He comes across as a cheery chap on our television screens but Gok Wan is haunted by his eating disorder battle, which he says he still struggles with every day. Speaking to Birmingham City University students, when he was accepting an honorary doctorate, 40-year-old Gok got emotional as he revealed the extent of his demons.
“I struggle with anorexia every day,” he said. “It’s like a parasite that won’t go away. Realising it won’t go away is the biggest weapon.”
The TV stylist was bullied for being overweight at school, which lead to a period of extreme dieting when he was 20 years old.
“When I was being bullied I wished the bullies a terrible fate. But over time I’ve forgiven them as without them I wouldn’t be who I am today,” Gok said. “In order to get through the dark times you need to remember that life is short and therefore you really need to focus on the good stuff. The little things that worry you are those that will ultimately fuel your success.”
Gok’s talk at the University was so popular that tickets sold out well in advance and it had to be streamed online for those unable to attend. He ended it on a positive note, telling his audience that his illness had given him a greater lust for life: “One day when you’re lying on your deathbed, what will you be thinking? Will you be worrying about how you look or whether you made the most out of life?”
Men and eating disorders: Did you know…?
- The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines on eating disorders show that 1.6 million people in the U.K. were affected by eating disorders in 2004 and 180,000 (11 per cent) of them were men.
- Since eating disorders can last for several years, the actual figures may be significantly higher than those reported. Men who don’t seek help may not be in treatment services and therefore won’t be in the statistics.
- Men of all ages may develop an eating disorder but the most likely age group is between 14 and 25. However, it is not unusual for men to develop an eating disorder in middle age.
Feb. 23 to March 1 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Find out more at Men Get Eating Disorders Too!