When Young Black Brits Suffer Eating Disorder

January 13, 2024
6 mins read

Interview by Queen Allen
Monday, October 25, 2010.
Adam Tighe (main photo) is an up-and-coming model who has suffered from bulimia and had trouble with his body image.  In this moving interview, Adam tells us about his struggles.
Which eating disorder did you suffer from?
I have dealt with a lot really. I have always seemed to have bulimia style outbursts when feeling down and always had a strange perception of my own body image, and it doesn’t seem to go away.
How long did it affect you?
Back in school when I was bullied about my weight, I spent days on end pretending to be ill so I would not have to eat. I would try and put myself on stupid diets where I would just eat a rice cake throughout the whole day until I got home and would then only eat part of a cooked meal or I would throw it away when my mum was not watching. I also spent some days just being sick. Every time I ate, I hated myself for it and was often sick after eating or a few hours later as I made myself sick with worry. I also tried to make myself sick with a toothbrush, which even now, just cleaning my teeth can make me sick when I do not want to be as I am very sensitive to it now. I have always been very insecure about the way people saw me. I would try to hide my fat rolls by wearing multiple tops, yet I would never wear a coat or jumper as I was scared I would look too fat…which now doesn’t make sense to me as I already made myself look bigger anyway. At school, I would never take off my blazer as I didn’t want to look to fat either. It took me until fairly near the end of school, in the last few years to be able to and even then it was only on a rare occasion that I would do it. 
Even after school when I was just working, I tried to get thinner and thinner, yet for some reason, it just did not work. I always just never lost weight. After starting full time work, I lost about two stones. It wasn’t until 2008, when I was hit with a case of gastroenteritis, that I really lost weight. I dropped down to being about 10.5 stones at 6ft tall, and I did look ill and gaunt with it. At the time, I couldn’t have been happier though. I was ecstatic that I could wear what I wanted and could almost never look fat. The feeling died after a few days or so, and I still refused to wear a coat or jumpers and wouldn’t leave the house until I was wearing something to show how skinny I was. I opted for slim fit clothes and tight jeans etc. I spent about two months really watching my weight, then I slipped again and gained a lot back quite quickly.
Whilst watching my weight, I gained about one stone between July and September. I didn’t look gaunt anymore, but I still looked awfully thin, looking back at photos now. In the following six months, my weight kept on going up and down a lot and clothes kept on being stretched and then I tried everything to shrink them so I wouldn’t look like I had changed, as I didn’t want people to think I had a problem with my weight. I varied from 11.5 stones to around 14 stones. 
By 2009, I had started a care job and things were better again. I managed to maintain my weight for a while, but still felt huge. A little later at 19, I became awfully depressed after becoming ill with glandular fever. At this point, I realised that I had not quite got over everything I had had to deal with before as it all came rushing back to me. I realised that I had just thrown myself into other things and pushed all the emotions aside, rather than dealing with them and putting them to bed once and for all. I had a very rough few months and felt like I had lost myself since I could not work and I had nothing to do. I soon became quite suicidal and any little thing that happened, left me feeling like I was spiralling down further and further and I did not know how to stop it.
Again, I lost a bit of weight, but throughout the year, I had put more on than lost it. After a very tough few months, I moved away from home in an effort to sort myself out. I still struggled with a lot of things, but managed to sort my head out. I kept losing weight for a while, but by January 2010, I had suddenly shot up to around 15.5 stones and had begun ripping my jeans in the middle, stretching my tops out to ridiculous proportions and feeling down again.
 What other factors do you think contributed to your disorder?
Throughout the majority of my school days, I faced issues every day, whether it has to do with race, weight, sexuality or just the way I looked as I have a birthmark on my face. I found it hard to deal with life for a while and in my final year of secondary school, I barely turned up because I felt I could not face it all anymore. My grades slipped from having everything predicted at A* to C, down to me leaving school having only passed three GCSE’s at a C or above. 
After I left school, I was not really that bothered about my lack of education on paper, as I already had a job anyway, which I later turned into being a manager for the business anyway. I carried on with work as I felt safe and happy there, but not long after I started taking on a managerial role, I faced new issues with some of the staff that were older than me.
I took it quite badly for a while, but overcame it eventually, after working myself almost ill and feeling quite depressed about it with nobody knowing. One day I just snapped out of it and said to myself:
“No, I will not let this beat me like I did in school”. After that, everything was fine. 
Throughout school, I had quite a struggle with my weight, and it carried on throughout life ever since. Whilst being depressed, it all came back to hit me real hard and it still has an effect on me today. 
Being a model, has it made your disorder worse, and in what respect ?
In February, I came back to Leicester and got talking to a photographer, who is now one of my closest friends. I decided to lose weight and try to get myself back on track, starting with getting some more professional photos done. I had always wanted to do modelling and have always been told I am good looking, but I still find it hard to hear and hard to listen to as I have had the complete opposite drummed into my head so many times by lots of people trying to hurt me.
I still often find things hard now, at 20. I still see myself as that fat ugly Adam, but I try not to let that affect me. I want to make something of myself so I can prove all those people wrong that hurt me and criticised me.
I want young people to see that just because someone and some people say bad things about you in school, it doesn’t mean that the emotional scars that you hold from those moments, will hold you back in life; it makes you stronger and more determined to succeed. I often felt like I was cracking under pressure, but I still achieved my goals of having a manager position in a business at around 18 and at 20, I have started making a modelling career for myself. If I can do it, anyone else can, and I want young people to know that. 
Did you seek help? How easy or difficult was seeking help?  If not, why not?
It has never been diagnosed as bulimia or body dysmorphia, as I have never had the confidence to see a doctor about it properly, especially after one doctor told me I was not depressed and was just naive, despite being on 30mg a day of antidepressants. 
I would like to be involved in this project you are doing, if you would let me, as things like this are what has helped me through the past few years….I have always been addicted to watching these sorts of programmes on TV! 
What is your advice to other sufferers?
All around the world, no matter how bad life can be, there is almost always someone in a worse position than you and there is always a bright side. Everything happens for a reason and what doesn’t break you can only make you stronger. That is what I try to live by every day, and it helps me a lot. 
Queen Allen is a Plus Size Ambassador for Models of Diversity.

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