Sport Rugby

Saturday 24 March 2018

Renowned rugby referee Nigel Owens reveals he suffered bulimia relapse over Christmas

Referee Nigel Owens
Referee Nigel Owens Newsdesk Newsdesk

Welsh referee Nigel Owens is generally regarded as one of the best officials in world rugby but he has also commanded huge respect for his bravery in highlighting mental health issues.

Owens has spoken about his own struggles with mental health and his sexuality, including bulimia and he attempted suicide, and featured in a Panorama documentary last year on eating disorders.

The 46-year-old gave a courageously honest answer on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio Two when asked if he had conquered bulimia.

"If you'd have asked me this two weeks ago, I'd have said yes.

"But unfortunately in the last two weeks and the Christmas period, the pressures of Christmas and the drinking and eating too much, I have made myself ill unfortunately once or twice in the last couple of weeks when I see myself putting a bit of weight on knowing I was eating too much.

"It's an ongoing battle. When I did the Panorama doc, I learnt a lot by speaking to people who had experienced far worse than I did.

"I have been very lucky compared to how much people have suffered with it. I managed to keep it at bay for the best part of seven or eight months but unfortunately it has come back a bit now.

"Not as frequently as the past but once is still too many. It's an ongoing battle that I need to think about how am I going to deal with it and get some expert help."

He also admitted that he had been doing it for years without realising how harmful it was.

"I didn't really know until I was 24 or 25 that I was doing anything wrong and suffering from bulimia.

"You're going back now 25 years and it was only when I heard someone in the rugby club talk about their friend suffering from bulimia and I realised that was what I'm doing.

"The good thing about social media today is that information is out there and you can see other people's experiences and go looking for help. But back then I didn't really know I could get help and that I was doing harm."

If you have been affected by this article, visit, or call the helpline on 1890 200 444.

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