Fitness influencer opens up on his battle with an eating disorder 8 months ago

Fitness influencer opens up on his battle with an eating disorder

"I had no idea what I was doing. I essentially just starved myself and went into phases of literally eating very little food."

For a lot of men, there is a stigma surrounding eating disorders - much like the way mental health problems are treated.

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Eating disorders exist in men - and we know they do - yet you'd be hard pressed to find someone willing to admit they've suffered from one. Finding someone able to speak honestly about their experiences is equally as tricky.

In the male population, disordered eating patterns are a taboo topic too often brushed aside. But the situation in the fitness industry and professional sport is even worse.

Earlier this year, former bodybuilder and fitness model Jamie Alderton told JOE about the dangers of getting 'shredded' for a bodybuilding competition.

He recalled how a fellow competitor used to chew biscuits up and then spit them out again. Alderton himself admitted to buying cakes for his wife, just so he could watch her eat them.

With two million YouTube subscribers, Matt Morsia (a.k.a MattDoesFitness) is one of the biggest fitness influencers on the planet.

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He has also battled an eating disorder.

Speaking to JOE in the week before Christmas, Morsia says his background in athletics gave rise to disordered eating patterns.

He said: "I competed in athletics for almost ten years - I was a long run triple jumper.

"In those events in particular, your bodyweight is crucial."

Competing in any sport where you are judged according to your bodyweight has the potential to wreak havoc on your mental health and subsequent relationship with food.

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Those words ring true for Morsia, a former school teacher from Kent.

"If you're trying to jump far, if you're really heavy it's obviously not going to happen. So as long as you can maintain performance, being as light as you possibly can… Well, there's a direct correlation between that and jumping further."

Morsia says these pressures led to disordered eating.

"In that instance, it made sense to lose weight.

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"In doing that, because I had no idea what I was doing, I essentially just starved myself and went into phases of literally eating very little food."

Matt Morsia says competing in athletics gave him an eating disorder Fitness influencer Matt Morsia says competing in athletics left him with an eating disorder.

He says his obsessiveness made the problem worse.

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"I had no idea about protein, macronutrients or anything like that. I've got quite an all-or-nothing personality, and I think that's quite common in people with disordered eating.

"I was starving myself, and then I'd say 'Right, I'll do my competition and then after it, I'll have a cheat day'."

This might sound manageable in theory, but in practice it proved anything but.

"As the summer went on, I'd be competing every weekend for about three months.

"As the season progressed, that starvation got more and more intense."

Morsia's planned cheat meals soon spiralled out of control.

"What started out as a cheat meal… I'd finish my competition, go out and buy some doughnuts, that then increased to become a cheat day, then it's a cheat weekend.

"Then it just got to the point where I was eating 20,000 calories in the space of 40 hours over that weekend, just literally cramming in as much food. I didn't even want it, I was just cramming in as much food as I physically could, to the point where I'd be throwing up because I’d eaten so much crap."

Since moving into the fitness industry full-time, Morsia has avoided extreme calorie counting diets.

He says this is inevitable for anyone on a crash diet.

"If you starve yourself and restrict calories to that extent, it's extremely likely that at some point you're going to rebound, and when you do that you're gonna go nuts and eat uncontrollably.

"I'd be full up, and still be eating random stuff like cream cakes that I didn't even want. It was literally uncontrollable, I couldn't stop myself eating food."

Matt's eating disorder became a vicious circle of starvation followed by extreme binge eating.

"I'd freak out and make the starvation even more extreme. The more extreme the starvation, the next binge would become more pronounced."

Morsia is now intent on educating others that weight loss itself isn't necessarily a healthy goal to set. He points to the fact that weight training will increase muscle mass and therefore the number on the scales, but by all barometers, health will have improved immeasurably.

"People tend to go on these extreme, short-term crash diets that generally involve massive calorie restriction. Again, chances are you'll rebound and end up bigger, heavier and fatter than you were before."

With the publication of his new book, Morsia wants people to educate people as to the dangers of extreme dieting.

When asked why eating disorders aren't discussed in men as much as they are in women, Morsia said notions of gender stereotypes are probably to blame.

"It's a societal thing, I guess. Historically, men have been told to 'man up' and that kind of thing. If you're a guy, I guess admitting you have an eating disorder was seen as embarrassing, and you wouldn't want to admit that."

Morsia is fine with opening up about his battles, but he understands why the majority of sportspeople don't.

"I'm happy to talk about it - it's a bit weird, but I don't mind talking about eating disorders.

"I guess if you're a sportsperson, it's probably easier to justify it because you think there's a reason why you're doing it."

Self-imposed restrictions are one thing, but sporting bodies arguably need to do more to help.

British Gymnastics have recently faced calls to review the way they train athletes after numerous young stars alleged abuse at the hands of affiliated coaches. Among other issues, coaches have been accused of instilling a culture of belittlement and body shaming - which could exacerbate problems in those prone to disordered eating.

The 24/7 Body by Matt Morsia is published by Century