This content mentions substance abuse and addiction (which may include mentions of alcohol or drug use), body image and depression, which some people may find triggering.
Luke talks here about binge eating, body image and depression and how an obsession with fitness and diving into some tough endurance challenges isn't necessarily a good thing.
Staring at the bottom of a now empty tub of ice cream, I promised myself, this would be the last time!
I hid behind closed doors during my late-night binge-eating sessions. Hiding removed me from the rest of the world, as I regularly overfed myself to experience a fleeting state of comfort.
Sitting on my bed with headphones hugging my ears, I watched endless videos on YouTube, distracting me from the violent negative internal voices vying for my attention.
As the sun rose, with its rays piercing through the curtains, I would remove my headphones, and start my day - acting as if the night before never happened.
What compounded the flood of negative emotions I had each night, was the fact that I felt like (and was) living a double life.
By day, I was paid to work with individuals and teams to not only help improve their physical performance but also, live a well-rounded, healthy life.
I worked with people who wanted to lose weight, run marathons (and even ultra-marathons) or complete some other physical challenge they set themselves.
I had clients who struggled to get out of their own way and accomplish their professional and personal goals, and I helped out in various ways. However, most nights, I was doing the complete opposite of what I prescribed to the people I worked with.
I battled for years with the feeling of being a fraud and living this painful double life.
To subdue this all-encompassing feeling, while at the same time, doing my best to ignore it, I took on and created some of the world’s toughest endurance challenges.
From running 65 kilometres down Mount Everest, to running across the Sahara desert. I cycled 412 kilometres non-stop from London to Newquay in 18 hours - just to learn how to surf!
I ran across a tropical forest in China, without any food, water, phone, or money, and with a plane to catch (but that's another story).
I even completed a double Ironman triathlon in north Wales (aptly named The Double Brutal Extreme Triathlon), taking me 35 non-stop hours, before creating and completing a world-first, 2000 kilometres in a 12-day, Ultimate Triathlon from Morocco to Monaco.
Midnight marathons (literally running 40+ kilometres starting at midnight), eight-hour bike rides every weekend and fitting in as much swimming, cycling, running, and weight lifting as I could, around my clients and keynote speaking business.
If I binged on ice cream and bread one night, I’d then go run for five hours the next. If I binged one afternoon then I wouldn’t eat dinner that night, or breakfast the next day. While making sure I filled that day with three, four or even five hours of exercise. The cycle was never-ending, as I was chasing something that wasn’t there to be caught - my happiness.
It’s easy to hide being addicted to exercise because anyone can dress up like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Exercising is healthy, if it’s done every day, then it must not only be healthy but by making the body fit and strong!
While all of the above is true, too much exercise isn’t a good thing. Combined with binge eating, insomnia and depression, it’s a recipe for disaster!
My addiction to exercise was a distraction from what was really going on in my life. I was literally running away from the real issue. I had changed careers and was lost. I lacked an identity, daily values as a human, and a direction in my life. The pain I felt due to this career change, carved out a canyon inside of me, which filled up with depression, insomnia, binge eating, and twice standing on tops of bridges not wanting to live for another second.
I was ashamed of how I felt, and the actions I took, and that a man in his late twenties moving into his thirties couldn’t just ‘shake off’ what he was going through.
My binge eating and insomnia fed my depression. However, at the same time, I used binge eating to help me cope with my depressive states. My depression was the reason I would binge and my inability to fall asleep. I was struggling to survive and completely lost in this destructive cycle.
It took me four years of battling depression before I externalised it to anyone. And another three before I opened up to my friends and family. That's seven years of my life I battled with my mental health, and barely survived the double life I was leading.
So, what changed?
I remember waking up one day and realising something needed to change.
If I was to stop living this double life, I needed to get help. With that thought, I had a choice to make. I could open up to someone I loved, and who loved me. Or, I could open up as little or as much of what I was going through to a stranger, and go from there.
I chose the latter, and after several years of therapy, and meeting this stranger on a weekly basis, I felt the internal strength to share what I had and was going through with those closest to me.
To this day, it was the most rewarding and impactful thing I’ve ever done for myself. Allowing those people who truly care and love me to know the pain I was going through, filled me with a level of courage and support I never knew existed.
I stopped living the double life I had led and started living my own life, one day at a time.
These days I'm not hiding behind closed doors or ashamed of my past behaviour, but sharing my experiences to help others find their own internal strength, hoping they too will one day feel comfortable enough to speak up about what they are going through - whether that’s with a stranger or a loved one.
Luke will be raising money for the Mental Health Foundation during an upcoming community project he is working on. An announcement will be made in 2023.
If you would like to find out more about Luke’s story, visit his website.
If you feel affected by the content you have read, please see our get help page for support.
Body image and mental health
A-Z Topic: Depression
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