1 in 4 people with bulimia are estimated to be male; yet society continues to label eating disorders as ‘female’ illnesses… until now. When highly respected ex-England Cricketer, TV and Radio Presenter Andrew (Freddie) Flintoff opened up about his relationship with bulimia on his recent BBC One documentary, he shone an overdue light on the psychology of the disease and the fact that males are also effected.
Freddie Flintoff has been exposed to media scrutiny in relation to his weight that has changed his relationship with his food, with his body and with himself. This media commentary and the comments left by the public do not only affect the people being attacked. They affect the mindset of everyone who is continually exposed to these ideas.
This documentary also highlighted sexist assumptions surrounding eating disorders, not only by piers, but also by healthcare professionals. These assumptions leave men with eating disorders, their families and their loved ones, feeling stuck when it comes to reaching out for help.
This documentary has enabled healthcare professionals and men with the illness to correct these assumptions and show that there is successful support out there for all genders. It also highlighted the problems with male body images expectations set by the media who not only create subconscious messaging but also partake in and encourage blatant bullying.
Let’s look at the facts about bulimia to rectify misguided social beliefs. If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please find resources below.
What is Bulimia?
Bulimia is not exclusive to the act of throwing up. Bulimia is an emotional disorder characterised by a distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging.
Facts about men and bulimia from Fred Flintoff’s ‘Living with Bulimia’ documentary
1 in 4 people with bulimia are estimated to be male
Eating disorders are the biggest cause of mental health relate deaths
Male athletes are 16 times more likely to have an eating disorder that female athletes
60% of men with eating disorders do not reach out for help
Resources for people living with bulimia and eating disorders
beatingeatingdisorders.org.uk have a really helpful support page on men and eating disorders
Young Minds have advice and support for men with eating disorders
Rethink have a helpline for those with an unhealthy eating cycle
NHS resources to help you identify if you might have an eating disorder, and what to do if you think you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder
NHS England has a specific section for young people with eating disorders
A key insight from Fred Flintoff’s ‘Living with Bulimia’ was that most people feel as though they are in control of their eating disorders at some point, until you realise it controls you. If you identify with any part of the above definition of bulimia, if you think you may have an unhealthy relationship with your body or with food, please reach out for help.