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Mental Note

Episode 8 - Trouble in the NFL with Patrick Devenny

Check out our podcast, Mental Note. Professional athletes gain or lose potentially millions of dollars based on the way their body looks and performs. But what happens when the pursuit of perfection shipwrecks your life? Patrick Devenny walks us through how he suddenly found himself facing a diagnosis of bulimia… and how he was able to find a way out.

Quote by Patrick Devenny

Synopsis:

Professional athletes gain or lose potentially millions of dollars based on the way their body looks and performs. But what happens when the pursuit of perfection shipwrecks your life? Patrick Devenny walks us through how he suddenly found himself — a six foot, three inch, muscled, and fine tuned athlete — facing a diagnosis of bulimia… and how he was able to find a way out. Along the way we talk with Rebecca McConville, a registered dietician, board certified sports specialist, eating disorder clinician and cohost of the podcast Phit for a Queen.

Transcript

Patrick Devenny: [00:00:00] It took me literally hitting rock bottom in different aspects of my life in 2015 to realize that I didn't have a life. I was scared to death to go eat with people because I couldn't control what I was going to eat. I was scared to death to not go to the gym for a day. 

[music] 

Patrick: All of those concept that dictated my life to the point where I had no life. 

[music] 

Ellie Pike: Patrick Devenny grew up in California and in a lot of ways he had a seemingly amazing childhood. [00:00:30] A mom who adored him. A dad who rewarded him for pursuing sports. Tons of friends to play with and boundless success on the football field. An all-American boy's dream, right? So how did he fall so far from grace? Today we're headed into the life of competitive sports, a place where literally millions of dollars are riding on the way your body looks and performs. 

Along the way we'll talk about the stigmas men face with eating disorders, some of the destructive [00:01:00] tendencies inherent to pro sports and how to find health after destruction. You’re listening to Mental Note. I'm Ellie Pike. 

[music] 

Patrick: My name is Patrick Devenny. 

Ellie: Patrick's journey into pro sports began in high school. The only son of a divorce and protective mom. This was the first time he was allowed to play the sport and he dove in with passion. 

Patrick: My mom didn't actually let me play football until I was a freshman in high school. She was so [00:01:30] worried about her baby getting hurt and that goes back into-- I was her everything, so having that kind of restriction growing up made high school football so much better for me, so much more enjoyable. I didn't grow up for 15 years playing the sport. 

I was playing these other sports and trying to learn how to use my body, but at the same time once it finally became time where I was allowed to play it was a whole new world for me, and then the success started to come and sports progressed to where it just [00:02:00] became more and more and more fun. 

Ellie: What did you love about the sport? 

Patrick: The camaraderie. Running out, there's nothing better in the world out of all levels of football that I've played, running out on Friday Night Lights and you've got that- the crowds and it's a different atmosphere and that's actually just not driven by business. 

Ellie: It just seems so like pure and innocent. 

Patrick: Absolutely. 

Ellie: That’s awesome. 

Patrick: Yes. It’s hard to look back on it and be like, I would do anything to go back and play high school football. [00:02:30]  

[music] 

Ellie: Patrick's love of the game was so intense. He knew that college ball and the NFL were where he wanted to go. To get there he trained harder and harder, even joining the track team to improve his game and it worked. By the end of high school the universities were coming to his football games watching and recruiting him. In the end the University of Colorado Boulder won out and offered him a scholarship, but with the newfound opportunity came many layers of pressure, transforming [00:03:00] his experience of the game. 

Patrick: Being the only kid to receive a scholarship, before the season even started, committing, every newspaper is now instead of just saying the quarterback from Granite Bay High School it’s the kid that's now a scholarship athlete and supposed to be one of the top guys in the region and this and that. It really puts you in the spotlight. 

Ellie: It seems like before that you were just like enjoying it. You got better at it, but it wasn't like pressure-filled as much as-- 

Patrick: Not so much- not as much as it would [00:03:30] just be any other game. 

[music] 

Patrick: Then you also have a- like I have mentioned, but to have a mom that was so proud of you and then all of a sudden now you're getting scholarship offers and all this other kind of stuff that she's walking around town saying to her friends like, it's going to be at the University of Colorado and then the NFL and like setting these lofty expectations with herself. 

