England cricket legend Freddie Flintoff has opened up on his eating disorder battles and the ‘self-loathing and shame’ he felt after being fat-shamed throughout his early career.
This week, former Manchester United ace Luke Chadwick has been trending for his honest comments about his struggles with anxiety and self-confidence, over the relentless abuse he suffered over his appearance.
Chadwick’s eye-opening account led to public apologies from BBC presenter Nick Hancock and former England striker Gary Lineker for making the young midfielder a running joke on comedy panel show ‘They Think It’s All Over’.
Chadwick’s comments came at the beginning on Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, a campaign from charity the Mental Health Foundation which aims to promote discussion about mental health, with this year’s theme being ‘kindness’.
That was the ex-United man’s overall message he wanted to promote – he doesn’t hold grudges over how he was treated, he just wants people to be more mindful of how they treat others.
Flintoff responded to Chadwick’s story with an honest and open account of his own struggles during the early days of his glittering cricket career.
And the England legend revealed he was so badly bullied about his weight by fans, the media and even some teammates – ‘ I became a figure of fun’ – that he developed an eating disorder he still battles against today.
Speaking on the talkSPORT Breakfast, co-host Flintoff said: “I remember as a kid when I was 20, I was big, I put a load of weight on and I was getting a kicking in the press for being fat.
“I became a figure of fun.
“I played a game at my home ground for England against Zimbabwe and walking out there was one of the worst feelings ever. You feel like everybody is constantly looking at you. Everywhere you go, everyone’s got a comment.
“The feeling of self-loathing and shame is so bad. I developed an eating disorder that I still battle with today, from the effects of that.
“Twenty yeas ago when I went through that, it was different world, and you don’t think for one second now that people speak like that, or that it’s the norm, but back then it was.
“Even in dressing rooms, I’m not having a go at anyone, but you know what it’s like; in a dressing room people will hump on to anything, any chink in your armour and that’s like a red rag to a bull, so it wasn’t just the outside world.
“And then you tend to own the jokes yourself, you tend to take the mickey out of yourself, as much as its hurting inside for whatever reason, you want to own it and control it.
“It’s just horrible for young people, and I’ve definitely had a taste of it.
“Also, in cricket you just stand there, you can’t even run away from people.
“I used to stand there for hours on end just getting abused by the crowd, by thet opposition and in the media, and it was a lonely place for a long time.
“It’s probably opened up wounds that will never heal. It’s something you manage rather than coming to terms with it properly.”
Listen back to a clip of Freddie Flintoff on the talkSPORT Breakfast above
It’s important to talk about our mental health.
If you want to talk to someone, or are concerned about someone else, the Mental Health Foundation website includes organisations that can help.
The Samaritans helpline is also open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for people who need to talk to someone in confidence.
Call 116 123 free today to access the helpline.