'I definitely saw eating disorders as a more female illness'
LENT started as a healthy sacrifice for Danny Keane (27), but instead, it triggered an eight-year battle with anorexia where he faded from 13 stone to less than six.
"I was 19 and it was all healthy at that stage. I went off all chocolate, sugar and fried foods," Danny told the Sunday Independent.
Danny, from Fermoy in Cork, also hoped staying away from junk food would help him perform better in the Irish Dancing World Championships.
But as the months passed by, Danny became noticeably thinner - and he liked it.
"The more weight I lost, the more confidence I got and the bigger thrill I got," he said. After finishing ninth in the dancing championships, Danny qualified his weight loss with increased fitness.
But slowly, he began to skip meals and cut carbohydrates out of his diet completely. Within two years, he was down to 11 stone.
"I couldn't really concentrate on my studies and I relied on fizzy drinks for energy, but it just kept dropping and dropping," said the aspiring teacher, who found himself making excuses to avoid meals times at home and in college.
At 24, he moved to Dublin to start a new job, but the isolation allowed the grip of the illness to tighten.
"I would have been about nine stone and people would have been very concerned by that stage. Walking a couple of hundred meters would be torturous, I would be out of breath and really weak," said Danny, who, by then, lived on a diet of fizzy drinks. "I couldn't engage with anyone and I spent a lot of time in bed."
Eventually, with the support of his loving family, Danny went to his GP and admitted: "I need help, I can't cope with it anymore".
"It it took me a long time to speak out about it because I'm male. I definitely saw it as a more female illness and more accepted if you're female," he said. "If you're male, it's kind of seen as a weakness.
"People don't associate it with males".
Despite his bravery in admitting to the problem, Danny couldn't stay off the weighing scales.
"I checked my weight between 30 and 50 times a day. I even stopped brushing my teeth as I was too afraid of the calories in toothpaste."
As time passed, his condition worsened again as Danny found it difficult to find suitable treatment. He gave up his job and was hospitalised on two occasions after his weight plummeted to a meagre 5 stone 7lbs.
But eventually, a private clinic in Dublin offered the critical support he needed to recover.
"I'm over 10 stone now but it's still a daily battle. I have a strict diet, training regime and follow-ups and I still have fear foods."
He added: "There is way more physical and social pressure on fellas now than there used to be."