That now it's not only about my goals, it's her goals, and these subtle constant reminders when you're just in the kitchen and all of a sudden [00:04:00] she's like- drop something to remind you of it. You’re like, holy shit, there's another- like this is a lot. I'm not just worried about my prom date at this point, it's a different ballgame. 

Ellie: As you moved into college, started playing, what was it like? 

Patrick: It was terrible. 

[music] 

Ellie: Patrick struggled to find his footing on the team and often thought his career was at an end. He got moved from his chosen position as quarterback to being tight end. [00:04:30] A completely new position that took a lot of time to learn, and while things began to turn around for him during his junior year as he started to make some plays and get recognition, it was at this point where his relationship with food began to warp due to the stress. When you were in college what were some of your eating habits, exercise habits, even just your thoughts about your body? 

Patrick: Yes. That’s a great question. When I think back I think starting my first two years of college [00:05:00] can eat whatever. The fact of the matter is you're working out so much that it's really hard to notice eating patterns. You can go and get- if you're from Boulder, Cosmo's pizza at 2:00 in the morning. Go out partying with your friends, eat and drink whatever, but you're going to go practice for literally four hours the next day between weight training and practice and all that stuff. You’re going to burn it off and you- it's really hard to tell, but then what happened for me was this concept of clean eating [00:05:30] and, "Good versus bad foods." 

[music] 

Patrick: This stereotype that if you want to make it to that elite level you have to eat chicken breast and broccoli and eggs, and ban any candy and alcohol and diet sodas and as I said, I literally did not have a diet soda until after I was done playing football. I got [crosstalk] like maybe a handful of times. 

Ellie: You really moved into this black and white [00:06:00] thinking of like if I have this food one time it's going to be really bad for my body and my sport. 

Patrick: For sure. 

Ellie: And my career, because I want to be in the NFL. 

Patrick: Yes, absolutely. From the concept of disordered eating that 100% happened in college, from this concept of mentally defining foods as good versus bad and demonizing foods was the beginning of the end for me. 

[music] 

[00:06:30] 

Ellie: For a professional perspective about what athletes are up against at their eating disorder battles we caught up with Rebecca McConville over Skype. She’s a registered dietitian, board-certified sport specialist, eating disorder clinician and co-host of the podcast, Phit for a Queen. Through her work with the Kansas City Chiefs she's begun to understand the difference between an athlete tweaking their eating and exercise habits for performance reasons and one who’s straying into disordered [00:07:00] tendencies.  

Rebecca McConville: A lot of times it’s like [unintelligible 00:07:03] saying, when the driver performance goes off road. At first he knows you're veering off. You probably don't even realize that you're starting to go off the road, but at some point you're like, how did I get here? First thing I look is, what's the reasoning behind it? A lot of times it may not even be about their performance when they get down to it. 

It’s anxiety or it's social pressures and so they're just using their sport as a way to mask what their changing with their eating habits or focus on weight. [00:07:30] The other thing is really getting them to answer, is it actually enhancing my performance? Or is it costing my health? Then you start to challenge them with finding that balance. 

Ellie: Rebecca says that players are often set up to fail simply based on the structure of training and practice regimens. 

Rebecca McConville: First off, getting an idea of their practice schedule. I do empathize with a lot of these athletes especially some of my college athletes, they may start practice at 7:00 in the morning, get down at 11, but they [00:08:00] have to hurry and shower and then go to class. That’s right during a meal time. Then they're having to go now be the student part of student-athlete during this time and so their first time to really sit down and relax and have a meal maybe at five o’clock at night. 

Same thing for professional, I know they'll have their meetings and then their walkthrough and then they go in. They have an hour and a half to eat lunch, but then they actually have to go do full pad practice, so trying to get them to experiment with the best that they can do during [00:08:30] break time, having frequent snacks, making sure they get energy dense snacks, explaining what's going to happen to their appetite and hunger. At the end of the day when they finally can relax and trying to be mindful at that meal when that's probably their first time to actually de-stress. 

Ellie: While every sport has its own special way of putting athletes bodies under a microscope, football recruiting season is especially brutal. 

