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Steve Blacknell, 55, used to sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night to eat in secret. He has been a recovering bulimic for 20 years.

Steve Blacknell, 55, used to sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night to eat in secret. He has been a recovering bulimic for 20 years.

“I think the first seeds of bulimia were sewn in 1974. I'm an ex-rugby player. I wasn’t a big hairy thing, but I was quite chunky and I used to attract thin women. One day a girlfriend said I was the fattest man she’d ever been out with, and that was that.

“One of the main turning points was in 1980, when I made the transition from being a record company representative to a TV presenter. If you’re bulimic, you really don’t want to be in a position where the camera puts 8lbs on you. One day at lunch, I ate my starter, main course and dessert, followed by a quadruple brandy and I got rid of the lot. I weighed myself when I got home and thought it was fantastic. I could eat and drink whatever I wanted and I didn’t put on any weight. But, of course, it wasn’t fantastic at all. 

“I was living in north London with my friend, Maggie, who is now my wife. I wouldn’t eat all day, but I’d sleep-eat at night. Maggie would often get up in the middle of the night and find me wedged in the serving hatch to the kitchen, trying to get something to eat. She started to padlock the serving hatch, but would then wake up to find me cowering over her, begging for the key. We laugh about it now, but it was pretty sad. 

“I still eat during the night. It’s an odd thing, but somehow it’s allowed because there’s no one around and I feel it’s OK to eat alone. Back then, the situation was bad, but at least I could chat to Maggie about it. I think she probably saved me.

“The thing about addiction is that it never goes away. They say an alcoholic takes each day at a time, and cigarette smokers are the same. I suppose I take it one day at a time. I still can’t eat big meals in front of other people. I find that really, really hard, and my digestive tract has been badly damaged.

“Bulimia is often referred to as a women’s disease, but I think it’s a people's disease. I just think it may be harder for a man to go to a support group and get up and say, 'Look at me. I’m a bulimic. I throw my food up.'

“For me, nothing beats beat, the eating disorder organisation that I volunteer for. I talk not only about bulimia, but also about myself and what I went through in the hope that it can help other people. 

“There is hope and there are people you can talk to. Your situation may seem too big because you build it up, but help is out there. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”


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