UK: Rugby union’s first openly gay referee Nigel Owens reveals ongoing bulimia battle

Rugby union’s first openly gay referee Nigel Owens has revealed he is battling against an ongoing struggle with bulimia nervosa.

The Welsh international rugby union referee, 46, spoke about his own experiences of the condition as research by the BBC’s Panorama programme reveals that there has been an increase in the number of men and boys suffering from eating disorders in the UK.

Nigel, who came out publicly as gay in 2007, said that struggles with his weight and sexuality as a teenager led to the onset of bulimia, which is characterised by a period of overeating followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging.

Writing for the BBC ahead of the broadcast of new documentary Nigel Owens: Bulimia and Me on BBC Wales on Monday (24 July), he reveals: “I’ve spoken about dealing with bulimia in the past but have never before revealed that to this day I continue to struggle with an eating disorder.

“Since the age of 18, I have had bulimia nervosa.”

Owens, who made history when he became the first openly gay referee to helm a Rugby World Cup final two years ago, continues: “It was a secret I was still battling to control as I stepped on to the pitch to referee the Rugby World Cup in 2015. And I’m not alone.” 

Nigel, who revealed earlier his year that he once attempted to take his own life and asked to be chemically castrated by a doctor as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality during his 20s, added that he also began to use steroids after bulimia caused him to lose five stone in four months.

“Mental health issues, depression over my sexuality, bulimia and steroids – my life was an unrelenting nightmare,” he says. “I was broken.” Read more via Attitude