Rebecca McConville: A lot of times there’s [00:09:00] norms for when they go into combine which is like their testing before they go in the draft, and so there's certain body fat percentages that say a quarterback or a linebacker or a lineman should be at and so they really feel the pressure that they have to get down to that so they can look good in front of scouts. Then even per team their strength coach or position coach may decide that they need to be at a certain body fat percentage or weight and sometimes they'll even get fined if they're not within that range. 

[00:09:30] You can understand it's one thing when you feel pressure to be at a certain weight or eat a certain way for your sport. It’s another when we start talking money and your livelihood. That really sets them up for a disordered pattern by necessity if they don't know how to navigate and do it healthily. 

[music] 

Ellie: Patrick definitely ran into the pressures of the combine. 

Patrick: I would say the most interesting time for me was at the Pro-Day 

[00:10:00] at the University of Colorado, and that's where a bunch of scouts from the NFL show up and they watch all the seniors that are going to be coming out and are eligible to play in the NFL. What happens is you walk into the room, you've spent months training for this moment. You walk into an auditorium, literally wearing- in my case, I just wore compression shorts, and you're shirtless, just compression which are basically just really tight [00:10:30] tights. 

They're about to measure every aspect of your body. They measure your hand width, hand length, your height, your weight, they're pinching you, trying to see your body fat. You're going to start doing tests, how many times you can bench press something and how fast you are, all that kind of stuff. Meanwhile, there's 50 people just sitting there watching and recording you. At the end of the day scouts are looking for a gladiator literally. 

Like you think of somebody that's going to be [00:11:00] 6'5", 330 pounds, can run like the wind and has zero percent body fat. When you look, you just watch, you turn on the NFL and you see these guys and they're just so ripped and lean. You have to be at that level. Quite frankly, what it comes down to is guys are making hundreds of millions of dollars. 

That you're going to be very strict on what you eat and how you treat your body and all that kind of stuff because at the end of the day, the look is the first impression. It becomes very, very stressful. 

Ellie: [00:11:30] Wow, so tell me a little bit about once you're at that level, what were the messages that you've got, about your body, about how to eat, how to sleep, how to exercise? 

Patrick: Yes, I think to answer that fairly is the messages I told myself. 

Ellie: Sure. 

Patrick: You're in the locker room and all of a sudden life is a comparison. You are standing there shirtless next to the guy next to you, comparing every aspect of him. [00:12:00] Because you know, at the end of the day there's 53 people that are going to make the roster. It doesn't matter what position he is, really doesn't. Everybody's competing for a job. 

Ellie: That's fascinating because when you talked- in high school about what you loved you said that camaraderie? 

Patrick: Absolutely. 

Ellie: What did it feel like when you're in constant competition with your players? 

Patrick: I remember when, the hardest thing that I had to come across in Seattle was there was a [00:12:30] veteran on the team who had been on the team forever. I didn't understand one of the concepts that the coaches were trying to teach. I turned to this guy, it's like my second day up there and I had asked him like, "Can you explain this to me, I don't understand the footwork and how to do this." 

He looked at me, and he said, "Sorry man, I can't." Turned around and walked away. I was so one, hurt, but two, pissed. I had a buddy on the team as well and he was- explained to me he's like, "Look, he has a family [00:13:00] with kids that are relying on him to make the team this year. If he helps you, you guys are different positions but if he helps you, he's not getting paid. He has to go figure out life, so you cannot take it personally." 

When in high school, it's all about bringing up the young guys and teaching and leadership and all that kind of stuff. It's just the harsh reality of that level of competition, that level of play. 

Ellie: How is your performance when you were playing for the Seahawks? 

Patrick: [00:13:30] Mentally, it was so overwhelming. I don't think I've ever been more stressed out my entire life than going through training camp. The concept of getting to the NFL versus staying in the NFL are two totally separate things. Teams know okay, you're not getting it done you can't perform under pressure you're out. Bring in somebody new. 

Ellie: You feel so disposable and the pressure is on. 

