Manorexia story in NEW! magazine…
Danny Walsh and mum Pam Walsh talk about male anorexia in this two sides feature.
Most mums worry about their daughters going on a diet and becoming anorexic or bulimic as a result.
But what happens when the child who gets an eating disorder is your son?
Male anorexia is on the increase. Last year Danny Walsh appeared via Featureworld in The Sun newspaper to talk about how an obsession with becoming a professional footballer – and taking healthy eating and exercising to an extreme – led to him becoming anorexic.
Now mum Pam Walsh gives her side of their story in New! magazine.
She first noticed Danny was anorexic when he was 17. She was walking past his bedroom and happened to glimpse him getting changed when she reeled in horror at his bony chest.
Needless to say it was to be the beginning of a nightmare as Danny descended into full scale anorexia – at one point his weight plummeted to just six stones.
Thankfully Danny is now completely recovered and has even started up a website to help other men overcome anorexia. He and Pam posed for a new photoshoot for New! magazine and I am sure you will agree, he looks the picture of health.
You can read Danny and Pam’s story below…
Meanwhile, if you have a story about an eating disorder – perhaps you have suffered yourself or someone close to you has – why not contact me and see if it is suitable for publication in a magazine or newspaper? Not only will you be paid but you will help raise awareness and help others. Simply fill in the confidential form with a few details>>>
Men get anorexia too.
By Alison Smith-Squire
Mum Pam Walsh was horrified when she discovered son Danny, 16, was starving himself. Here Danny – who claims his anorexia was sparked by trying to look like a professional footballer – and his mum give both sides of his cautionary story…
Pam, 55, says: “As a mum you never think it is your son who will have an eating disorder.
With daughter Natalie, I was always careful not to go on about celebrities being slim in front of her.
But as she and Danny were naturally slim, the worry of either of them suffering from an eating disorder never crossed my mind.
From an early age Danny adored footballer Alan Shearer. Age six he had every shirt and piece of kit that Shearer had but I thought nothing of it. After all, what bloke isn’t football mad. And yet incredibly it was this that triggered his anorexia.
Sadly he suffered from asthma as a child so couldn’t play football but by his teens he’d grown out of that.
Finally aged 15 he joined his local team Preston’s New Longton Rovers, playing twice a week as a striker – the same position Shearer played.
His dad, John and I were really proud when he turned out to be quite a talent, winning Young Player of the Year.
We weren’t worried when he started eating more healthily and going running.
What we didn’t realise at first was that Danny wasn’t eating all his dinner but taking it to his room and chucking it away.
Then one day when he was about 17 I caught a glimpse of him taking his top off in his bedroom and reeled in shock.
His chest was just skin and his ribs were sticking out.
At the same time he became really withdrawn.
Even then I had no inkling that Danny was slipping into full blown anorexia. I thought it was a passing phase.
John was worried too but we worried going on to Danny about how thin he was would make things worst.
Yet within weeks Danny looked terrible and we noticed he had no energy – he was often shattered after work. In the end he lost his job as an apprentice electrician.
We still didn’t think he was deliberately starving himself – we thought he was seriously ill. Cancer crossed my mind.
Eventually John suggested Danny see his GP and it was then, to our shock, he was diagnosed with anorexia.
By then he weighed just over seven stones – he had weighed 10stones – and was referred to Chorley Hospital as an outpatient in the eating disorders unit.
Only despite cooking him his favourite dinners, begging and arguing with him to eat, he lost weight.
Five weeks later he was down to six stones and it was then devastatingly he was admitted as an in patient.
The night we left him there sobbing was heartbreaking.
However, the regime worked and within a fortnight he’d put on enough weight – around a stone – to come home for Christmas.
Danny got a job in a bookies and for a while, weighing 91/2 stones it seemed all was fine.
But when he was 22 a work colleague and his nan died. It hit Danny hard and he began losing weight again.
Then one day I got a phone call from his boss at work. Danny couldn’t cope.
Immediately I went to get him, giving him a huge hug.
Danny was diagnosed with depression and was prescribed pills from his GP. But when they failed to work he was admitted as an out-patient to the Priory. It turned out his anorexia was triggered by a desire to be like his idol Shearer and spiralled out of control.
Thankfully today, aged 24, he is now fit and well.
I’ve felt guilty wondering if I did something wrong to make him like this. I’ve also felt completely helpless when nothing seemed to work.
But we hope telling his story makes people realise boys get anorexia too.”
Danny, 24, says: “Alan Shearer was my idol – a brilliant player and a great bloke.
After joining my local team, I dreamed of being a professional football player. But I knew footballers dedicated themselves to becoming fit. I thought if I could become slimmer and even fitter there was a chance I could become a professional player myself.
By then Shearer was coming to the end of his football career carving out a new niche in sports commentating.
But his success off the pitch only inspired me more.
Football had given Shearer such a wonderful life. He had wealth, a great career on TV. And I was always seeing photos of him jetting about on holiday or meeting other celebrities. I thought, if I try hard enough that could be me.
Then I weighed around 10st, a perfect weight for my 5ft 7” height but I started running five miles every day.
Then I thought I’d be a better footballer if I was slimmer. So I began cutting out bread and potatoes, pasta to lose weight.
Within two months he’d lost half a stone in a week and six weeks a stone. I became obsessed weighing out cereal in the morning and then as I was eating it worrying it was too much and spitting it out.
Mum cooked me dinner every night but I only ate half of it. I’d eat take my dinner up to eat in my bedroom and throw it away.
Only I got so exhausted he couldn’t face. Within I’d lost my job – I was so weak I was useless.
Yet Ironically I became so obsessed with food I didn’t go out at all and was too weak to play football too.
I secretly existed on a 30g bowl of Rice Krispies a day.
When dad persuaded me to see the GP and I was diagnosed with anorexia I was shocked and promised I’d start eating properly.
But I couldn’t stop my obsession. So it wasn’t a surprised when in December 2007 doctors decided to admit me.
On the way into the hospital I ate pizza and chips to prove to everyone that I was really eating normally. And as my parents drove away I was in floods of tears.
But I realised then if I wanted to go home I had to eat.
That evening at hospital I ate a proper dinner – mashed potatoes, sausages, gravy and vegetables. Afterwards I had bread and butter putting with custard. I had forgotten how good food tasted.
Away from everything, all the stress about having to be fit and slim melted away. It felt good to eat normally at last and get home for Christmas.
Only when I saw Shearer on the telly, the longing to be a footballer would come back.
And when aged 22 a work colleague and my nan died I felt there was no point to life. Everything seemed out of my control. This time anorexia became a way of getting some control into my life.
I began skipping meals again and reducing portions.
I looked like a skeleton and had such a gaunt face that people I knew struggled to recognise me. When I spoke to friends I knew they wondered if I in the last throes of cancer or AIDS
I became paranoid that when I went into shops the assistants were staring at me in case I stole something. They thought I was a drug addict who might steal to feed a habit.
Breaking down at work was a turning point but getting help at the Priory got me better. I realised I wasn’t going to become a professional footballer but I had lots to be happy about, such as a loving family and my whole life ahead of me.
Today no food is banned and I am considering a career in sports coaching.
I still think Shearer is a great role model but I’m no longer obsessed with being like him. Now I’m happy to be myself.”