It is estimated that more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, so it’s likely that someone you know is suffering from conditions such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorder at this current moment.
But are you aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for and the local and national support that is available?
This week (27 February – 5 March) marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week – an international campaign to shine the spotlight on eating disorders and provide vital information to signpost individuals to the support and treatment they need. This year’s movement – hosted by national eating disorders charity Beat – focuses on early intervention and the important role that GPs play, as well as friends and family members.
So what are the signs and symptoms to look out for?
Someone suffering from an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health. Lookout for the following warning signs:
- Missing meals
- Complaining of being fat, even though they have a normal weight or are underweight
- Repeatedly weighing themselves and looking at themselves in the mirror
- Repeated claiming that they've already eaten, or making constant excuses to avoid eating at home
- Cooking big or complicated meals for other people, but eating little or none of the food themselves
- Only eating certain low-calorie foods in your presence, such as lettuce or celery
- Feeling uncomfortable or refusing to eat in public places, such as at a restaurant.
And how can you help?
It’s important to remember that recovery is possible, and a person’s chance of making a full and sustained recovery is greater if they receive treatment that will address the thoughts and feelings which cause the eating disorder.
However, often people with an eating disorder can be secretive and defensive about their eating habits and weight, making it difficult for those concerned to know what to do.
If you’re worried about your own eating habits or those of someone you know, there is a wealth of information on the NHS Choices and Beat websites about the help that is available to support someone living with an eating disorder.
More locally, your GP can provide advice and support for eating difficulties and disorders and, if necessary, a referral to the specialist Derbyshire Eating Disorder Service.
First Steps Derbyshire also provides assistance to local residents who are affected by an eating condition; this includes parents, partners and families.