Patrick: Yes you can't just go out and play. It's now like, don't mess up, and you get into that mindset [00:14:00] and it's the most challenging thing to overcome. For me to answer your question, Seattle was such an amazing opportunity but I knew as soon as I got there, I mean just looking around I put myself in such a disadvantage mentally that I gave myself no shot, because primarily I felt fortunate to even get up there that it was pretty much over before it began. 

[music] 

Ellie: [00:14:30] I imagine for a lot of people they would take home the message I'm not good enough? 

Patrick: Absolutely. Yes. 

Ellie: Is that what you felt? 

Patrick: Yes, especially once it happened, that was a big shift in my life. That was my identity. That was who I was. If you asked me, anybody from hometown anytime I go home it wasn't necessarily hey, how are you, how's the family? It's oh, this guy plays for the Seahawks [00:15:00] and this guy plays for the University of Colorado. That's the only thing people want to talk about. That's your identity. That's who you are. 

Ellie: You're kind of a local celebrity too. 

Patrick: Absolutely and then all of a sudden you wake up on a Monday, and you don't know what to do. Your life's done. Football is done. Now what do you do? 

Ellie: It seems like not only was football your identity, but it was also this discipline around food that was also part of your identity, that when you were doing it well you felt like a good person. 

Patrick: Absolutely. 

Ellie: That's part of who you were. 

Patrick: Correct. 

Ellie: [00:15:30] Yes. Then when you went from this black and white vision, clean eating to- at what point did you start to notice, wait a second something's wrong, this isn't discipline with eating, it's not about me being, "Healthy for football," there was something more off with food and your emotions? 

Patrick: Yes, so I went through a really interesting transition. After football ended, it really became the now what phase of life [00:16:00] for me, which is so common for ex athletes. You literally have gone at that point 23 years of your life aspiring to be one thing and now it's done. That was your identity, this and that. I didn't know what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, where I wanted to live, any of that kind of stuff. 

The only thing that I knew at that point was how to eat clean and have a good body. I will say that by saying, yes I had a very good body, but at the same time [00:16:30] my body was suffering. I ended up going into a state of where I literally only ate proteins, meats, and vegetables and went very, for those that know like a paleo kind of lifestyle from dieting but didn't incorporate any starchy carbs or any fats. [00:17:00] If you saw me, I looked amazing. I did. 

Ellie: Tell me what that is? Like you had like a six pack, you were chiseled, you were like that kind of a thing? 

Patrick: Correct. I could do anything I wanted athletically. I had a six pack. I was lean, pretty much a body that you would want to see on a cover of a magazine. However, it was never good enough for me. [00:17:30] If I had a six pack, I would want an eight pack. If I had an eight pack, I would want a 12 pack and I would want extra muscles in my back or whatever it was because that was the only way I could identify myself. 

That if I don't have a job that I love, I'm not in the NFL all my buddies are still there, I better have a damn good body for women to want me. For people to still have respect for me. That was the only thing I could control in my life. I could control what I was eating and I could control that I was going [00:18:00] to go to the gym and work my ass off. 

Ellie: On the outside Patrick looked like our society's ideal. Yet internally, it was a whole different story. 

Patrick: Emotionally, I was a wreck. Sexually zero sex drive. Wake up feeling absolutely exhausted, beat up, burnt down all that kind of stuff because I had no nutrients. I was so deprived but from a caloric standpoint, I was so low [00:18:30] that I was burning fat like crazy. You look super healthy but from the actual scale, it's horrible. I was moody. I remember being so tired all the time. 

Ellie: Yes, so it seems like in this process, you were becoming inhuman? 

Patrick: Absolutely. 

Ellie: It essentially was trying to gain new value according to others and for yourself, but then in the whole process [00:19:00] you're also less human? 

Patrick: Absolutely. 

Ellie: Yes. Piecing it together it's just very interesting. What's it like to look back on yourself in that light? 

Patrick: It's tough. It took me literally hitting rock bottom in different aspects of my life in 2015, to realize that I didn't have a life. I was scared to death to go eat with people, because I couldn't control what I was going to eat. I was scared to not go to the gym for a day. All of those concepts that dictated my life [00:19:30] to the point where I had no life. I was so alone, had no friends. Had friends, but none that I would ever go see. Started to notice this can't be right. This cannot be normal. 

