Find peace with food and overcome disordered eating.
Eating Disorder Therapist
Overcome disordered eating and find peace with food
Freddie Flintoff Opens Up About Bulimia
by Victoria Stockwell on October 11th, 2020


In the BBC One documentary ‘Living with Bulimia,’ former England Cricket Captain Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff speaks openly for the first time about his 20 year struggle with the eating disorder bulimia nervosa. In the programme, he gives an honest account of his experiences with body dysmorphia, self-induced vomiting and compulsive exercise, which began during his cricketing career when his weight came under scrutiny from the British media.

Today 1.5million people in the UK are reported to have bulimia, 25% of which are men. The actual number of male sufferers, however, is likely to be much higher: a 2007 study suggests that it is closer to 40%.[1]

 The reason why this condition often goes unreported is owing to sex-related stigma. Eating disorders are often considered to be female illnesses, meaning that only 10% of men pursue treatment. Flintoff himself was prevented from disclosing his bulimia owing to his dietician’s discriminatory attitude towards men and eating disorders.

 Until being interviewed for this documentary, Flintoff kept his eating disorder secret for 2 decades. Ashamed of his condition, he still finds it difficult to even say the word, ‘bulimia.’ Instead, he refers to it as ‘being sick’.

 The secrecy and shame associated with bulimia gave him the sense of having a duel identity. Publicly, Freddie Flintoff is a famous TV presenter and international sportsperson; but privately, he suffers from such low self-esteem that he is compelled to vomit after every meal.

 When he began his sporting career age 16, Flintoff had what he describes as a ‘skinny’ physique.[2] At this time he became aware of the difference between his own teenage body and those of his teammates, who, in comparison, were more muscular.

 Over the next few years, Flintoff consequently attempted to increase his size in order to have ‘more presence’.[3] Yet, he was not fully aware of how much weight he had gained until his appearance caught the attention of the British press who christened him ‘The Fat Cricketer.’ It was this weight shaming that was the trigger for his 20 year long struggle with bulimia.

 By shaming Flintoff for his weight gain, the media reinforced the idea that a professional sportsperson should have a certain type of body, i.e. lean and athletic. Because he did not accord with their aesthetic ideal, Flintoff was publicly humiliated.

 This type of discrimination has been documented as posing a significant threat to psychological and physical health; and is also a risk factor for depression, low self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction.[4]

 As in Flintoff’s case, it is often weight stigma that causes eating disorders. It was only after the press commented on his appearance that he became concerned about his size. Constantly under the scrutiny of the public eye and known as ‘Fat Flintoff’, Freddie consequently began engaging in destructive behaviours in order to lose weight, making himself sick after every meal.

 This behaviour was reinforced by a subsequent improvement in his cricket performance and positive attention from the previously critical British media. This, therefore, confirmed his idea that a trimmer physique was his ticket to increased sporting performance and social approval.
 
Flintoff also admits that he derived a ‘perverse’ enjoyment from the act of purging itself. He describes it as being addictive, a descriptor commonly used by patients with bulimia since purging activates the opioid (or addictive) part of the brain.[5] For many individuals, being sick often provides feelings of comfort, euphoria or instant relief, which makes it difficult to stop.[6] 

 Although Flintoff states that he currently has his vomiting under control, he still purges via excessive exercise by carrying out an hour of fasted cardio every morning, becoming anxious if he is unable to train.

 Amongst male athletes like Flintoff, purging can lead to serious outcomes that may affect their particular sport. These include ‘increased susceptibility to injury, inconsistent performance, problematic recovery [and] muscle deficiencies.’[7] 

 Although his eating disorder is now functional, in addition to carrying out compulsive exercise, he still experiences guilt and an urge to make himself sick after eating.

 Despite these symptoms, however, Flintoff questions whether he is in need of treatment. His claims that he is in control of his eating disorder and can stop whenever he wants, however, are inconsistent with his previous comments that he feels out of control and isn’t able to stop.

 Despite bulimia’s medical diagnosis, Flintoff continues to perceive the condition, not as an illness, but part of who he is. It is perhaps owing to his strong identification with his eating disorder that he has not yet made a full recovery. Believing that it is an inherent aspect of his personality means that he will not be open to change.

 Flintoff’s reluctance to seek help also seems to be driven by the fear of renouncing his purging behaviours since, as he states, ‘gaining weight would be [his] worst nightmare’.[8] Yet, this help can be vital, since ‘almost half of all people with bulimia will not recover without treatment’.[9]
 
 The importance of Freddie Flintoff sharing his story is that not only is it a stepping stone towards his own recovery; but it will also help to break the stigma surrounding gender stereotypes and eating disorders, and encourage more men to seek the help that they need.

You can listen to Victoria's podcast HERE
 
     
   [1] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/males-dont-present-females-eating-disorders
   [2] Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia, BBC Television, 28 Sep 2020
   [3] Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia, BBC Television, 28 Sep 2020
   [4] Andreyeva, T., Puhl, R. M. and Brownell, K. D. (2008), Changes in Perceived Weight Discrimination Among Americans, 1995–1996 Through 2004–2006. Obesity, 16: 1129–1134. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.35
   [5] https://eating-disorders.org.uk/information/bulimia-nervosa-a-contemporary-analysis/
   [6] https://mirror-mirror.org/eating-disorders-2-2/bulimia-nervosa
   [7] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1941738120928991
   [8] Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia, BBC Television, 28 Sep 2020
   [9] https://eating-disorders.org.uk/information/bulimia-nervosa-a-contemporary-analysis/



