A Welsh MP says he has had "nothing but support and encouragement" from constituents since he spoke about his experience of body dysmorphia.
Chris Evans, who’s Labour MP for Islwyn, spoke about his personal struggles in the House of Commons in order to break the taboo which prevents many men from talking about eating disorders and mental health issues.
In the new episode of the ITV Wales podcast, The New Normal with Adrian Masters, he says he found it difficult growing up as someone who was “into books and politics” in a community where men were expected to be tough drinkers like his father who he describes as “outspoken, violent and a hard drinker.”
Trying to fit in, he says body building and watching his food seemed to be the answer: “Suddenly, when you're lifting weights, or watching my diet constantly, or once I see changes in myself, I finally have control over something and I think that's where a lot of my issues come from.
“And I still feel in some respects… that cycle is still there, this idea that you have to be some sort of macho man."
I think it's really important people like me speak out. And that's why I did it.
Chris reveals that he has been overwhelmed by the supportive response to his comments and the number of people who have recognised their own experience in what he says.
Listen to The New Normal with Adrian Masters:
Speaking out about eating disorders has been part of Bethan Sayed’s political career since day one of her time in the Senedd.
The Plaid Cymru MS tells the podcast that she set up a cross party group on the issue because she met a woman from Swansea on her first day as an Assembly Member who told her that she had gone to Bristol because there was no support provided in Wales and that she had been "close to death".
“And so I thought, well, if there's no policy here in Wales, which there wasn't at the time let’s write it. So we wrote the first framework for Wales.”
Since then, she said, more money has gone into it but “it’s still not enough” and coronavirus has made the situation worse.
In lockdown, it has become much harder for people to control everything [within] their own family, which sometimes is difficult if you've got an eating disorder.
Bethan says it is one of the ways she feels she’s made a difference in her political career.
“To any new politician coming through, I'd say: latch on to an issue you care passionately about and follow it. Because you will see dividends.”
Bethan has decided to call it a day as a Senedd member and is not standing again in next May’s election. It follows the birth of her son and is she says “a truly personal choice.”
“So I think that is still right for me to say that I would want people to go into politics from every background. But we also need to campaign for change in that. Some people have criticised me and said, Well, why don't you do that from a position of power? But I just feel that, for once in my life, I have to put myself first, my child first and I will continue to campaign on these issues such as job sharing, such as a creche in the Senedd that doesn’t close at 6pm.”
The two politicians have plenty to say about young children: Chris became a father for the second time during lockdown and talks about how his other child made a guest appearance when he was taking part by video in the Finance Bill back in April. Chris was speaking to the Commons when his young son burst in yelling “Hulk smash!”
His son makes another guest appearance in the podcast - perhaps not yelling “Hulk smash” but certainly interrupting and distracting Chris for a while.
It’s a wide-ranging conversation that takes in so many different topics from boxing, book-writing, women in politics and the spycops trial.
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