SPARTANBURG — Doug May shed more than 300 pounds about three years ago.
He can now fit into smaller clothes and comfortably squeeze into a seat at the movie theater.
But now, while much slimmer, the Spartanburg resident is weighed down by a different struggle.
“I’ve developed a fear of food,” he said recently. He sat on his front porch, next to a photo of a much heavier version of himself — a person he doesn’t want to revisit. “When I go out to eat, I have to force myself to eat,” he said.
Anna Voss, a licensed professional counselor with Associates at Park Avenue in Greenville, said a fear of food is an eating disorder she sees often.
“It is something I commonly see,” she said. “After working so hard on one particular goal and then reaching it, it makes sense to become afraid of the thing that created the problem for you in the first place. In this case, it’s food.”
She compared the problem to a recovered alcoholic who becomes afraid of beer or bars.
You don’t want to go back to the way you were, she said.
That’s the fear May has.
“I don’t want to put the weight back on. If I could get over that, I’d be OK.”
He says he lost the weight by exercising at home and by changing his diet. Today, he is “basically a vegan,” eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables, and occasionally fish.
When May was heavier, he said his biggest problem was the all-you-can-eat buffet.
“I would pig out. I was out of control.”
Now, he realizes just how much he relied on food in his life.
“When you try to take that out of it, it’s hard to function,” he said. “I just want to be able to enjoy a pizza with my (10-year-old) son.”
Bob Brown, manager of the Spartanburg Regional Heart Wellness Center, encourages people who want to lose weight to seek help from trained professionals.
“People sometimes have the best intentions of doing something like losing weight but go about it the wrong way,” he said. “People need to have that coach that oversees what they are doing and help educate them on the importance of things like nutrition and exercise.
“People can tend to take things to the extreme and lose a lot of weight because they are not versed in what foods they should or should not eat, as well as understanding the types of calories they are using.”
Voss suggests people struggling with an eating disorder, such as a fear of food, seek help from an expert. “It is a really complex problem,” she said.