the erroneous myth that eating disorders are a young woman’s disorder. It is amazing how many people still think this and because of this ignorance many men are suffering in silence. He will make a big difference by going public.
Ashley, 38-year-old son of George Hamilton has recovery from alcohol and drugs but still struggles with his eating disorder. He told People, “I suffered from bulimia and anorexia since I was a teenager. I believe it was my problem before I got into drugs and alcohol. I used the drugs and alcohol to control the food addiction.”
At Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs we have heard that quote from so many of our patients. Many people with addictions will come forward about their alcohol or drug abuse but will not admit to having an eating disorder, even if that is the primary problem. Just like Ashley, many find that when they look at the start of their addictive behavior, they find the eating disorder actually came before the other addictions. Alcohol and drugs are often started as a way to control the uncontrollable obsession with food. Eating disorders usually start around puberty. If the eating disorder is addressed at an early age, people do not have to go down the path of alcohol and drugs addiction.
Eating disorders can be the hardest disease to recover from. With alcohol and drugs you can just stop taking them, but you must continue to eat. Many people find that once they get clean and sober the eating disorder rears its ugly head. They may have had years without the eating disorder because of the using other addictions. Many people in recovery relapse due to this secret or because of the extra weight brought on my replacing the addiction with food.
With sobriety is so important to be able to be honest. That is why many people come forward about their addiction, but when you come out about your eating disorder you usually hear things like “just stop” or “why do you do that?” The general public has a very poor understanding of eating disorders.
As I read the article written by People Magazine, I saw many factors that contribute to getting an eating disorder.
Growing up in the shadow of such a successful father figure probably contributed to his sense of perfectionism and striving to achieve success. External beauty had to be very important in his family. Second, Ashley remembers being bullied by being called “Fatley” at Beverly Hills High School. There are many studies today that have shown that being bullied as a teenager can have dire consequences especially eating disorders, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and suicide. Third, Ashley has struggled with weight fluctuations, which is very typical of someone trying to control an eating disorder. Usually the weight gain is due to metabolism disturbances and electrolyte imbalances brought on by dieting or restricting food. These disturbances levels out after a while when you get into recovery, but many people in early recovery are terrified of gaining weight so when water weight accumulates on the body, many relapse into the eating disorder or other addictions.
I wish Ashley Hamilton success in every area of his life. He has shown his character and determination to set aside the ego and chose what is best for him and to help other men to come forward and get the help they need.
Rebecca Cooper, MA, LMFT, LPCC, CEDS, is the Founder of Rebecca’s House and the author of Diets Don’t Work®. For more information about her programs, call 800-711-2062 and/or see www.RebeccasHouse.org