Man talks about what it’s like to battle with anorexia

Rory Hartnett is one of the team who helped Jack, and other patients, at Goodmayes clinic

Rory Hartnett is one of the team who helped Jack, and other patients, at Goodmayes clinic - Credit: Archant

“I needed help. I just got to stage where it was that or killing myself because I felt so bad about life,” is how one anorexia sufferer has described the turning point in his recovery.

For weeks on end Jack Bruce would run up to 11 miles a day, make himself be sick if he ate and developed tunnel vision where he was only able to think about his weight.

At 6ft 2in and weighing just seven stone he was dangerously underweight causing problems with his family and meaning he missed the trip of a lifetime around Europe with his friends.

After a breakdown he was taken to Goodmayes Hospital, Barley Lane, Goodmayes where he met eating disorders manager Rory Harnett who Jack credits with his recovery.

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week which aims to raise awareness of the 1.6 million people in the UK who suffer from disorders.

Jack was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, which is when someone tries to keep their weight as low as possible, often by starving themselves or exercising excessively.

According to the NHS, about one in 2,000 men will experience anorexia during their lifetimes. For women it is much higher at about one in 250. The illness usually develops around the age of 16 or 17.

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Jack, 22, said: “I used to think that as I was thin it would have a positive effect on my life, I don’t know what triggered it. When you are feeling quite insecure you compare yourself to other people. It takes control of you.”

He said that while in secondary school he would always compare himself to other people. It wasn’t until he took a gap year that the problem escalated.

Jack said he developed tunnel vision where his obsession with his weight meant that was all he could concentrate on.

“I would constantly see people running and if there was someone with a gym bag I’d think I should be in the gym,” he said.

“If someone was hoovering I would want to do it as it would burn more calories.”

Part of Jack’s continual obsession with losing weight meant he would go running every day and making himself sick if he felt he had eaten too much.

He said: “I just felt terrible all the time, if I was out doing a chore I had to get back and go for a run.”

Jack’s illness not only impacted on him but put strain on his family as well.

“I had a really bad relationship with all my family,” he said. “It’s such a selfish disease. You’re continually thinking about yourself.

“When my mum cooked pasta for the family I would take it as a direct thing that she was trying to make me fatter.

“It all had to come back to me – it was all about losing weight. I used to go shopping with my mum to control what she was buying.”

Then after about 18 months of having the disease the punishing regime took its toll on Jack.

He said: “It was really demanding. I had a bit of a breakdown and couldn’t stop crying.

“I just needed help. I just got to the point where it was that or killing myself because I felt so bad about life.”

Jack was taken for an assessment at the eating disorder service run by the North East London NHS Foundation Trust at Goodmayes Hospital.

Jack said: “I needed help, I could not stop it myself. Rory took me on and highlighted the seriousness straight away of how eating disorders can get really bad and some people go to hospital.

“I cannot thank the clinic and Rory enough. Without him I would not have got better.”

“You think that you’re not as bad as everyone else and that you don’t need treatment as other people are worse. Rory was just really straight talking.”

Part of Jack’s treatment included having cognitive behavioural therapy as well as hearing about the experiences of others who had got over the disease. Jack says that now he is recovered he finds it difficult to understand the mindset he had while he was ill. He said: “It was like having two different people in you – one would eat normally and the other start exercising and purging. It was a constant fight to get better.

“When I started coming out of it I saw the effects it was having on my family. I cannot believe the things I did.”

n Contact eating disorder charity Beat on 0845 634 1414. Their youth helpline is on 0845 634 7650