Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 16:05 UK

Broadcaster admits eating disorder

By Chris McCluskey

John Stapleton
John Stapleton hid his problem from his wife

Former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott recently confessed to suffering from the eating disorder bulimia.

He said he had suffered in misery and in silence for 10 years because of the shame of being a high-profile man with the illness.

He said: "I found it difficult to admit that I suffered from bulimia - the doctors told me that it was probably due to stress."

Eating disorders amongst women are no longer as taboo as they once were. But amongst men, the problem is something that remains largely unspoken about.

Far from being an affliction of low self-esteem and low levels of achievement, it is often stress and the pressure to succeed that can lead men and women to suffer eating disorders.

If it is still a man's world then surely it is time we acknowledged that men are just as fallible as women when it comes to their relationship with food.

Like John Prescott, broadcaster John Stapleton is another high profile figure to admit that when he was younger, he suffered from an eating disorder.

In a special film for The ONE Show, John talks about his own battle, explaining how he came to terms and dealt with the condition himself. He also meets men who suffer from eating disorders today.

John reveals that it took a very long time before he even admitted to his wife that he suffered from anorexia.

John Stapleton
When I had my problem, no man would have dreamt about talking about anorexia - I suspect that is still true
John Stapleton

He said: "I was saved by a good woman and when we set up home together I slowly but surely started eating properly again.

"It was actually 30 years before I told even her that I had been deliberately starving myself."

Having suffered from an eating disorder himself, John is able to empathise with those he meets and investigate why, more than 30 years on from his own battle, there is still such a stigma attached to males that suffer from these illnesses.

John recalls: "When I had my problem, no man would have dreamt about talking about anorexia - I suspect that is still true."

One of the main problems is that men are often either embarrassed or too ashamed to seek help - with many men continuing to suffer alone.

But it is estimated that 10% of people with eating disorders are male - so it certainly not a female-only condition.

Isolation is often cited as one of the reasons that men feel they are unable to talk about eating disorders.

The key is that men should not be embarrassed and definitely get help and talk to people about their illness.

Help is available, but it is ultimately about finding the courage to speak up and allow others to help.

  • John Stapleton on Male Eating Disorders, The ONE Show, 1900 Tuesday 29 April on BBC One.

    Prescott tells of bulimia battle
    20 Apr 08 |  UK Politics
    Eating disorders
    20 Dec 00 |  Medical notes


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