21 April, 2008 - Published 13:18 GMT

Former Deputy PM's eating disorder

The former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has admitted that for years he suffered from the eating disorder bulimia nervosa. Mr Prescott said the stress of his job led him to binge on snacks and then force himself to be sick.
On the face of it, John Prescott is about as unlikely a candidate for an eating disorder as it's possible to imagine. He's a pugnacious, blunt-speaking Northerner, a former merchant seaman and amateur boxer who once punched a protester for crushing an egg over him.
In his memoirs, he admits that he felt a right twerp, as he puts it, when he first admitted he had a problem and checked in with a consultant, only to find that the waiting room was full of young women.
Mr Prescott puts his condition down to stress at work. He says the only time he got a break during his eighteen hour working days was to eat, which became his main pleasure. He says he'd eat any old rubbish: burgers, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, trifles until he felt sick, and would then have the weird pleasure of vomiting and feeling relieved.
He says he thought he could hide it, but that it became apparent to his staff and especially his wife Pauline. Psychologists say such behaviour is associated with low self-esteem. He admits that he felt a need to work so hard to prove that he was up to the job. Cartoons portraying him as inordinately fat can't have helped; nor can the jibes of political opponents who would order drinks from him in a disparaging reference to his working class origins and his time as a steward on merchant ships.
He says he'll offer his support to a National Health Service campaign on eating disorders, in the hope of raising public awareness.