Boxing, weight loss & eating disorders

Boxing, Cricket, and dying to be thin.

I always knew that boxing was one of those sports that led to eating disorders in men, and most probably in women too.

A talented 17-year-old boxer called Ed Bilbey died in the ring after drastically cutting his weight so that he could keep competing in his weight category.

It was a chance visit to a boxing gym when he was 13 that set the course of Ed’s short life.

As he watched the men pummel the heavy bags, Ed fell in love with the game, and he eventually became a gifted 17-year-old wanting to pursue a long term career in boxing.  He was training hard to win the E. Midlands welterweight title; he had remained in this category since he was much younger despite having grown to 6 ft tall. To keep his weight down, his mother would catch him taking hot baths and sleeping in layers of clothes and duvets as he tried to lose weight through dehydration. He had been running in black bin bags; he said to his mum “I’ve got to sweat this weight off”.

On the day of the weigh in, he ate some eggs for breakfast then nothing else for the rest of the day, then he went into the ring for his match. Shortly after the fight ended, Ed collapsed and died. The Coroner said that his intense training, and rapid weight loss through dehydration had killed him.

Cricket also has its men with eating disorders. Freddie Flintoff was bulimic and now engages in compulsive exercise to keep thin. No one YET has made the connection between Shane Warne’s rapid weight loss behaviours, periods of starving,  and his struggles to keep his weight down. One may ask, what other things did Shane do to try and deal with his weight?

Another highly ranked boxer called Conor Benn has recently tested positive for a female fertility drug that causes males to lose fat and build more muscle. He was due to fight Chris Eubank’s son, aged 33, who at that time weighed as little as he had done at age 18. His father said that his son cutting so much weight was “suicidal”.

If only people knew what we know. Sweating weight off is a losing game. Sweat takes minerals out of your body that help your body to burn energy.  Those minerals also keep your heart beating.  In the end, even if you don’t actually die, you gain weight more easily and your body becomes a fat-making machine.

I wish that all sports coaches, especially in boxing, knew the cost of eating disorders and the sheer dangers of forcing a person’s weight down so that they can be match-fit for the category in which they are competing. Ed’s Mum and England Boxing have raised concerns that people in sport put hopes of future investment ahead of boxers’ welfare. England Boxing claim that they are starting a review; let’s not build our hopes too high.