“I didn’t know I had an eating disorder”
Trigger warning: In this episode of the podcast Sam talks about his experiences of bullying at school, which led to him developing bulimia. I’ve brought this episode forwards because of the BBC documentary on Freddie Flintoff‘s experiences of the illness, and the subsequent support Freddie has received on social media. Freddie says in the film “Apart from my own experience I know nothing about it… I’m 42… and I still feel guilty when I eat.”
Sam Thomas is an award winning mental health campaigner, writer and public speaker. He lives in Brighton and is in recovery from bulimia and alcohol addiction.
I first found Sam in Happiful Magazine, where he’s a contributor on mental health issues, and specifically on his struggle with bulimia as a boy in his teens. In the UK alone there are 1.5 million people dealing with an eating disorder, and it’s estimated that 1 in 4 of those are male.
What is bulimia?
Sam is very open in this podcast episode about how his experiences of eating disorders began. Listen to the podcast to hear his very straightforward explanation of how he first began bingeing and purging. But it’s not just being sick that categorises bulimia. Watching the programme, and talking with Sam made me realise that other behaviours sometimes come into play when someone has bulimia, like restrictive eating, or over-exercising to compensate for food consumed.
Boys and bulimia
What’s really interesting is Sam’s point about how eating disorders were always seen as a ‘girl’ thing – boys and bulimia just weren’t recognised by the medical system. It meant that getting help was even more difficult because of the stigma of being a boy with bulimia. After his recovery, Sam started a social media campaign #mengeteatingdisorderstoo to raise awareness of the lack of community support for boys and men dealing with bulimia or anorexia.
Why do eating disorders happen?
I also had a lightbulb moment when Sam explained that eating disorders are really not about weight. Listen to the podcast to hear his perspective explained so parents can understand what their child is going through, and how best to help.
Recovering from bulimia
Now a speaker and writer on eating disorders in men, Sam has a really interesting take on how he eventually recovered from bulimia:
“It was a series of suddenlys. One thing led to another and the bulimia almost became redundant really.”
Listen to the podcast to see how things improved for Sam.
Where to find help with bulimia
- BEAT has information and a confidential helpline
- Access CAMHS through your own GP
- Read more from Sam in Happiful Magazine
- You can find Sam on Twitter
“I’ve had challenges in my life to overcome, but they’ve all shaped me…”
Listen to the podcast to see how she’s put her experiences to such good use.
Where to listen:
You can find the episode in your usual podcast app, listen online, or if you prefer, you can click the player below to listen right here.
Get more teen mental health support on the podcast
Thank you so much for listening! Subscribe now to the Teenage Kicks podcast to hear about the new series when it begins. I’ll be talking to some fabulous guests about difficult things that happened to them as teenagers – including losing a parent, being hospitalised with mental health problems, and battling an eating disorder – and how they overcame things to move on with their lives.
I’d love it if you’d rate and review the podcast on iTunes too – it would really help other people to find it. You can also find more from me on parenting teenagers on my blog Actually Mummy, and on Instagram and Twitter @iamhelenwills.
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And if you’re stuck for how to engage with your teenager, this list of things for teens to do might be helpful.