Beat is the UK’s eating disorder charity, which began in 1989. Eating disorders are widely misunderstood and stigmatised illnesses, so Beat work to change this at every level.
What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses. Anyone, no matter their age, gender or background can develop one. There is no single cause and people may not have all of the symptoms of any one type of eating disorder. It’s also possible for someone’s symptoms and therefore their diagnosis to change over time.
· Studies suggest around 25% of people with eating disorders are male
· In 2015, 15% of the calls to the Beat helpline were about someone aged 40 or over
· Research has shown 80-85% of people with eating disorders are not underweight
Below are just a few types of eating disorder:
· Restriction or limiting of energy intake and may also excessively exercise
· Some with anorexia may experience cycles of binging and purging
· Those suffering with eating disorders often have a distorted image of themselves, seeing themselves as larger than they really are and develop a fear of gaining weight
· It is important to remember that eating disorders are often not about food itself, they are mental illnesses and treatment should address the underlying thoughts and feelings that cause the behaviour
Binge Eating Disorder
· Eating large quantities of food on a regular basis, over a short time period
· Binge eating usually takes place in private, though the person may eat regular meals outside of their binges
· People will often have feelings of guilt at their lack of control when binge eating
· Cycle of eating large quantities of food (bingeing) and then trying to compensate for overeating by vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, fasting or excessively exercising (purging)
· During a binge, people with bulimia don’t feel in control of how much or how quickly they are eating and some feel disconnected from what they are doing
· Turning to food for comfort and escape during times of low mood
· There are some key differences between emotional overeating and eating due to physical feelings of hunger
· Emotional hunger: comes on suddenly, feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly, leads to specific cravings, isn’t satisfied with a full stomach and causes feelings of guilt, shame and powerlessness
· Physical hunger: comes on gradually, is not urgent in nature, means a range of foods are appealing, is satisfied when the person is full and does not cause negative emotions.
Recovery is different for each person affected by an eating disorder . It’s important to remember that recovering from an eating disorder is never a straight forward process.
Tips for recovery
· Express your feelings and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes we hear that people find it easier to write their feelings down and show them to somebody rather than having to speak about them.
· If you’re feeling low, find things you can do to calm yourself. Take a bath, phone a friend, paint a picture, listen to music, go for a walk, write a poem – try different things to see what works for you.
· Write down positive qualities about yourself.
· Learn something new that takes you away from your eating disorder.
· Keep busy after meal times.
· Try not to compare yourself to other friends in recovery. It can be helpful to use stories for inspiration, but you are an individual and will find your own path.
· Think about your feelings when you’re feeling negative as well as when you’re feeling positive. Write a list of both – then when you’re feeling like you’re struggling read through those positive thoughts.
· It can be helpful to learn a little bit about nutrition and how food fuels the human body, the British Dietetic Association’s Food Fact Sheets might help with information.
To find help and support near you, go to:
Helpline 0808 801 0677
Youthline 0808 801 0711