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Saturday, 23 May 2015

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Barrow man with eating disorder for more than 40 years tells story

A MAN who has battled an eating disorder for more than 40 years says he will never be free of it – but managing it is possible.

There are now soaring numbers of people in England who self harm and eating disorders are one type of it.

Mike Lynch, 52, from Barrow, has been an extreme binge eater since the age of five and has struggled to maintain a relationship because of it.

Mr Lynch has come forward to tackle the taboo of eating disorders in men and to share his story.

He said: “It took me a long time to realise that what I was doing is a form of self harm.

“The condition manifested itself when I was young and I didn’t understand why children the same age as me were bigger than me. I would eat all this food to try and make myself bigger and never put any weight on.

“By the time I was 15 the damage was done and I started putting weight on rapidly.”

After a few days of bingeing, Mr Lynch would then starve himself to try to lose weight.

He said: “The logic in my brain tells me that if I eat for three days straight I can starve myself for three days and it will somehow even out.”

One of the main problems caused by his eating disorder is how difficult Mr Lynch has found it to maintain a relationship. He said: “I went on holiday in the 1980s with a partner and I ruined the whole holiday because I didn’t want to go out and eat. We ended up in separate rooms and because of this the relationship broke down.”

Mr Lynch’s eating disorder remained undiagnosed until five years ago when he was referred to Safa in Barrow.

Safa deals with individuals who self harm and offers them counselling and trusting support.

Mr Lynch said: “Safa has really helped me, especially with the counselling.

“I have been very, very lucky that I have not done more damage to myself over the years.”

Eating disorders are more commonly associated with women and men tend to be the silent sufferers. Mr Lynch hopes to change this.

He said: “There is just as many men as women who suffer with eating disorders but, because of societal attitudes, not as many are willing to come forward and talk about it.”

Mr Lynch has been working closely with Safa in managing his condition, but is aware how easily a relapse can occur.

He said: “About a year ago I didn’t eat for three days. During this time I decided to walk from Lancaster to Kendal because I was convinced it was good for me and my body just gave up.”

Nicky Guest, 46, from Barrow, is a support worker and counsellor at Safa.

She works closely with Mr Lynch and feels he is making great progress.

She said: “There is a massive taboo when it comes to men admitting that they have an eating disorder and there is a huge difference now from when Mike first walked through our doors.”

Mr Lynch’s weight has fluctuated massively during his daily battle and in the past five years alone he has gone from one extreme to another.

He said: “At my heaviest I have been 17 and a half stone and my lowest has been nine stone.

“People need to know that there isn’t a magic pill to cure it. I will have this eating disorder until the day I die, it’s managing it that’s the key.”

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