Freddie Flintoff has opened up about living with bulimia - but what is the eating disorder?

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 10:58 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 10:58 am
Freddie Flintoff first opened up about living with bulimia in 2012 (BBC)
Freddie Flintoff first opened up about living with bulimia in 2012 (BBC)

England cricket legend Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff has opened up about living with bulimia in a new BBC documentary. 

In the upcoming eye-opening documentary, the Top Gear presenter reveals that he still lives with bulimia, eight years after he first told the public about his condition. 

In a candid confession Flintoff admits, “I probably should get help - I know it's a problem and I know it needs addressing.”

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He revealed that, on occasion, he makes himself sick to make him feel good about his appearance.  He also said that, despite feeling “in control” of his bulimia, he has kept aspects of his conditions secret from his wife. 

The Ashes hero explores his relationship with the condition and how it impacts men in Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia, which airs on 28 September 2020. 

What is bulimia? 

Bulimia, or bulimia nervosa, is a complex and serious mental health condition which affects people of all ages, gender and background.

Those living with the condition are stuck in a cycle of eating large amounts of food (bingeing) and then attempting to compensate for this by vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or exercising excessively (purging). 

During a binge, people living with bulimia don’t feel in control of how much or how quickly they are eating, often consuming food they would usually avoid. Bingeing episodes are often highly distressing.

People living with bulimia put an emphasis on their appearance, weight and shape and may see themselves as larger than they are. 

The causes of bulimia are numerous and complex. Charity Beat explains, “It’s important to remember that eating disorders are often not about food itself, and treatment should address the underlying thoughts and feelings that cause the behaviour.”

Signs of bulimia 

Changes in behaviour are often possible to spot when someone is developing bulimia. 

Behavioural signs include frequently checking body weight and shape, or avoiding looking at body weight and shape. 

Bingeing and purging are clear signs of an issue, as is organising life around shopping, eating and purging behaviour, secrecy about eating, hoarding food, mood swings, irritability, social withdrawal, misuse of laxatives and diuretics, misuse of alcohol. 

Psychological signs include spending a lot or most of their time thinking about food, feeling anxious and tense (especially around meal times or when eating in front of others), difficulty concentrating, low confidence and self-esteem, worries about weight and shape. 

Physical signs include vomiting, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, bloating, constipation, stomach pain, swelling of the hands and feet, poor skin condition, damage to teeth

A full list of behavioural, physical and psychological signs can be found here.

How to get help 

If you believe you are living with bulimia and would like help, you can contact Beat on the following number: 0808 801 0677. They are open from 9am to 8pm during the week, and 4pm to 8pm at weekends and on bank holidays. 

You can also seek help via email at [email protected] if you’re an adult, [email protected]  if you’re a student, and [email protected] if you’re under the age of 18. 

These services promise to provide a supportive space, provide information about eating disorders, and explore the next steps for treatment of the condition.

If you know someone who is battling with bulimia or suspect you know someone who is secretly living with bulimia you can access Beat’s resources at beateatingdisorders.org.uk.