We’re used to seeing former cricketer Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff laughing and joking around like the larrikin that he is, however, in a new BBC documentary, the 42-year-old has shown another side to him that most cricketing fans would never have known existed.
Praised a “wonderfully brave man” on Twitter, Flintoff has released a new film titled Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia, which details his battle with the eating disorder.
The aim of the documentary is to raise awareness for Bulimia nervosa and also to shed light on his own experience, which stemmed from hurtful comments while at the height of his career.
“I felt like everybody was looking at me,” he revealed in the documentary. “I became known as a fat cricketer. That was horrible. That was when I started doing it.”
Flintoff detailed a misunderstanding he had about the disorder, particularly that bulimia does not just involve purging but also “excessive exercise” and so, he decided to do something about it.
“I don’t want to be a statistic,” he said. “I don’t want it to be read that something has happened to me.”
Before his retirement in 2009, Flintoff played 79 Tests during a career that spanned 11 years.
According to the Butterfly Foundation, the number of people in Australia with an eating disorder at any given time is estimated to be one million and less than a quarter are getting treatment or support.
The foundation also says that eating disorders “are often portrayed as illnesses that just affect females, or as a ‘lifestyle’ choice”, however, this is far from reality.
“Eating Disorders do not discriminate,” the website reads. “No matter your size, shape, age, abilities, gender identity, sexuality, cultural or linguistic background, economic status, profession or location, anyone can experience an eating disorder.”
In statistics provided by Eating Disorders.org.au, of these people, 47% have binge eating disorder (of which 40% are men), 12% have bulimia nervosa, 3% have anorexia nervosa and 38% have other eating disorders. While females comprise of around 63% of people living with the disorder, 37% of those are Australian males (boys and men) and according to statistics, the number continues to rise.
There are many factors that can contribute to the onset of an eating disorder including (but not limited to) genetic vulnerability, psychological factors (including perfectionism, OCD, neuroticism), social-cultural influences, low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction and extreme weight-loss behaviours including dieting.