Andrew Flintoff’s new documentary on bulimia battle gives people ‘permission’ to seek help, claims Edinburgh counsellor

The Ashes hero’s story could act as catalyst helping young men in the city struggling with eating disorders ask for help

By Shona Elliott
Thursday, 1st October 2020, 7:00 am
Edinburgh counsellor Ruth Micallef hopes the documentary will encourage people in the city struggling with eating disorders seek help.

A counsellor working in the Capital hopes that cricket star Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff will give other people “permission” to seek help for their eating disorders after opening up about his own struggle with bulimia.

Former England cricket captain Flintoff discussed his eating disorder in the BBC documentary Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia, which was broadcast on Monday.

In the new television show, the Tob Gear presenter said that the media scrutiny around his weight in the early days of his cricket career played a part in him developing bulimia.

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Bulimia is a type of eating disorder which typically includes ‘binging’ on a huge quantity of food and then ‘purging’ in some way either by being sick, using laxatives, fasting and restricting, or excessively exercising.

Ruth Micallef is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and works in the city helping people struggling with eating disorders.

She is hopeful that the sportsman, now a television presenter’s brave words could have a domino effect and lead to more people struggling in the city come forward for help.

Ms Micallef said: “Imagine a line of dominos. After the first falls, the next finds the momentum to do the same in its own way.

“We’re much the same. Stories like Andrew Flintoff's give others the permission they often feel they need to take the next steps to finding support”

The trained counsellor who specialises in eating disorder recovery went on to say that Flintoff’s story can be particularly helpful in tackling the taboo around men with eating disorders.

She said: “Andrew’s story feels particularly poignant as, though men make up at least 25 per cent of all eating disorders, many professionals report they arrive less frequently through our doors.

“I can only hope his story will be the domino they need to allow themselves the compassion or permission they were seeking to move forward.”

Explaining why people turn to binge and purge behaviour Ms Micallef said that the reasons are complex and often individual to the sufferer.

She said: “Some clients seek the fullness binging brings, how it allows an endorphin rush, or temporarily fills a void they feel – the compensatory behaviours are a way to emotionally and physically cope with the binge itself.

“For others, it's the compensatory behaviours that are the goal, the feelings they get directly after the purge – the feeling of release or emptiness.

“Though it's impacts may not be seen initially, the long-term repercussions of unsupported bulimia nervosa are significant and detrimental.”

The counsellor advises that anyone who recognises they have an eating disorder is to show themselves ‘compassion’.

She added: “I remind anyone struggling as Andrew has done throughout his life, you’re not bad, wrong, or defective. All eating disorders are a way of coping, and you’re completely worthy of support and compassion.”

To find a counsellor who can help you with an eating disorder, visit BACP’s therapist directory.

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