Star of the hit MTV show Jackass, Bam Margera, is opening up about his struggles with bulimia in the early-2000s in an episode of Viceland’s Epicly Later’d.
According to Margera’s mom, April, who occasionally appeared on the early TV show, he had been so obsessed with staying “slim” that when he met his good friend, Ville Valo, the obsession became magnified. Valo, himself reportedly never ate — only drank.
“I think Bam started sipping on a beer or sipping on a something because he liked the way he looked,” April reflects in the episode. “We would go out to dinner and then he would immediately excuse himself and go to the bathroom. I said, ‘Are you throwing up?’ He says, ‘Yeah, yeah, sometimes I throw up and that way I’m not gonna get fat.’”
Margera also confessed in the episode he didn’t officially start drinking until he was around 24 or 25. “Then the rockstar life and drinking spun out of control,” he said, adding that he began mixing alcohol with drugs.
Margera is one of many straight cisgender males living with eating disorders. According to a 2012 study called Treatment Issues and Outcomes for Males with Eating Disorders, men who suffer also deal with comorbid conditions like depression, excessive exercise, substance disorders, and anxiety.
Gay and bisexual men, in general, have a larger chance of succumbing to eating disorders. A 2007 study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, showed that 42 percent of men who have eating disorders identify as gay or bi. In fact, gay and bisexual cisgender men were seven times more likely to binge, and 12 times more likely to purge than cisgender straight men. But these kinds of statistics often keep straight men in the closet with coming out about their struggles.
In the past, eating disorders have been characterized as “women’s problems,” the National Eating Disorders Association points out. Men are often scared to come forward with their own issues in fear of being seen as “feminine,” thus leading to a depression and shame that often magnifies the struggle.
“Hidden depression drives several of the problems we think of as typically male: physical illness, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, failures in intimacy, self-sabotage in careers,” researchers wrote in Terrence Real's book I Don’t Want To Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression.
The issue of eating disorders is very complex, and Margera’s story is one that many men can relate to. And it's time for us to start talking about it.
As stated in the study Eating Disorders in Men: Underdiagnosed, Undertreated, and Misunderstood, “men are not supposed to be emotionally vulnerable in our present culture, yet they encounter pressures on a daily basis to be more muscular and meet the current male body shape ideals. This is deleterious for many men as they feel pressure from many sources to meet mainstream society's definition of masculine… This is a major hurdle for the advancement and better understanding of men with eating disorders.”
Watch the episode in full below: