‘Outlander’ Star Sam Heughan Opens Up About His Experience With An Eating Disorder - Men's Health Magazine Australia

‘Outlander’ Star Sam Heughan Opens Up About His Experience With An Eating Disorder

Actor Sam Heughan has spoken candidly about the pressures of acting and their impact on body image, which ultimately led him to develop a low-level eating disorder.

Hollywood has been known to produce a memorable transformation, with the industry being credited for taking actors with otherwise average bodies and turning them into the kind of gym-honed physiques you’d expect of a Marvel superhero. But while Brad Pitt’s abs in Fight Club or Henry Cavill’s Superman body have been adored and celebrated as inspiration for those looking to get motivated for their own fitness journey, rarely do we pause to consider the impact such imagery has on our psyche and self-esteem. Even the flippant comment that “the camera adds ten pounds” speaks to the pressures of the industry, which so often are shouldered by actors with little regard for their mental health. 

It’s something Outlander star Sam Heughan is now looking to address as he’s spoken candidly about his personal journey with an eating disorder. In a recent interview on the Today show, Heughan spoke about his rise to fame and other topics that are included in his new book titled Waypoints: My Scottish Journey, as well as the upcoming season of the hit series. But what struck audiences most in the interview was Heughan’s openness about his experience with an eating disorder which stemmed from industry pressures faced as an emerging talent. 

Waypoints: My Scottish Journey chronicles Heughan’s struggles as an actor as he looked to make it in a cut-throat industry. “I think as a young actor, quite green; not really much experience, there were a lot of pressures, certainly, starting off in the industry, that I didn’t really understand,” he expressed. “I think there was a certain body type that we were expected to have,” Heughan admitted, adding that “women talk about it a lot, but I don’t think men do, and I wanted to mention it.”

In 2019, it was reported that more than 360,000 Australian men live with an eating disorder. While Eating Disorders Victoria notes that women and girls are more likely to experience all types of eating disorders than men and boys, binge eating disorder actually has an almost equal prevalence. As Butterfly Foundation CEO Kevin Barrow expressed in a statement, “Body dissatisfaction is a pervasive problem with increasing impacts on young boys and men. We are seeing more young boys overvaluing body image, which leads to evaluating their self-worth based on appearance.”

Heughan’s experience with an eating disorder has led the actor to establish his own foundation to help others struggling with body image issues. “That’s why I started my own charity fitness program. It was about education and about getting information to other people so they don’t face the same pressures,” he said. In talking about it, he also hopes that more men will feel encouraged to seek help and that as a society, we can remove the stigma that surrounds eating disorders, which are often seen as something that affects women and girls rather than men. But with the rise of body dysmorphia, men are just as susceptible and need to understand that help is available. 

Viewers were quick to express their support for Heughan, while others thanked the star for talking so openly about his own struggles. As one person expressed on a YouTube video of Heughan’s chat, “I’m glad Sam opened up about his eating disorder many people don’t realise that men also suffer from it.” Another tweeted, “I appreciate the fact that you shed light on men feeling the pressure just as much as women do to look a certain way in your industry. It is something that isn’t talked about much. Kudos to your openness.” 

If you believe you are struggling with an eating disorder and need support, contact the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673 or chat online, 7 days a week, with a trained counsellor. Immediate help is available on 000 or Lifeline at 13 11 14. 

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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