KAMLOOPS – Growing up Jeeven Ghuman-Sohal idolized pro wrestlers, but at 16 when he was charting how many calories he took in and how many he was ridding himself because of a severe eating disorder, he was far away from that ideal image.
Ghuman-Sohal is now taking a double major at Thompson Rivers University, working security in nightclubs and sticking to a regimented structure that bodybuilders follow. He wasn't always this grounded. As a teen Ghuman-Sohal experienced severe body dysmorphia disorder and developed anorexia, bulimia and worked out excessively.
A growth spurt in elementary school meant he towered over the other kids.
"I was 5'11" or 6'0" in elementary school so I already stuck out like a sore thumb. I was on the big side. My friends, teachers, they all noticed," Ghuman-Sohal says.
Gym class became difficult.
"I had love handles, rolls, even male breasts. My friends didn't say anything but I could see their eyes," Ghuman-Sohal says.
He struggled to fit with an entirely new peer group when he started high school and things got much worse. At 14 he weighed 245 lbs.
Ghuman-Sohal tried to hide his figure by saving up and buying expensive basketball jerseys. He says they hid his figure he was so ashamed of.
Eventually he withdrew from sports and social interaction, until he bought a gym membership. He wanted to look like the professional wrestlers that he and his family used to watch together. He started shedding the weight, but wasn't satisfied.
"I was losing weight but always wanted to lose more. I had such bad body dysmorphia. My self esteem was so shot at that point that I got accustomed to thinking everyone was judging me all the time and I couldn't stop," Ghuman-Sohal says.
Body dysmorphia disorder is a condition where a person becomes obsessed with perceived flaws in their appearance to the point that it causes problems in their life, according to eMentalHealth.ca.
He hid his condition from his parents by sneaking food away from the table, hiding it in aluminum foil and throwing it in a trash can outside the house.
Dramatic body cleanses, using laxatives and purging wreaked havoc on his body.
"Some days my abdominals would cramp in the middle of the night because my body was so depleted of potassium. I didn't want to eat a banana because it had so many sugars and carbs," Ghuman-Sohal says.
At his worst, he was meticulously managing his food intake and output.
"I had a scale where I charted all my food. In a red pen I'd take a guess at how much I pushed back out, whether it was with fingers down my own throat or through laxatives," Ghuman-Sohal says.
He was able to keep his condition a secret until he dropped from 200 lbs. to 165 lbs. in four months.
His family began to monitor his eating, but he says it made things worse. It didn't matter what he actually looked like, because of body dysmorphia and his inability to see himself.
"I would take measurements on my quads, shoulders, biceps and waist, and I saw the numbers go down and it wasn't enough. I could see I was losing weight. But I thought if I just pushed the numbers down further I'd eventually see the results in the mirror," Ghuman-Sohal says.
Things began to turn around when a friend commented on his stretch marks and suggested he go to the gym to add muscle and fill out after losing all that weight. His friend told him if he became physically stronger, he could become mentally stronger.
With the new routine and nutrition structure of bodybuilding he was able to stop purging and was learning how to build a proper diet.
He worked his way up to a healthy 180 lbs. and was proud of himself.
"Finally I saw that I was making progress and starting to fill out my clothes properly. As a teen you want to be the top guy and you always want girls to notice you," Ghuman-Sohal says.
Despite the years of pain and struggle, Ghuman-Sohal says that everything he went through helped him become the driven, strong person he is today. He doesn't smoke or drink alcohol and will often offer to be the designated driver for his friends. He says he wants every step he takes now to be a step forward.
To anyone today struggling with an eating disorder or body dysmorphia, he stresses the importance of reaching out to loved ones or anyone close to you.
"You are not alone. It may be cliche or over-used term. But you aren't," he says. "Talking to your parents or friends is the biggest piece of advice I can give. That's one thing I regret. I mean, what would your parents do if something happened to you?"
To contact a reporter for this story, email Kim Anderson or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.