International rugby referee Nigel Owens has opened up about how the pressure of the 2015 Rugby World Cup triggered his eating disorder.
"My fitness coach told me, 'You could probably do with losing three or four kilos'," Owens says.
To reduce his weight, he made himself throw up after meals in the lead-up to the tournament.
Owens has had bulimia for 30-years.
The illness began in his late teens, when Owens was struggling with his sexuality, and "comfort eating" to cope with his emotions.
He gained weight and felt unattractive – leading to a destructive cycle of binging and purging.
"I would eat my food, make myself sick, eat my food, make myself sick," he told SUNDAY.
Owens says his eating disorder was partly driven by his low self-worth – particularly because of his fear of coming out as gay.
At one point, he even asked his doctor if he could be chemically castrated.
At 26, he attempted suicide, but after seeing how much distress this caused his parents, Owens says he realised he had to accept himself for who he was.
He went on to become the world’s first openly gay rugby referee but continued to have issues with his appearance.
"I was happy with my body at certain times. But then if I felt the weight was coming back on, that would trigger me back into the bulimia."
While Owens says he is currently eating and exercising sensibly, he knows his bulimia could come back. He wants to encourage other men and boys with eating disorders to seek help early.
Watch Jehan Casinader’s full story on SUNDAY, 7.30pm on TVNZ1.
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