A mental health campaigner is opening up about his bulimia to encourage other young men to talk more openly about their struggles.
Connor Spratt wants to change the way in which society views mental illnesses as something we can ‘move on’ from to something that we can have help with.
Speaking about his mission, Connor believes that education is key as otherwise people stay silent which can perpetuate their problems by sending them into further decline.
Connor’s own wellbeing suffered after growing up overweight and feeling “different” to other kids especially when he would be the butt of a joke because of his size.
It was just before embarking on his psychology course at university, that he decided he wanted to make a change and slowly adopted new habits and attitudes around food.
At first, the weight loss was controlled, sustainable and healthy, and he was flattered by the compliments he received from friends and family about his new body shape.
However, the compliments stopped when Connor arrived at uni as his pals did not know what he looked like before his weight loss and he was just another average student.
It was only when he joined the boxing club in his second year of uni, that unknowingly Connor was about to hit rock bottom.
Connor explained: “After agreeing to my first fight, I had to lose another significant amount of weight in a short span of time. This meant I changed from my regular routine of training three times a week and eating consciously to a regiment of training five times a week, twice a day, whilst meticulously calculating each calorie that entered my body.
“As I began to lose the weight and get physically stronger due to the increased training, many would start to comment again. ‘Connor you’re looking lean!’ or ‘Hey, Connor you’re looking strong!’ The comments started to come back!
“I didn’t realise at the time, but I began to associate my self-value with losing weight.”
Yet it was after completing his first fight that Connor also had his first binge.
He continued: “Before my fight, I had done more reading on Uber Eats than I had done for my lectures. I was obsessed. I was constantly thinking about food, but I could not have it. When you restrict for so long, the urge to have whatever is restricted is overpowering. However, I now had a new problem – I am obsessed with eating.
“But I am only valuable if I lose weight. What do I do?”
And so, began Connor’s battle with bulimia, stuck in a cycle of restriction, bingeing and purging while never saying a word to anyone else.
It was only after spiralling into dangerous territory with his health, that Connor finally reached out. As he did, he noticed very few men discussing mental illnesses.
It was this that made Connor want to share his story, to inspire other boys and men that they don’t have to struggle alone.
He now records his You Alright? podcast, speaking candidly about his experiences while digging into how we manage the mental illnesses we have learned to live with.
So far, he has released four episodes which include conversations around the concept of calorie counting, as well as toxic positivity in the fitness and mental health communities.
Connor said: “One in four suffer from eating disorders are men, but where are they? Why aren’t they speaking out? Obviously, there are many reasons for this. However, I think a huge reason is shame. We are scared of opening up about these things due to the associated stigma with doing so. By opening up we may be viewed as ‘weak’ or ‘broken’.”
Now, Connor believes by encouraging men to view speaking out an indicator of strength and bravery, that it will help them understand that emotions don’t emasculate.
For confidential advice, visit the UK eating disorder charity Beat.