Ellie: While Patrick was not treating his body with respect by starving himself of nutrients, he hadn't reached the extent of his disorder. It took another traumatic event coupled with the loss of football to push him over the edge. [00:20:00] 

Patrick: Ended up going through a pretty big trauma in my life and that was in 2015. My mom passed away unexpectedly. Looking back, football was the number one thing in my life that got ripped out from underneath me and I became drowning in the sea of life. Then losing my mom put me back in that position and instead of dealing with it, and I had such disordered [00:20:30] eating, what happened was I started to introduce myself to these banned foods, these, "Bad foods." 

Once my mom had passed away I went through about a three month period where I would not eat, I would fast all day long and go to the gym, be all stressed out, go to the gym and work out and then come home at night and eat such tremendous amount of food. [00:21:00] Literally to the point where it's like I didn't know what was happening, I would feel like an out of body experience. I would feel like I would watch myself doing this, but for the hour that it would happen, I finally felt like I could like let go of control and just devour food. 

[music] 

Patrick: My MO was always I wouldn't binge when people are [00:21:30] around. It had to be when everyone was asleep or when somebody wasn't looking and I could raid the pantry and go back and forth and sneak food. That's the way it had to be. Nobody could see me do it. 

[music] 

Patrick: I was at my best friend's house and they had all gone to sleep and as soon as they did, I made a run for it. As soon as I heard the door close, I could tell they got done brushing [00:22:00] their teeth. Everything was silent, I'm like, hey, they're asleep and I book it for the pantries and ended up eating a tremendous amount of cereal and threw away all the evidence, finished all of the cereal in the pantries. 

When I woke up in the morning I tried to hide everything, tried to act like nothing happened and [00:22:30] my best friend came in and woke me up and he's like, "Dude, it's one thing if you're going to raid my pantries and eat the food, that's fine, but if you're going to eat all of my kids' breakfast we have a serious problem." He goes, "My kids woke up this morning and literally had nothing to eat." 

Ellie: Wow. 

Patrick: Yes. The emotional toll that took on me that- it was a bigger picture, it wasn't just me that I was affecting. 

Ellie: As you said, you [00:23:00] would never want to do anything wrong with that family or with those kids. Of course, you'd never want to eat their breakfast. 

Patrick: Never, but literally I couldn't control myself. I could not stop myself, it was a different person. I'd be Patrick for 23 hours of the day and I'd be going through this hell, this internal hell of only thing I can think about [unintelligible 00:23:21] my life is food but you would never tell. Then for one hour, whatever it was letting go of control it was somebody else took [00:23:30] over and I couldn't fight, the willpower wasn't there and next thing I know a three-year-old and a five-year-old don't have breakfast. 

Ellie: Wow. 

Patrick: That absolutely crushed me. The amount of shame that came over me I remember wanting to just run and leave his house and I was staying with them for a week at that point and had to go out, I bought them all new food and all that stuff. As much as they said, "Look, we get it you're going through a tough time," this and that. The [00:24:00] amount of shame that was associated with that was, it literally made me realize, I need help like, this is not right. I can't control myself anymore. 

[music] 

Ellie: Once Patrick was ready to seek help he says the most taxing part was convincing others that he actually needed that help, that he really was sick. Did you find that by being a male people didn't see it as so serious? Maybe as a female who might be restricting her food [00:24:30] more? 

Patrick: Absolutely. 

Ellie: Did you ever feel like you had to convince people, I have an eating disorder, I need help? 

Patrick: I literally spent I would say, 90% of my time, trying to convince people that I did have an issue, that it was real. 

Ellie: Wow. 

Patrick: You go through your whole life and we spent a while talking about idols, right? You're looking at all these NFL players and these people that I've looked up to when all of a sudden now the only people that can relate is a [00:25:00] woman that weighs 100 pounds that is anorexic, or bulimic or any of that stuff that looks nothing like me. I can't relate to that. I have no idea what that is. How am I supposed to relate to her when I'm a man that has lived at the age of 23 his dream and now here I am with an eating disorder? 

Ellie: So disorienting. 

Patrick: Yes. 

[music] 

Ellie: Treatment [00:25:30] finally came about, believe it, or not from a podcast like this one. Tell me what you did to create the treatment that you needed. 

