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Eating disorders and sport: how rugby helped me to recover

It is an unfortunate fact of everyone’s life that some days in the mirror you do not look exactly how you want to. More and more people are deciding to take action to ‘fix’ themselves and become a better version. I was one of those who went about it the wrong way. When I was living in James college in my first year I began to restrict my diet consistently, going down from 88 kilograms to as low as 65 kilograms at the end of the year. I felt confident and better each time I lost more weight. Being one of the ‘big lads’ at school, for me, was an unwanted label and made me feel abnormal. At my lowest weight I felt like I could fit in because people no longer gave me this label.

While I was enjoying how I looked in the mirror and my narcissism and arrogance had hit new heights, those closest to me had noticed my drop in energy and happiness. Eating between 800- 1000 calories a day as a fairly large guy is not a good idea, especially when that is your main goal of the day. It was at my lowest where I thought it would be a good idea to try and throw myself into the world of national league rugby clubs. Almost everyone I had told about it was wary but excited and they created the environment for me to throw myself in.

At first, it was one of the hardest things I have done and many times I got thrown about like my dog’s toy but the culture at both of my rugby clubs was something of a Northern stubbornness. These big men could do things that in my head big men shouldn’t be able to do and taught me that there is definitely ‘more to life than being really, really, really, ridiculously good-looking’. The practical nature of sport allowed me to look beyond my ideas on just making myself as slim as possible and therefore viewing myself as beautiful. Instead I wanted to become the best possible rugby player and slot in wherever my new found friends needed me.

Rugby has now reintroduced to me new mental and physical challenges. My dreams of working my way into such an intense community are growing each week with friends of all different ages and experience supporting me. Whether it makes me feel stressed and useless, or successful the game at this level has given me a purpose alongside my degree. I am now determined to be known as, as good a rugby player as possible rather than anything associated with the shape of my body. While I play for the people I love to be proud and my friends on the team, my rugby is played for me.

If you are feeling discontent with how you look, too big or too small, stay calm about it and talk to those who know you and those who know how to safely make changes. If I could speak to my Fresher self I would tell him to be happy with himself before he begins to make changes, and press on from a positive position rather than dig a hole in a negative fashion. I would also tell him to get involved in sport again sooner and find a purpose outside of his degree that takes his focus away from appearance.

Thank you to all those who have stood by me, from the rugby players I look up to daily, to the s and c coaches who decided I couldn’t lift enough. Most of all, Thank you to those closest to me, who have looked out for me and picked me up whenever I have needed it. I plan to push on to next season with my club and be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.

Be yourself and find your passions, Roses will forever be White. Good luck to all the York sportspeople battling it out for Roses this year.

If you’ve been affected by any of the content in this article, please get in contact with YUSU’s Advice and Support service by emailing or go to Beat’s website for more information and guidance.