After working on the project for seven years, Jacob Roth has published a memoir about his battle with anorexia called Straw Man: My Battle with Anorexia.
Roth’s eating disorder manifested itself in 2010, when he was a chubby Grade 12 student. He started eating healthy and losing weight, which gave him a sense of accomplishment and control. But what started out as healthy weight loss ended up spiralling out of control: by age 19, at the end of his first year at Queen’s University in April 2011, he was bedridden and weighed only 51 kg.
Roth made a couple of attempts to seek help. He found a spiritual healer on Kijiji and went to a couple of sessions with an occupational therapist.
“I don’t see any weakness in going for help, I see great strength,” said Roth. But he wanted to get better on his own.
When Roth realized his anorexia was devastating his parents, ruining his relationships, disrupting his education and, ultimately, killing him, he began reasoning with himself.
“The control that I sought wasn’t real. It was at that point I reasoned that control doesn’t matter so much. We can’t control how others are going to perceive us. We can’t control our place in the universe. We can’t control a lot of outcomes that we would like to have the power over, but that’s OK,” Roth explained.
Once he began to see that the control he craved was actually destroying his life, he slowly started eating more. He began eating high-fat and high-calorie foods like avocados and peanut butter.
“I had to figure out what my identity was outside of being an anorexic person. That was a big part of my identity. It gave me purpose,” said Roth.
I don’t see any weakness in going for help, I see great strength.
– Jacob Roth
In May 2011, Roth worked at The National Eating Disorder Information Centre at Toronto General Hospital. The centre creates resources for eating disorder clinics and programs, and raises awareness about the disease.
Roth noticed that the majority of its resources were directed toward women and offered to help launch a male awareness program. The men’s campaign was designed to tell people that males are also affected by anorexia – a fact that many people are unaware of.
“Anorexia is a condition that has been constructed as being a female disorder, despite, some say, one in three sufferers being male. But what I think is more important is for men to feel comfortable to speak about issues that they have been told otherwise to suppress,” Roth said.
Now, at age 26, Roth has completed his law degree at the University of Toronto and will begin articling at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s in-house legal department in August. His experiences provoked his interest in mental health law.
“I’m a recovered anorexic Jew,” Roth joked. “If I can’t find some opportunities for humour in that, I don’t know where else I can find them.”
Straw Man is available on Amazon.