THE NUMBER of males who suffer an eating disorder has almost tripled in the last 30 years. Many researchers believe that the number could be much larger, yet the stigma around males and mental health could prevent people from coming forward and admitting they have a problem.

The real story

James Downs, 26, from Cardiff suffered anorexia from the age of 14, and still battles with bulimia daily. He initially reduced his calorie intake by about half before gradually over time cutting out more food groups from his diet. Eventually he completely cut out all food and liquids.

When he started getting help for his anorexia, Mr Downs found himself showing all the signs of bulimia, he said: “Following weight restoration I noticed that I would often want to rid myself of food as I did when I was anorexic and always thought I had eaten too much.”

“It became easier to do this after eating larger quantities and I began to binge eat more. I developed severe bulimia where I would eat many thousands of calories in one go of foods I would never otherwise eat such as sweets, crisps, chocolates, cream, cereals, anything really. I began to go shopping for food and at worst would spend £50 in a day.”

It is estimated that 40% of people who suffer anorexia will develop bulimia following weight restoration treatment, and this can often go unnoticed.

Speaking of his treatment, James admitted that his school was very unsupportive, and surprisingly, the people who were trying to help him get over his illness were also rather unreliable.

He added: “I was given large amounts of psychiatric medication including antipsychotics and benzodiazepines and gained weight quite rapidly.

The only psychological assistance I had was in the form of supervised eating and distraction techniques - all of which was superficial and did not address my underlying problems and distress.”

He continued: “When I started to binge eat I tried explaining this to the team and they told me it was just my anorexia talking and that I was probably eating a normal amount.

I think this was a huge oversight that any well trained team would be aware of.”

Mr Downs now regularly visits a psychotherapist to help him get over his bulimia and admits he has made great progress. He is also studying for his degree in psychology at Cambridge University and hopes to continue his work as a media representative for a number of charities that deal with eating disorders and mental health. More information on the issues raised can be found at MGEDT.