Following a national survey commissioned by a UK charity BEAT Eating Disorders in February this year, figures have shown that at least a third of the adults in Britain couldn’t correctly spot the signs of an eating disorder.
It is estimated that at least 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, and that you cannot tell just by looking at someone that they have one.
So what is an eating disorder, and how do you spot the signs of one?
Amy Whittle (22) from Manchester, was diagnosed with EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) in the spring of 2017 by a dietician.
Amy said: “An eating disorder is absolutely a mental health condition which is why it can remain hidden for so long before its physical effects show and the psychological side of it can fuel denial.”
She continued: “My eating disorder consists of abnormal eating behaviours which arise from a psychological condition where an obsession with body image and weight is common.”
A former mental health nurse, currently working for a specialist service in the north of England, said: “The medical diagnosis of an eating disorder is based on someone’s eating behaviours, such as amounts they are eating, avoiding certain food groups or compensating for eating with excessive exercise or other means, as well as measures like Body Mass Index, for example.”
PHOTO OF MODEL © Tammie Beech
“In the mental health field, we consider eating disorders to be an expression of managing difficult emotions.”
During Amy’s childhood, she was bullied for her weight which had a major impact on her initial eating disorder at the age of 13, which returned full force at the age of 18 after escaping an emotionally abusive partner, resulting in weight gain.
Amy confessed: “You don’t have to look unhealthy to be suffering from an eating disorder, it is far more than just weight.”
PHOTO OF MODEL. © Tammie Beech
Although many eating disorders develop during adolescence, it isn’t uncommon for people to develop eating disorders earlier, or later, in life.
Amy explains: “Being honest with yourself is the first step to recovery.”
Therapy and food plans to get someone to eat regular meals are also some essentials to the journey of recovery.
If you have a loved one who has an eating disorder, Amy believes it is important that you don’t ‘obsess over how much or little the person may be eating’ and that you need to become aware of their ‘personal condition with different habits’ to be supportive.
There are many types of eating disorders; Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) just to name a few.
It is unknown what causes an individual to develop an eating disorder, but a combination of different factors such as genetic, environmental, psychological, social and biological influences are thought to increase the risk of someone being diagnosed with an eating disorder.
If you are concerned that you may have an eating disorder, it is important to visit your GP, who will take action accordingly.
Throughout your recovery from an eating disorder, Amy advises ‘if you ever feel lost or like giving up – remember why you started’.