Posted in Bulimia, Eating disorder, over-exercise, Recovery, Freddie Flintoff    Tagged with freddie flintoff, freddie flintoff, victoria stockwell, Blog, bulimia nervosa, bulimia recovery, Eating Disorder


0 Comments

Leave a Comment


Tags
10 lessons 10 principles of intuitive eating 10 tips 10 ways therapy can help 10 ways 12 days of christmas 20 ways to stop bingeing now 3 steps 5 things to learn 5 tips 5 ways to silence inner critic 5 ways ACEs Bingeing Blog CELEBRITIES AND SELF ESTEEM CELEBRITY BODY IMAGE Childhood adverse experiences Christma Control Covid-19 DEALING WITH PRESSURE ELLEUK ELLE Easter Eating Disorder Eating problem FEELING FAT HAES HOW TO COPE WITH PEOPLE COMMENTING ON YOUR BODY Inside Out Louise Chunn Managing emotions Minnesota starvation study NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS NO DIET New Year Parenting tips Perfect body Perfectionism RECOVERY FROM EATING DISORDER REJECT DIETS SELFISH MOTHER Sleep Spring Welldoing.org about counsellors action alcohol all or nothing anorexia nervosa anorexia recovery anorexiarecovery anorexia anti dieting anti diet antidiet anxiety eating anxiety appetite assertiveness assertive awareness of thoughts bbc beach body beautiful people behaviours being authentic being kind to self bikini body plan bikini body bikini competitor binge eating disorder binge eating recovery binge eating bingeeatingdisorder bingeeating bite by bite black and white thinking body acceptance body builder body building body checking body confidence body diversity body dysmorphia body ideal body image tips body image workbook body image body love body neutrality body neutral body positivity book recommendation boost self-esteem boost self-worth boost selfesteem breakthrough buimia bulimia nervosa bulimia recovery bulimiarecovery bulimia buying jeans cake can counselling help caring what others think cbt challenge thoughts challenging negative thoughts change is possible change childhood experiences childhood children and eating disorders children chocolate christmas clean eating cognitive behaviour therapy comfort eating comparing self to others comparing with others comparions comparisons compassion focused therapy compassion complex problems compulsive eating compulsive exercise confidence conflict about body size connection contribution coping corona virus corona counselling directory counselling critical voice criticism dads dbt dealing with emotions deception developing awareness developing healthy relationship with food diet binge cycle diet culture dieting cycle dieting diet disordered eating recovery disordered eating disorderedeating ditch the diet does self help work dolphin don't compare early experiences eating disorder diagnosis eating disorder prevention eating disorder recovery eating disorder treatment eating disorders eating when hungry eatingdisorder eating ednos elizabeth gilbert embracing change emotional eating emotional intelligence emotional regulation emotional trigger emotions envy evening eating exercise addiction exhaustion expectations expressing emotions fearne cotton feelings fitness fitspiration fitspo florence and the machine florence welch food obsession food freddie flintoff freedom with food friendship fulfilment fullness fun geneen roth giveupdieting giving up dieting giving goals guilt habit happiness happy new year harriet frew health at every size healthy eating healthy food healthy weight help for disordered eating helpful help history of body image hope how body image develops how counselling can change your life how low self esteem develops how to stop binge eating how to stop bingeing how to stop emotional eating how to stop overeating hunger identity improve body image improving body image inferior insulin intuitive eating iphone is your weight your worth janet treasure jealousy jellyfish joy judgement kids and eating disorders kind to body labeling exercise on foods labelling foods letting go lies limiting beliefs listen to body listen to your body lockdown loneliness lose control around food lose weight losing control food love body love your body low self-esteem macros male body builder male body image manipulation maudsley method maudsley model media meeting your needs men and eating disorders mental health tips mental health men mind body connection mindful eating mindfulness mindset mirror mood mothering motivational approach motivation mums mum muscle dysmorphia my story negative body image new year diet new year plan new year resolutions ninja warrior no dieting nodiets nodiet nofoodguilt not dieting obesity obsession with food obsessionwitth food obsession on eating orthorexia nervosa orthorexia osfed ostrich over-eating over-exercise overcome binge eating overcome bulimia overcoming eating disorder overcoming fear overeating at Easter overeating overevaluation of shape overexercise parenting people pleasing perfect philippa perry photo shop pixar film pleasure poor body image positive preoccupation with food pressure problem psychodynamic psychological approach psychology of eating disorder psychology psychotherapy reading about eating disorders reading recovery journey recovery relapse relationships resolutions restriction binge cycle restriction rest rhino role model root of problem roots of behaviour roots of problem rules about eating rules around eating sabotage satiety saying no secret eating self awareness self conscious self esteem self help books self worth self-acceptance self-awareness self-awarness self-care self-compassion self-confidence self-criticism self-esteem self-help book self-help self-kindness self-loathing self-love self-worth selfcare selfesteem selfworth shoulds social anxiety social eating social media and body image social media song starvation starve stop binge eating stop bingeing stop comparisons stop dieting stopping dieting stress striving strongisnewskinny success summer support for carers support surviving Christmas susie orbach tablet television therapy thin idealisation things you didn't know thinking about food thinking styles thinking thinner self thin thoughts about food thoughts time tips to boost self-esteem tips to love your body tips tired to my client who is struggling trauma treatment for eating disorder tv and body image ulrike schmidt undereating understanding self understanding your past unkind to self validating emotions values value victoria stockwell vulnerability wants weighing scales weight conflict weight loss weight wellbeing what is counselling what is therapy when food is love when therapy is hard work you can do it
Find peace with food and overcome disordered eating.