Dying To Be Thin: Joe Jones (Part 2)

July 06, 2006 -- Posted at 3:36 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO -- In part one of our special series, Dying To Be Thin, we introduced you to Donna Franks.

For years, Donna battled bulimia, until finally taking back control of her life that was once controlled by this potentially deadly disorder.

While we often associate eating disorders with young women, men suffer too.

In fact, 10 percent of people who suffer from eating disorders are men.

The road that led to Joe Jones' bulimia was marked by an extreme desire to "just fit in".

His desire to be like everyone else, almost killed him.

Bulimia.....episodes of uncontrolled eating, followed by intentional throwing up.

It's a battle many believe is only a woman's fight, but for 30 year old Joe Jones, of Paragould, his battle with bulimia proves eating disorders don't discriminate.

"I had a therapist say one time I have been battling eating disorders my entire life. I said what do you mean, and he said well, you didn't get up to 350 pounds without having some kind of unhealthy relationship with food," said Jones.

Joe admits to being overweight his entire life.

He says he tried every type of diet out there, some worked for a little while, but eventually he always put the weight back on.

After consulting with a surgeon, Joe decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery.

"I got to a point when I was 23 that I said if I weighed 350 pounds now and nothing changes will I die of heart disease or stroke at 30? It was a proactive step to get healthy.....it backfired in a lot of ways," said Jones.

After the surgery, Joe seemed to be on the fast track to professional and personal success.

He moved to Chicago, got a job, and enjoyed his new found freedom.

"There's what I call the celebrity aspect of it there for a little while. Everybody wants to know your story how you lost the weight. You really do get tired of the attention.  You want some resemblance of normalcy.  If you have a healthy appetite and you have ordered a sirloin and baked potato at lunch, I didn't want to explain why I was only eating a half serving of mashed potatoes," said Jones.

That pursuit to regain what he called a "normal life" is how his bulimia began.

"I learned after having the surgery that certain things would just come up with ease.  It's frustrating and demoralizing because you know that you can stop.....but you just can't. You're at a constant battle.....an internal personal battle," said Jones.

For Joe Jones, this binge-purge cycle became his vice.

"Purging after every meal became as normal as getting up putting on your shoes, walking out the door, putting the keys in your car, and driving down the road," said Jones.

What started as bulimia evolved into severe anorexia.

Joe moved back to Paragould, and eventually back in with his parents.

"They got to see it at it's worst.  I really went downhill within 6 to 8 months before that September 2003 when I realized that I was going to die just at any moment," Jones.

Rhonda Jones is Joe's step mom.

She owned her own business in Paragould, but gave it up to care for Joe.

"I thought it would be better if he died.  He wasn't even him anymore.  I just didn't think his dad could take it, and I knew he would die at any day.  I decided I would go, and if he were dead, I would go and get everything done in the house and get my daughter to school because I didn't want her to know her brother had died in the house," said a tearful Jones.

Caring for Joe was a 24-hour-a-day job as she watched every move he made.

Everything from making six to seven meals a day for him, to cleaning his room and even finding bags he had purged in.

"Looking back on the things he did and we saw, it's hard to believe he's alive today," said Jones.

For Joe, it is a daily struggle as he deals with this disorder that has controlled his life for so many years.

"I can go out to a restaurant and eat a reasonable amount of food that I am not going to purge.  I am going to take care of the food in the nutritional way that I need to......but it's still a challenge," said Jones.

Rhonda says it's hard to believe how far Joe has come in the last few years.

It was their family's faith that has pulled them all through this difficult time in their lives.

Joe recognizes his determination to beat bulimia is not only to make his own life better.

He says he knows the pain his failing health has caused his family.

Now, Joe says, he's learning how to eat to live... instead of living to eat.

If you are dealing with an eating disorder, or know someone who might be dealing with an eating disorder there is help available.

Call (870) 930-9090