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  1. ITV Report

Men Under Pressure: Male Eating Disorders

William Davis from Kidderminster, a 56-year-old former high-ranking police officer has suffered from Bulimia for more than 35 years.

He would secretly binge on food before forcing himself to vomit.

"I did work a while in a division where there was quite a lot of bullying a culture of bullying so we'd have meetings - they would have buffet lunches at the meetings and I would eat and then bring the food back afterwards.

Physical process of vomiting it relieved the stress and afterwards I would feel energised."

William says his problem started when he was a teenager. He felt the pressure to look good and thought he had discovered a way to maintain a healthy weight.

But the reality was that Bulimia was starting to take over his life.

William had a regular upbringing he went to school followed by University.

He trained as a police officer and got married. He was an inspector when he retired a few years ago but his eating disorder remained a secret.

He says he was afraid of being judged or seen as weak.

“I suppose I largely associate it as an illness that women get. To have a mental illness it’s a weakness and one that could have prevented me being promoted.”

He's not alone cricket star Andrew Fintoff, the former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and actor Adam Rickett have all admitted suffering from Bulimia.

Cricket star Andrew Fintoff, the former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and actor Adam Rickett have all admitted suffering from Bulimia. Credit: PA

It's estimated that:

  • Around 725 thousand people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder
  • Around 20 - 25 per cent of those are men
  • In 2011 there was a 66% in hospital admissions in the UK for male
  • eating disorders over the last decade.

Bulimia, Anorexia and Binge Eating can be caused by many reasons including

  • Losing weight to feel in control,
  • Underlying unhappiness
  • Depression
  • Low self esteem
  • A social and cultural pressure to be thin

Beat is a charity that supports people who suffer from an eating disorder - Rebecca Field from Beat says

“With men eating disorders are often considered to be a female illness and it can be difficult for them to identify the signs and symptoms they are seeing in themselves because culturally we might place a misunderstanding on them”

Experts say men's experiences of eating disorders need to be better understood.

Dr Gemma Witcomb researcher from Loughborough University says

“Generally more research needs to be done into eating disorders but specifically with men we know very little about how men are reacting to themedia the change in culture and family life.”

William (pictured with his family) says he is in recovery after having counselling and treatment. Credit: ITV News Central

Eventually the condition took its toll on William's health. He was physically unable to walk and could not stop himself from being sick every time he ate food.

”I reached a point where I was so ill that I simply couldn't walk down the street and would lie on my bed shaking.

When I actually went to the GP I was making myself sick 3 or 4 times a day and eating silly amounts of food”

He realised after seeking help that his Bulimia was a sign of a more serious mental health problem.

William was suffering from depression and anxiety and he was using food to control his real emotions.

“Most of my issue was anxiety and if I had been able to express that in some other way the chances are I wouldn't have developed this secret illness which although I saw as something as helping me eventually took over my life.”

William says he is in recovery after having counselling and treatment.

And if you have been affected by any of the issues highlighted in this article then please click here.

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