Andrew Flintoff: Heartbreaking honesty over ‘bulletproof’ image’s effect on bulimia battle
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The 42-year-old has recently admitted that he still struggles with an eating disorder eight years after he first made his battle public. The former England cricketer will talk about its effect on his career next week in the new BBC documentary ‘Freddie Flintoff: Living with Bulimia’. Since leaving the sport, his popularity soared on TV after he was crowned King of the Jungle on the Australian version of ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’ and then joined Sky’s ‘A League of Their Own’ and ‘Top Gear’. But in candid confessions, the star admitted his public image made it hard for him to talk about his mental health difficulties in unearthed accounts.
Flintoff believed his battle with bulimia stemmed from the start of his sporting career when he was regularly called “fat lad” by teammates after previously being considered a “real skinny kid”.
The comments came after he gained weight – reaching 20 stone at one point – and struggled to lose it through not knowing how.
This led him to making himself throw-up, a dangerous habit which continued for years and took place in restaurants and cricket grounds across the world.
In a strong warning during the Sky1 documentary ‘From Lords to the Ring’, Flintoff stated: “It’s not the right way to go.
“You start off doing it if you have a bad meal. Before you know it, even good meals you are getting rid of. It becomes a real habit.”
He said in the 2012 broadcast that the “only way really to lose weight is to train more, eat less and eat the right things”, in a staunch statement to reiterate the danger of eating disorders.
Flintoff admitted that his battle peaked when he was at the top of his career and was only worsened by the public perception that he was “bulletproof”.
During Piers Morgan’s Life Stories in 2014, he revealed that he would leave the pitch to be ill and then return to the field.
As his fame increased, as a one of the nation’s best cricketers, he felt the pressure played a part in his battle.
Flintoff couldn’t remember the first time it happened but after he did, it “slowly crept in more and more”.
He said: “But I did it when I had eaten something which I thought ‘I’m going to put weight on with this’, or I had too much to drink – that’s when it started.”
Flintoff felt unable to share his struggles due to the macho environment in sport – but nearly revealed what was going on to a dietician who spoke to the team.
He said: “She started saying about diet and how she dealt with models, actors and athletes who have had eating disorders.
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“I thought ‘I can have a chat with her afterwards’ and then she said ‘but I can’t imagine there is any of that in here’ – so I thought ‘I can’t say anything now’.
“I thought I couldn’t really tell anyone because of the world I was in – professional sport, you don’t want to give anything away.
“You almost want to come across as being bullet-proof, and that was part of my make-up.”
Flintoff has publicly spoken about his battle with bulimia for the last eight years and will feature in the BBC documentary, which will air next Monday.
In the show, he will talk about the difficulty to accept that he needed help and the “coping mechanisms” he developed in a bid to remain “in control”.
During a teaser for the show he said: “This is such a hard thing to hard define or even admit.
“For years I’ve managed to keep it hidden. It’s not right, I know it’s not right.”
For help regarding eating disorders contact the charity Beat on: www.beatingeatingdisorders.org.uk.
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