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MY BULIMIA BATTLE; Not just teenage girls who suffer.

Byline: KIRSTIE McCRUM

WHEN Richard Morgan reads about young girls suffering from eating disorders, he knows only too well how tough their battles are - because the 37-year-old is struggling with bulimia.

In an attempt to control his weight, Richard, who lives in Borth, Ceredigion, has used laxatives and exercise to allow him to binge on the junk foods he has craved since 2007.

Richard's weight issues first started at school. The sales administrator said: "I started having back problems when I was 14 because I was overweight. It got worse as I got older, until in 1997, a disc burst.

"I was bedridden for months and started to gain weight. The disc was removed and it was fine, but I continued to pile on the weight because I wasn't doing anything."

Richard added: "My back started going again in 2002. A surgeon said they could either fuse the vertebrae at the bottom of my spine or I could change my lifestyle.

"He told me, 'If you continue at this rate, you'll be in a wheelchair by the time you're middle aged'. I was 19-and-a-half stone."

The medical warning was a wake-up call.

"My wife was doing WeightWatchers, so I started following that at home and in the first week I lost 11 pounds," he said.

When he started losing weight, 6ft 4ins Richard felt he had a new lease of life.

"I went from 19-and-a-half down to 13-and-a-half stone and I felt fantastic. I turned weight loss into a hobby," he told Wales on Sunday in an interview which marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Richard soon started running, helping him to stay fit and keep his weight down. Then everything changed.

"I changed jobs and moved house and then not long after we had moved, my wife became pregnant. I stopped running and the weight started going back on and I started to get depressed. That's when I started taking laxatives to try and keep the weight down."

At first, laxatives seemed an easy solution to Richard's problems.

"The first time I tried laxatives in 2007 it was because I felt guilty that I had eaten too much. It was an easy decision for me to make - I'd eaten too much so I'd just get rid of it that way," he said.

When his son was 18 months old, Richard's marriage fell apart.

"My doctor told me to start running again, because he didn't want to put me on anti-depressants, so I started running really seriously. I got my weight back under control but the running was combined with occasional laxative use because I was still bingeing," he said.

He describes bingeing as an urge to eat and not stop.

"I'll eat anything when I binge. I'll have a biscuit, but then finish the packet. Then I'll have another packet, and that turns into five packets. I just keep eating until I can't eat any more, then I feel so dreadful but I cannot stop," he said.

Richard says he has not used laxatives for three months, but adds that every day he thinks about being bulimic. "To a lot of people bulimia is sticking your fingers down your throat and making yourself sick, but it's not, that's one of the many methods of purging yourself - there are laxatives and exercise, and in some cases it's starving yourself as well. Bulimics can look quite healthy and normal," he said.

Richard says it's impossible to really understand bulimia unless you've been affected. "I totally empathise with teenage girls who suffer, because I know exactly what they're going through. The focus in the media is on it being a problem for teenage girls and it's dismissed as a childish thing that people grow out of but I've grown into it."

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Richard Morgan now and, inset, at his heaviest at 19st
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 20, 2011
Words:640
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