SACRAMENTO, Calif — Mike Marjama was living his dream. He made it to the Major Leagues last year as the opening day starting catcher for the Seattle Mariners.
Then, shortly after, at the age of 28, he retired. Marjama was battling anorexia, an eating disorder rarely ever talked about among men.
He said he'd been dealing with it since his Granite Bay High School wrestling days of trying to make weight. On top of that, Marjama is a self-proclaimed protectionist — a perfect storm of disorders leading to his eventual retirement from baseball and new career to help men discuss eating orders.
“Hitting a home run in the major leagues is great," Marjama told ABC10, "but it's nothing like helping a mom who lost a son who says she has new purpose. It really inspires me."
Marjama knew he had a problem and was open about it. But he would soon face a hard reality — either stay in baseball, or become a healthy eating advocate.
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In March 2018, Marjama was the focus of a short documentary on his eating struggles called “Uninterrupted." Marjama said the Seattle Mariners management wondered if Marjama might not be all-in on baseball after the video came out.
"The next day I get called into the Manager’s office," Marjama recalled. "He felt that speaking out on social media might divide the clubhouse. It felt political. I was like, 'this is about making healthy choices. It’s not political at all. I’m trying to help people.'"
Marjama eventually crashed and burned after years of making it through the minor league to the majors, all while denying himself the proper food and hydration needed for an elite athlete.
Marjama's eating disorder mirrors a societal issue where pressure is on to look a certain way and to do most anything to try and achieve it.
He ended up committing himself to a 16-week program at Kaiser Hospital to get him not just physical help, but psychological. Despite the fact that he was an elite pro baseball player, he was playing with a life threatening condition.
Data shows 20 percent of people with anorexia and Bulimia will die — two eating disorders that many don't associate with men, according to Kaiser Permanente psychologist Dr. Cory Fitzpatrick.
"There are a lot of similar traits between men and women," Fitzpatrick explained. "Once men come in and get treatment, they find that it doesn’t take very long at all to realize that treatment is similar to what women get."
Ask Marjama if he considers himself cured, and he'll likely say it's day-to-day. For now, after physical and psychological treatment, he's all in on everything, including food.
"For me, I've had enough lost time," Marjama said. "I just tried Indian food for the first time the other day. I loved it. I’m not denying myself anything anymore. I’m going to live my life. I’m not trying to be something I’m not."
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