In 2015, Penn State football kicker Joey Julius rose to nationwide fame — not for his play on the field, but rather for his size. At 258 pounds, which is an anomaly for a kicker, he earned the nickname of Big Toe Joe from the fans.
Julius was quietly absent from Penn State's 2016 spring practices. Although he kept his absence a secret, Julius recently decided to open up about his personal experiences to empower other people in his situation to speak out.
In May, Julius was admitted to McCallum Place, a facility that helps treat those with eating disorders. The team's physicians recommended that Julius go there after they became concerned for his physical and mental health.
"Throughout this whole process I learned a lot about myself," Julius wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. "I learned that for the last 11 years of my life I have suffered through a disorder known as binge eating disorder. Although I showed signs of bulimia through stints of purging from extreme anxiety placed on myself, I am certain that binge eating disorder is my true diagnosis…"
In the Facebook post, Julius also encouraged everyone who might be struggling with the same disorder to message him so that he can provide information and help for them.
As of Thursday, his Facebook post received more than 6,000 likes.
"We are very proud of Joe and fully support him as he deals with these personal matters," head coach James Franklin told The Daily Collegian, Penn State's student newspaper. "We ask for others to be supportive and respectful, as well!"
There are many myths about eating disorders — one of them being that this is often labeled as only a women's health issue. And while 20 million women will suffer from an eating disorder at some point, so will 10 million men.
The stigma associated with an eating disorder forces some men to keep their health a secret. But thanks to awareness campaigns and the outspokenness of those such as Joey Julius, more men are feeling empowered to speak out and get help.