Former Lancashire and England cricketing star Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff has bravely opened up about his secret eating disorder and creating a dual personality to cope.
Freddie, from Preston, is not someone you would necessarily associate with being vulnerable and his glittering career instilled in him the notion of never letting down your guard and staring down your opponents.
His sense of humour and down-to-earth charm off the field has also helped him to go on to become a successful TV personality and presenter.
But in a powerful new documentary airing tonight – Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia – the 42-year reveals how his long-standing machismo has masked a serious health battle.
The Top Gear presenter has lived in secret with bulimia for many years which is characterised by bingeing on food and then purging.
Freddie spoke to Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain to preview the programme in whichhe faces up to his eating disorder for the first time and asks whether he needs professional help to tackle it.
He said: “I remember when I was young when I started playing professional cricket, and I was a shy and quite retiring young lad, and I don’t think that would have cut it in the world of professional sport.
“So, this Freddie character seemed to develop, where he seemed bullet proof, nothing is going to bother him, every time you walk out onto a field or into a situation, you have got it under control.
“I developed that over a period of time, I suppose, as a coping mechanism. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of fun as well.
“But as I get older I think I’m coming more into myself as well a bit and more confident in my own skin – probably more Andrew rather than Fred.”
Freddie also explained that the number of men suffering from eating disorders was “much higher than anyone would think”.
An estimated 1.5 people in the UK have an eating disorder, of which 25 per cent are male.
On his bulimia, he revealed: “The stats of men suffering from eating disorders is high… I nearly asked for help in my early 20s.
“We had a dietician come in to speak to the team. I was at that point where I was about to say I have a problem here.
“She signed off by saying that she worked with a lot of women… and she wouldn’t imagine there was anyone with an eating disorder in the room, because we were a group of lads, obviously.
“I didn’t feel like I could speak or say anything. Being a bloke, 6ft 4 and from Preston, I’m not meant to have an eating disorder by rights. So, you keep it hidden away and you don’t want to speak about it.
“I’m 42 now, I’m still not 100 per cent sure how comfortable I am with the documentary tonight going out and the reaction there will be towards it. But I suppose I’m more comfortable in my skin these days.”
On the documentary, he added: “As it unravelled we spoke to some amazing people, some lads who had been through it… I started to learn a hell of a lot more about myself and how I deal with this.”
Freddie Flintoff: Living With Bulimia will be shown on BBC One on Monday, September 28, at 9pm