Richard Osman shares addiction he's battled since childhood

richard osman at the cheltenham literature festival in 2023
Richard Osman reveals lifelong addiction battleDavid Levenson - Getty Images

Richard Osman has opened up about battling food addiction since he was nine.

The former Pointless host explained his struggles in a recent episode of the How to Fail with Elizabeth Day podcast, revealing how he felt a sense of "shame" around overeating since childhood.

"[People say] 'Is that a real thing?' All I can tell you is from my experience it’s been a real thing to me," Osman said.

richard osman
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"Certainly, how I experience it has been real, the inability to control it, it controlling my life for many, many years, it making me miserable, me feeling ashamed of it. All the things that you would attach to a classic addiction. I shouldn’t have to justify food addiction, but there I am."

The star admitted he found it "ridiculous", elaborating: "Alcoholics will tell you the same like it’s absurd that there’s a bottle of vodka in front of you or there’s a packet of crisps in front of you and it’s more powerful than you. It makes no sense.

"I think about myself sometimes and a big bar of Dairy Milk and I think, 'How can you judge anyone in this world and how they behave, or how they act, or what their instant reaction to something is when you are less powerful many times in your life than, like, a big bar of chocolate in front of you?'

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"Because that’s absurd, it’s crazy, it doesn’t make any sense. The human mind is crazy, and we've all got human minds and we’re all crazy in slightly different ways."

The star continued: "Since I've been nine years old, it has been ever-present in my life. Weight, food, where I am in relation to it, where I am in relation to happiness because of it, hiding it. All of that stuff, it’s been absolutely like the drumbeat of my life."

Osman noted that "addiction is shame", as he opened up further about how his battle links to his father leaving when he was nine.

richard osman, 2023
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"By and large, addiction is running away from your pain," he continued. "You have a pain that’s impossible for you to look in the eye. I was in a lot of pain, clearly, but do you know what, I was nine, ten… I don’t want to be in pain particularly, I don’t want to miss my dad, I want to go, 'This is OK, everything’s fine.'

"If you start going away from your true north, who it is you actually are, the further you get away the bigger leap you have to make back. Reality gets further and further away.

"And so anything that can stop you thinking or numb you, or anything like that, is incredibly useful to you, because if you start thinking, you think 'Yeah, but hold on, maybe I do miss him.' Then you go, 'Hold on, there’s some food in the fridge, I’ll have that'.

richard osman at the cheltenham literature festival in 2023
David Levenson - Getty Images

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"It's always running away from pain. Nine-year-old me and a different version of me sort of converged at the age of nine and the bit of me that converged was fuelled by food and fuelled by secrecy and fuelled by shame and all of those things."

Osman added that he was "able much later in life to re-connect with nine-year-old version" of himself, saying: "Whenever in life you have your crisis, whether that's nine years old, 17 years old, 26 years old – re-connecting with a nine-year-old is a really good thing to re-connect with, because it's really pure and funny and loving and curious and interested in the world. So it's rather lovely that I feel a connection with that nine-year-old."

For more on eating disorders, including information and support, please visit Beat.

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