Patrick: I was fortunate. I actually was listening to a podcast and it was a podcast on the topic of eating disorders in the health and fitness world, and primarily fitness competitors because it's very similar to [00:26:00] athletics, as far as good food versus bad food demonizing foods and there was a therapist on there, a psychologist. What? Is she saying my biography right now? 

At the time I was actually living in Mexico. I was very isolated down there. Even if I wanted help it was going to be in Spanish and I wouldn't understand it anyways and simultaneously a lady that's one of my dear friends now, who [00:26:30] is a professor out of New York, she's very active on social media. I started following her and made contact with her as well and got on a phone call. I was living in Mexico and pretty much had to go into it in a total hypothetical situation. 

Ellie: [chuckles] Your friend had an eating disorder. 

Patrick: Sounded like yes, my friend that played in the NFL that went to University of Colorado, played with the Seahawks, has no idea who he is just lost his mom now has an eating disorder. Does that sound like that could be possible? [laughs] [00:27:00] She was beyond helpful talking hypothetically and was able to start sending me a lot of information that I began to relate to. 

Then there was two very interesting parts for me. One was a lot of the material came to me from the perspective that it was going to be read by women, and you won't find anything on males. She ultimately sent [00:27:30] me- and this is one of the classic stories which I say it lightheartedly, however, it's very very serious in my opinion. When I look at it in males with eating disorders and my goal in trying to raise awareness around it but I'll never forget this. 

I was in Mexico, woke up on a Saturday morning, had just binged the night before. I woke up super lethargic feeling as if I was almost hungover. For anybody that drinks you get that, just where the hell am I type of feeling but it was from overeating food [00:28:00] and I check my email and she had sent me an email. I saw it was from, her name's Tara, and the headline read, males with ED. Right away I wanted to throw my phone across the room. I was like, I don't have erectile dysfunction. 

[laughs] 

What? Are you kidding me? That stigma, right? I say that as like a joke and really that was the first thing that went through my head and if it wasn't for the fact that I had hit so far rock [00:28:30] bottom that I was willing to read and digest any amount of information I could, I would have never opened that email. I think that plays in the fact that males with their pride, and I was very prideful at the time, if you associate it with just eating disorder being abbreviated ED that's a big hurdle that not only are you dealing with, women are the only ones, "With eating disorders." 

Now you have a connotation of ED, all these things that play into it that will never allow men to [00:29:00] step into it and actually be open to the concept that is possible. It was one of those things that caught me so off guard but really made me realize the uphill battle associated with eating disorders in males. 

Ellie: Wow. You put yourself in a position of having Tara who is your psychologist, and then you found a dietitian and so what did your week look like of going through therapy and nutritional [00:29:30] counseling? 

Patrick: Yes, Tara, like I said, she's one of my dear friends and was there as a sounding board throughout the process but I had another therapist that I was seeing once a week. 

Ellie: Got you. 

Patrick: Out of the Bay Area and this was the one that I heard on the podcast and was very, very fortunate to get in with her and she made time for me. Now I've gone from living in Mexico, losing my mom, already not happy with who I am or where I am in life to I've now moved home, [00:30:00] realized I need help with the eating disorder. I can no longer live a life where I'm not eating in the day, punishing myself, bingeing at night, repeating the cycle every day. 

I'm living at home, going to see the therapist once a week, was not covered by insurance so very expensive. I think she put me on a sliding scale, but even then it was stretching my means. I [00:30:30] ended up going through I think it was 23 weeks of consecutive therapy, which was- once again you would ask the question, but very, very taxing because people would say, okay, so you moved home from Mexico, what are you up to? I was not in a headspace to hold a job. 

I wasn't in a headspace to even consider a job. I wasn't in a headspace to consider relationships or dating people, any of that kind of stuff because my life was consumed around food and eating disorders. I'll never forget my first time I walked in [00:31:00] to talk to my doctor about it, and she's like, okay, you need to get a food journal, you're going to write down everything you're eating and what I want you to start doing is the night before, I want you to plan out what you're going to eat the next day to eliminate the headache of trying to go through it and you can- we need to establish normalized eating patterns. 

