This week, 24th February – 2nd March 2014, is eating disorder awareness week (EDAW).
When you think about eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia are perhaps the words that come to mind – but actually the majority of people with an eating disorder would actually fall into the categories of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) or binge eating disorder. It is estimated that 40% of those with eating disorders would be classified as having bulimia, and 10% as having anorexia. Anorexia is the least common eating disorder, but the one that probably gets the most attention in the media.
All eating disorders can be destructive, painful and cause disruption to study, relationships, work, family life and social life. Anyone who is experiencing an eating disorder is entitled to and deserves the help they want and need to recover.
Eating disorders are mental illnesses, and they cannot be seen by looking at someone. Only a small percentage of people with eating disorders will be underweight, the majority are within what we’d classify as a normal weight or are overweight. Mental health problems can’t be seen or measured by a physical symptom – so it is important that we remember that we can’t judge someone’s experience with an eating disorder by their weight, shape or size.
There seems to be many more blogs and articles around anorexia than any other eating disorder, and having experienced both anorexia and bulimia, I think I am more comfortable talking about anorexia because bulimia (for me) had so much more shame attached to it. How many times do you see food waste adverts, or have you had a friend or relative tell you not to waste food because there are children starving somewhere in the world? Yet I was wasting huge quantities of food by vomiting after I had eaten. Also, being sick is quite gross – why would anyone want to talk about being sick? As for laxatives, well no one wants to discuss the effects of those. I think because I felt so out of control, so full of guilt and shame, and so lonely, it was more difficult to live with than anorexia, for me. I didn’t tell anyone about it, I was so secretive; I was convinced people could smell sick from me or tell I had been sick. I would vary which shops I went to so that no one knew how much or what odd foods I was buying and I was even followed round some shops by security guards because of my unusual habits and frequent visits.
What I hoped to do in this blog was to raise awareness of the number of eating disorders around and make clear that you can’t see who is ill and who isn’t. To end, I’ll share with you a quote I like: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
You can find out more about eating disorders and the support available by looking at B-eats website: http://www.b-eat.co.uk They have information, online support, live chats and forums, as well as a helpline for adults (over 18): 0845 634 1414, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and their Youthline for young people under 25: 0845 634 7650, email: email@example.com – they can also call you back if you text ‘call back’ to 07786 20 18 20 (they aim to call back within 24 hours.)