Bryan Piperno was just 9 years old when he began keeping his secret. The Simi Valley youngster tossed out lunches or claimed he ate elsewhere. As he grew older, he started purging after eating. Even after his vomiting landed him in the emergency room during college, he lied to hide the truth, reports today’s LA Times.
“Piperno, now 25, slowly fended off his eating disorder with time and care, including a stay in a residential treatment facility. But surveys show a rising number of teenage boys in Los Angeles now struggle with similar problems.
“High school boys in Los Angeles are twice as likely to induce vomiting or use laxatives to control their weight as the national average, with 5.2% of those surveyed saying they had recently done so, according to the most recent survey data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionand the Los Angeles Unified School District. They are also more likely to have used diet pills, powders or liquids than boys nationwide.
“The numbers challenge old assumptions that boys are immune to a problem better known to afflict teenage girls. Girls still exceed boys in fasting to lose weight, but the latest data, from 2011, showed that Los Angeles boys were nearly as likely as girls to purge through vomiting or laxatives. They were also as likely as girls to use diet pills, powders or liquids without the advice of a doctor — 6.2% said they recently used such substances, compared with 6.1% of girls.
“Some experts say boys are starting to face the pressures long placed on girls, as buff, bare men proliferate in pop culture. Boys today watch Channing Tatum strip as “Magic Mike” or weigh themselves against the muscular Dwayne Johnson. The nonstop chatter of Twitter and Facebook has amplified those messages, therapists say.
“Boys are growing up now with the billboard of the guy with perfect pecs and biceps,” said Roberto Olivardia, a clinical instructor in the Harvard Medical School psychiatry department. “You just didn’t see that years ago.” Teenage boys say abs are prized and ogled. Andrew Shrout, a 19-year-old junior at UC Berkeley, said boys felt they needed to be very lean at his former high school in Long Beach. “Men are pressured to have as little fat as possible — but you’ve got to pretend like you don’t watch what you eat,” Shrout said. He decided to lose weight for his health but also because another guy on the water polo team used to grab his stomach and jiggle it. “I can see why a lot of younger kids get sucked into a vortex and end up doing bad things,” Shrout said.