Ellie: No more fasting for 16 hours. 

Patrick: No more fasting. 

Ellie: Right. 

Patrick: She was on the verge [00:31:30] of taking away weightlifting from me and the gym, but that to me, I went in there and I was ready to do anything but if it was living at home, with the family, not being able to go to the gym I would have gone absolutely crazy. She allowed me to do it but she monitored that hardcore and wanted to make sure that my drive in the gym was from enjoyment and not punishment. 

Ellie: Not compensating for bingeing. 

Patrick: Correct. 

Ellie: Right, because your diagnosis was bulimia. 

Patrick: Correct. 

Ellie: Right. 

Patrick: Because [00:32:00] I was over-exercising and punishing myself that way and [chuckles] I'll never forget it, it was the most mentally draining process because I remember being so scared but then excited on week two because she was like after the first one she's like next week you need to come in and tell me what you ate for breakfast. First I'm like wait, breakfast? I don't even normally eat until five o'clock at night anyways, now you want me to eat at 8 AM, [00:32:30] you're crazy. 

Ellie: Wow, talk about a shift in your schedule over- you'd been doing it for years. 

Patrick: Yes, years. 

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Ellie: Patrick was eventually diagnosed with bulimia due to binge eating and subsequent compensation through exercise. Despite being willing to seek treatment, he still didn't believe that he'd be able to stop the binges and it showed in his apprehension around mealtime. 

Patrick: I remember, I showed up week two all excited, had my food journal [00:33:00] but you don't understand I had three eggs this morning. She's like, great. That's so fantastic. Now you need to have more. I'm like, what? No, because I was so afraid. 

Ellie: Yes, you're thinking, oh, no, but I was making progress but you're telling me more. 

Patrick: Now I need to have more. Now I need to introduce more food and meanwhile, in the back of my head, I'm thinking, wow. I need to start having breakfast, a bigger dinner and what if I binge, right? Calorically, I can no longer contain this, I've been able to maintain a physique [00:33:30] because I'm not eating at the day that I could still afford the 12,000 calories at night. 

Okay, which is no joke, literally 12,000 calories in one sitting at nighttime. It took me about four weeks to get to, in her mind, a normal-sized breakfast. Well, now I need to incorporate lunch. That's another four weeks, and then a snack and the amount of fear and the amount of [00:34:00] hesitation in implementing these new foods and trying to get to a, "Normalized eating pattern," was so monotonous and scary and all the above but once I started to realize that, once I established that normal eating pattern and eating regularly, I didn't put myself in a position that was in starvation mode. 

That all of a sudden I'm not eating all day and restricting food, [00:34:30] obviously once I start to eat, I can't stop and that was ultimately what was really driving the bingeing at night, was-- 

Ellie: By eating more regularly you actually decreased your risk of bingeing. 

Patrick: Yes. 

Ellie: That's not what you ever thought would happen, right? 

Patrick: Never. 

Ellie: You thought you would set yourself up to eat too much. 

Patrick: Oh, I thought I'd still have the 12,000 calories a night plus the additional 3,000 calories of [unintelligible 00:34:52] throughout the day. Then the bigger hurdles of, wait, you're telling me I can have ice [00:35:00] cream at night? I haven't had ice cream since I was 15. Now all of a sudden, I'm supposed to have it, and realizing through the rehab that not only is it mentally beneficial to have and incorporate some of those treats but in my perspective- and I'm not a doctor, I'm not going to claim that whatsoever but a calorie is ultimately a calorie that if you're whatever it is, a calorie is going to burn the same way. 

If you have [00:35:30] 200 calories of broccoli, you're going to have 200 calories of ice cream, your quantities are going to be different, but it broke down the exact same and there is no bad versus good, but the mental process associated, it's pretty astonishing to me and to be on what I would consider the other side of the fence now and being a little bit more balanced in my approach to eating, it's definitely a- ease the mental aspect of it. 

Ellie: [00:36:00] What are your goals for your process in recovery besides exercising out of joyfulness or- a lot of people say joyful movement, things that- just enjoying it. You have that, you have eating more regularly. What are your other goals? 

