The “Angels” singer is delving into his 25-year career in his self-titled Netflix docuseries. In the four-part series, which features never before seen archival footage, Williams, 49, looks into his rise to fame and his mental health struggles along the way.
The trailer shows Williams describing having a “nervous mental breakdown”, and the extreme restrictive diet he was on at the heights of his fame. In a new interview with The Sun, Williams agreed with the suggestion that he had previously suffered from the restrictive eating disorder anorexia.
However, the “Rock DJ” musician went on to stress that he’d ricocheted between anorexia and “bigorexia”, an informal term used to refer to body dysmorphia around building muscle mass. Symptoms can include hours spent in the gym, an obsession with dieting to lose weight, or steroid misuse.
Speaking to The Independent, co-director of UK-based eating disorder charity Beat, Claire Reynolds, explained how comments from prominent figures like Williams can help men who are suffering from similar illnesses.
“Because of this stereotype that eating disorders happen to women, men quite often don’t recognise that they might have an eating disorder,” she said. “Or if they do recognise [it], they may feel some kind of stigma or embarrassment about reaching out for help.”
According to research published by Beat earlier this year, over half of men with eating disorders have never had any treatment. The Beat survey found that as many as seven out of 10 men with eating disorders said that before they became unwell, they’d never heard of or read about another man with an eating disorder.
As a result, Reynolds said that public figures like Williams speaking candidly about their struggles is “absolutely” a positive thing. “It reduces that stigma and that embarrassment, it shows that eating disorders can happen to anybody,” she said. “The more men that speak out about it, the better the awareness raising.”
In his interview, Williams said that “there’s been an overarching eating disorder that has been with me all my life”, explaining: “I had ‘bigorexia’, which is thinking you have no muscles and no size, and anorexia. There is a word that’s missing though, and that’s what I am.
“It was either restrictive or over-eating – I’ve never had it right. There is an eating disorder . . . I’m just not sure which one is my brand.”
For anyone struggling with the issues raised in this article, eating disorder charity Beat’s helpline is available 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677. NCFED offers information, resources and counselling for those suffering from eating disorders, as well as their support networks. Visit eating-disorders.org.uk or call 0845 838 2040