Rugby union referee Nigel Owens reveals his struggle with eating disorder bulimia nervosa remains an ongoing battle.
Eating disorders have the highest death rate of any mental health illness and are estimated to affect 1.6 million people in the UK. Around 400,000 are thought to be men and boys.
And that number is growing.
In a recent BBC One Panorama show, Nigel Owens, who recently opened up about his ongoing battle with bulimia nervosa, met men, boys and their families across the UK to hear their accounts of the impacts of anorexia and bulimia as he sets out to discover why more people are being diagnosed.
Sadly when it comes to eating disorders too often the pressure on men and boys to look a certain way by society is forgotten. The idea of being a "real man" is something that affects the mental health of many men in the UK and can lead to physical changes just as seen in women; be it bulimia nervosa or use of steroids to “bulk up”. The increase of pressure from the likes of social media has led to many men and boys being presented with a distorted picture of what it means to be a man.
Speaking to the BBC about his own experiences Nigel said: “In my eyes I was obese and thought "no-one who I find attractive was ever going find me attractive while I'm fat". So, I started making myself sick. Over time, the mental health issues, depression over my sexuality, bulimia and steroids - my life was an unrelenting nightmare.
“I was broken.”
The National Association of Round Tables Great Britain and Ireland are now proud members of the Men and Boys Coalition, an informal but cohesive and mutually supportive network of responsible groups, organisations, academics, journalists, commentators and leaders who are committed to taking action on the gender-specific issues that affect men and boys. Round Table are actively helping to create positive and constructive public discussion about issues that affect men.
Nigel admits that even now he struggles to battle his eating disorder “I thought I was in control but since making the Panorama programme, I've realised I'm not.” Speaking about the reason behind the show Nigel said: “I'm speaking openly about it because I know that men and boys can view it as a sign of weakness by admitting there's a problem that you can't sort out yourself.
“But it's not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of great strength to do that.”