Patrick: Yes, I think the timing of this podcast is absolutely amazing. From the standpoint that had we have done this three months ago, life was [00:36:30] clicking, life felt great, okay? Life was, "Easy on a good path." I started a new job that I love and was in a relationship that I love the girl to death and thought she was going to be the one I would marry and so on and so forth, but the timing of this is perfect because we recently broke up and that has stirred a ton of emotions. 

One of the things in the eating- when I was going through the therapy for eating [00:37:00] disorder was weeks one through 21 was really about normalizing my eating patterns. Weeks 22 through 24 I had about two weeks before I ended up moving to Denver, was diving into issues from my parents' divorce to diving into issues of my mom passing away unexpectedly that I never really dove into those. 

To answer that question about a goal is to be in a position where [00:37:30] I can feel the emotions and not hide from them. The last two weeks since the breakup, not only from missing her immensely, and being in my life and this feeling of being so alone to all of a sudden now having also thoughts about my mom and unresolved issues. That being able to control and not dive back and relapse into eating disorder. 

Not dive back into binge eating and feeling pended it's [00:38:00] a feeling that I've felt the last two weeks of all of a sudden, feeling so panicked and this anxiety that comes over me when in the past I would go sprinting to the pantry and find anything that I could to avoid the pain of what's really bugging me. I would say the biggest goal would be if I do relapse, and I had, there was one night in the last two weeks that I did, I crushed an immense amount of food [00:38:30] but the biggest goal is to then not beat myself up for it and to get back on track. 

Ellie: Wow, I love that. I think that's so important for anyone to hear. Relapse is a part of the process sometimes. 

Patrick: Correct, yes. 

Ellie: Just because you binged one night doesn't mean that you're screwed. You're still so much further ahead in recovery than you were a year or two years ago or three years ago. How do you develop coping mechanisms that are healthier than coping with food? What are they for you [00:39:00] I guess? 

Patrick: Not hiding it. For me it's doing things like this, it's acknowledging that I'm not perfect and I get that. By doing that, that has allowed me to have relationships with people that I can turn to, that understand where- they may not understand the pain I'm feeling, or can't truly relate because everybody has a different story. However, being [00:39:30] able to call my best friends and say, "Look, we just broke up. 

I'm struggling with that, I'm struggling with my mom, you guys have been there through that." Creating that authentic, vulnerable relationship is the one thing that is truly getting me through it and having support and knowing you're not alone. Would have been nice, especially after a breakup to be like okay, she didn't want me so be it, but to be able to say no, that crushed me. 

Absolutely crushed me and guys [00:40:00] and women-- There's been guys and girls in my life that have stood by me and been able to hold me up but if I don't tell people and instead I turn and run to the food, nobody knows. It becomes a complete internal hell. 

Ellie: Being a male who's talking about your story with your eating disorder, and your recovery, it's such a unique journey, but you know, other people are out there who have a similar journey, right? Anyone listening, whether they're male or not, or maybe they're a family member, what do you hope [00:40:30] people will gather from your story? 

Patrick: I would hope that anybody that hears this whether you're male or female but knowing that struggle and if it resonates with you, that you go through your day, consumed around food, consumed around heavy emotional thoughts, and this punishment mentality, just know you're not alone, because once I realized that, and once I realized that there were people to turn to, and that it wasn't just me that was, "In my mind," [00:41:00] I felt messed up or wrong or shameful. If I can help somebody feel that there's hope for them, that's the only thing I can ask for. 

Ellie: Mental Note is created in collaboration with Eating Recovery Center, and the Insight Behavioral Health Centers. If you'd like to talk to somebody about receiving professional help for [00:41:30] an issue you're feeling overwhelmed by, please reach out for a free consultation. The phone number is 877-411-9578. Stories make the difference between feeling alone and feeling like we have options and a community. We'd love to hear from you. 

What stories are you aware of? What would you like to hear? Are you feeling alone about some part of your life? Maybe we could find a good story to shine a little light in your way. Email [00:42:00] ideas to mentalnotepodcast@eatingrecovery.com. Today's episode was produced by Sam Pike. I'm Ellie Pike. Until next time. 

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[00:42:27] [END OF AUDIO] 

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