Eating disorders are usually thought of as conditions that affect only women. But, in recent years, an increasing number of men have been suffering from anorexia and bulimia, and a number of celebrities have reported to suffer from eating disorders.
In 2008 the ex-Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, revealed that he spent two decades battling bulimia.
He battled with the condition throughout his time in government, gorging on chocolate, burgers, crisps and fish and chips. When he admitted the problem in his autobiography he said he had been free from the condition for well over a year.
“I’m sure it was to do with stress,” he wrote in a Sunday newspaper. “I wasn’t doing it all the time, and there would be gaps of weeks and months, but during those years when we first got into power, I let things get on top of me and took refuge in stuffing my face.”
He added: “I’ve never confessed it before. Out of shame, I suppose, or embarrassment – or just because it’s such a strange thing for someone like me to confess to. People normally associate it with young women – anorexic girls, models trying to keep their weight down, or women in stressful situations, like Princess Diana.”
He also revealed how he would turn to sweet things and Chinese food when things became stressful. “I could sup a whole tin of Carnation condensed milk, just for the taste, stupid things like that. Marks & Spencer trifles, I still love them, one of my favourites. I can eat them for ever. Whenever I go to Mr Chu’s in Hull, my favourite Chinese restaurant in the whole world … I could eat my way through the entire menu.”
Like many male sufferers he tried to hide the illness from those around him and his wife Pauline was unaware of it for many years but she eventually realised what was going on. “The signs in the toilet gave it away, and all the missing food.”
She urged him to see a doctor and a consultant eventually diagnosed him with bulimia. “I turned up and found his waiting room full of young women. I was the only man there. I felt a right twerp. Luckily none of them shopped me to the press.” In the book, he also reveals that despite preferring food to alcohol, he would occasionally drink to relieve the stress and to let people know how low he was feeling.
“Once or twice a year, when I was absolutely knackered, I did get out a bottle of vodka and place it on my desk. The office hated it when they saw what was happening. They knew I’d go at it full pelt, as I always do with anything, and empty the bottle. But that was very rare.”
John Prescott, is one of several male celebrities to have admitted having the eating disorder bulimia. In 1993, Elton John successfully sued a Sunday newspaper after it had reportedly questioned his recovery of the illness when he had apparently spat food into a napkin in a restaurant.
He had told the court he had been a drug addict and alcoholic for 16 years and a bulimic for 6, although he was cured after receiving treatment.
Psychic celebrity and ex-reality TV contestant Uri Geller also battled the disease, which he said he eventually overcame through willpower. “One day my driver drove me to my apartment, and I couldn’t get out of the car, I was so weak,” he said. “So in the middle of the street I screamed out, ‘One, two, three STOP’ and I stopped it. I just summoned my willpower, instructed my psyche, my inner powers – whatever you want to call it, and that’s it, finished. I never vomited again.”
Sportsmen have also fallen victim to the illness. Former football star Paul Gascoigne would binge on ice cream and then throw up when he was feeling low.
In his autobiography, published two years ago, the formula one driver David Coulthard wrote about his struggle with the condition. “In my mind the only way I could keep my weight down was by making myself vomit … I stopped eating fattening food and, before I knew what had happened, I was bulimic.”
Nineties heartthrobs Peter Andre and ex-Coronation Street star Adam Rickett (who played Nick Tilsey) have also been sufferers. Adam, who also used to be a pop star, developed problems when he was forced to give up rugby at 15. He was devastated. “I was so depressed that my rugby dreams were gone that I’d shove food in my mouth until I could hardly move, then I’d go and be sick,” he says.
Peter Andre had problems when he was at the peak of his singing career and famous for his toned six pack as seen in his Mysterious Girl video. The pressures of keeping trim and muscle-bound got too much leading to bouts of purging.
Ex-Darkness front man Justin Hawkins was so desperate to keep his svelte rock-star image that he made himself sick and took laxatives. “It’s hard to talk about it,” he says. “It was really a personal journey. It was all about me and how I perceived myself.”
It seems more male celebrities have admitted to having anorexia than any of the other eating disorders.
They include the actor Dennis Quaid, the missing Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards, who composed the song 4st 7lbs, and Elvis Presley, whose problems with food are well-documented.
Earlier this year, Sam Attwater, actor and Dancing on Ice star, spoke out about having bulimia and body image issues.
No doubt there are many other male celebrities with eating disorders that we DON’T know about…