Freddie Flintoff is not someone you would necessarily associate with being vulnerable. His career as a professional cricketer instilled in him the notion of never letting down your guard and staring down your opponents. But, as he will reveal in Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia tonight, his long-standing machismo has masked a serious health battle.
The cricketer discovered that overtraining is also tied to the same uncomfortable relationship with food.
He said: “I have realised that I could be living better and easier with this. It manifests itself in other ways.”
What is bulimia?
Bulimia is an eating disorder and mental health condition whereby a person goes through periods where they eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binge eating) and then make themselves sick, use laxatives (medication to help them poo) or do excessive exercise, or a combination of these, to try to stop themselves gaining weight, says the NHS.
“Men and women of any age can get bulimia, but it’s most common in young women and typically starts in the mid to late teens,” says the health body.
According to eating disorders charity Beat Eating disorders, therapy can be recommended as part of the treatment for bulimia in order to tackle the underlying thoughts and feelings that cause the illness and encourage healthier ways of coping.
Therapies recommended to help treat bulimia might include:
- Evidence-based self-help, which will involve some of the same techniques you would learn in face-to-face therapy. Ideally this will be with support and encouragement from your healthcare team.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy – Bulimia Nervosa (CBT-BN), CBT that has been adapted to suit the needs of people with bulimia.
- Other therapies, such as interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), as an alternative to CBT.
“CBT is likely to be recommended as part of your treatment, and may have positive results over a shorter course of treatment than other forms of therapy,” says Beat Eating disorders.
It adds: “However, if CBT isn’t right for you, you can get good results through other therapies too.”
“If you’re concerned that a family member or friend may have anorexia, let them know you’re worried about them and encourage them to see their GP. You could offer to go along with them,” adds the NHS.
You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling its adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.