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The former England cricketer has spoken out about his struggles with the eating disorder on the BBC documentary ‘Freddie Flintoff: Living with Bulimia’, which airs tonight. In previous admissions, the 42-year-old revealed that the pressure to maintain a “bullet-proof” image in sport prevented him from seeking help. Now the ‘Top Gear’ presenter will reveal his journey, which led him to develop coping mechanisms, in a bid to reduce the stigma around the mental health condition.
Flintoff recalled a number of times that he felt so overwhelmed by the eating disorder that he left the cricket pitch to make himself sick before returning to play again.
He believed comments about his weight initially triggered the dangerous mental health condition after he was called “fat lad” when he reached 20 stone.
The sportsman noticed that it “slowly crept in more and more” when he was under pressure.
Flintoff said: “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 explained that there was a moment when he nearly sought treatment for bulimia after a dietician came in to talk to his cricket team about eating disorders.
Flintoff recalled: “She started saying about diet and how she dealt with models, actors and athletes who have had eating disorders.”
The sports star felt empowered by her words but soon after the individual made an off-the-cuff comment that left him trapped once more.
He continued: “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.”
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Flintoff, who was considered to be one of England’s most talented players at the time, felt his career ambitions and the macho environment in sport prevented him getting help.
In the 2012 Sky1 documentary ‘From Lords to the Ring’, he said: “You almost want to come across as being bullet-proof, and that was part of my make-up.”
In a blunt warning, Flintoff revealed the horrific toll eating disorders had on his life and stated: “It’s not the right way to go.”
He clarified that the “only way” weight should be lost is through healthy methods such as “training more, eating less and eating the right things”.
For help regarding eating disorders contact the charity Beat on: www.beatingeatingdisorders.org.uk.
‘Freddie Flintoff: Living with Bulimia’ airs tonight at 9pm on BBC One.
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