Limerick All-Ireland winning hurler Barry Hennessy has said he spent years convincing himself he was doing the right thing while his eating disorder was destroying his body.
The 33-year-old has revealed that he battled an eating disorder for years – at one point losing about six stone in weight.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, the reserve Limerick goalkeeper said the peak of his struggles came between 2009 and 2021 – and he is still taking it one day at a time now.
“I suppose I used food as a comfort first and foremost and probably swelled to about 16.5 or 17 stone,” he said.
“That was the lowest point for me and then I realised that I was quite heavy and needed to do something about it because I was in and around inter-county sports at the time and obviously, at 16.5 stone and out of shape you weren’t going to get much of a look-in.
“I tried the normal routine of trying to lose it by cutting back a little bit and found that it wasn’t working and resorted to drastic measures I suppose.
“I convinced myself that what I was doing was right and just went into self-destruction really from there.”
"Binge and purge"
He said he quickly found himself in a destructive “binge and purge cycle”.
“You were weighing yourself first thing in the morning,” he said.
“You were very young and naïve to nutrition and nutritional information and you would weigh yourself in the morning, see a number on the scales and say right, this is my number.
“You were obviously unaware that, once you eat throughout the day and drink fluids and take on fluids, that is going to increase your body weight throughout the day and you would come back to the bathroom at lunchtime and be looking at the scales going, how are you four or five pounds up?
“So, it resorted to just sticking your finger in the back of your throat and emptying your stomach.”
He said his body dysmorphia got so bad that he felt he was overweight at his skinniest point.
“You are absolutely skeletal but again, it is the narrative you’re telling yourself,” he said.
“You’re convincing yourself that what you’ve done up to now has been right and it hasn’t let you down yet so you’re convincing yourself that you still have more to go.”
Hennessy said he started realising he had a problem when his teammates and managers started passing comment.
Breaking the cycle
He never looked for professional help but slowly changed his habits after carrying out his own research.
“It is just breaking the cycle more than anything else and it is an ongoing thing,” he said. “You’re not fixed.
“I call it addict mentality I suppose. You know, it’s one day at a time. Just putting your best foot forward and hoping you can stay on path.”
Hennessy said going public with his struggles has lifted a “massive weight” off his shoulders – and many people have contacted him since talking about how common the problem is.
“The amount of people that have gotten in touch with me through social media,” he said.
“A lot of those people have been nutritionists and dietitians involved with high-performance teams and they said they see it themselves.
“There is a fine line there between high performance and getting into trouble.”
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