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Saturday 23 March 2019
Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
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Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2014

Eating Disorders Week 2014
24 February - 2 March

During Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust will be raising awareness and informing local people about the illness that affects an estimated 1.6 million people throughout the UK. 

What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is a serious illness that affects the physical and psychological health of the sufferer. Food may be used in a way to control or block out difficult thoughts and feelings. Stress, depression, sadness and low self-esteem may be too painful to bear and for some people the behaviour associated with an eating disorder seems to help.

There are varying types of eating disorders that include a range of conditions which can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. The most common eating disorders are:  

  • Anorexia nervosa - when someone tries to keep their weight as low as possible, for example by starving themselves or exercising excessively
  • Bulimia - when someone tries to control their weight by binge eating and then deliberately being sick or using laxatives (medication to help empty their bowels)
  • Binge eating - when someone feels compelled to overeat.


Some people, particularly young people, may be diagnosed with an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). This means you have some, but not all, of the typical signs of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

For further information on eating disorders, how you can access support and to read a personal story, click the below tabs, visit our eating disorders e-learning package or take our eating disorders quiz.

Eating disorders are often blamed on the social pressure to be thin, as young people in particular feel they should look a certain way. Some people also see their own self-image completely different to how others see us which can cause an individual to develop an eating disorder (see the video Dove created opposite about "real beauty"). 

There may also be some biological or influencing factors, combined with an experience that may provoke the disorder, plus other factors that encourage the condition to continue. 

Risk factors that can make someone more likely to have an eating disorder include:

  • having a family history of eating disorders,depression or substance misuse
  • being criticised for their eating habits, body shape or weight
  • being overly concerned with being slim, particularly if combined with pressure to be slim from society or for a job (for example ballet dancers, models or athletes)
  • certain characteristics, for example, having an obsessive personality, an anxiety disorder, low self-esteem or being a perfectionist
  • particular experiences, such as sexual or emotional abuse or the death of someone special
  • difficult relationships with family members or friends
  • stressful situations, for example problems at work, school or university.

Although eating disorders tend to be more common in certain age groups, it is not uncommon for eating disorders to affect people of any age. Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point. The condition usually develops around the age of 16 or 17.

Bulimia is around five times more common than anorexia nervosa and 90% of people with bulimia are female. It usually develops around the age of 18 or 19. Binge eating usually affects males and females equally and usually appears later in life, between the ages of 30 and 40. Because of the difficulty of precisely defining binge eating, it is not clear how widespread the condition is.

Hello, my name is Sarah and I've been asked to tell you a bit about my story "so far”. Please bear with me as this is not something I usually do.

It's hard to explain it to others, as I struggle myself to understand, why I've ended up this way. But I will try…

I wonder if many people consider an eating disorder to be a mental illness, or even an illness at all. And if you say the words eating disorder, what does it mean and who does it affect? Well it affects all walks of life, and everyone around the sufferer.

I may look normal; I may even look well (if a little tired). You might look at me and think "there's nothing wrong with her"! And I often think the same.... But that's part of the problem. I have anorexia nervosa, with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Continue reading Sarah's Story.

Although eating disorders as defined by the DSM-5 or ICD-10 are not frequently diagnosed, many people engage in eating disordered behaviour without even being aware of it. For instance, dietary restriction is highly prevalent, particularly in the female population of dieters. Dietary restriction occurs when you eat less food than your body actually needs to maintain its weight which results in weight loss.

Dietary restriction can take on many forms including, but not limited to: 

  • Skipping out an entire meal or snack
  • Having meals that do not include all of the food groups (for example, having chicken and vegetable stir-fry with no rice or noodles)
  • Missing out whole food groups (for example ‘cutting’ carbs, avoiding fats/oils/spreads, etc)
  • Never allowing yourself foods known to be higher in calories (for example takeaway, puddings, sweets, added oils/spreads)
  • Eating a limited range of foods
  • Eating the same food every day
  • Intentionally reducing your caloric intake (this may be gradually or all at once)
  • Drinking too much fluid to make yourself feel full
  • Drinking too little fluid to avoid a bloating feeling.


Weight management and keeping a healthy functioning metabolism is best achieved and maintained over the long term by eating the amount of calories your body needs (typically between 1800-2200/day for the average healthy adult) and getting it from a balance of healthy foods including lean meats/fish/poultry, legumes (lentils, peas, beans), complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grain foods (such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat or whole grain breads and cereals, oats, bulgur, buckwheat, quinoa, couscous, etc), low fat dairy or calcium fortified soy, fruit (preferably not juice as the goodness of fibre has been removed leaving you with the sugar) and lots of vegetables. It’s also healthy to include small amounts of added fats from unsaturated sources such as non-hydrogenated margarine and vegetable oils like olive, flax, or rapeseed oil.

Too much or too little of any food group is never a good thing. Remember that your body needs glucose from carbohydrate to fuel your muscles and brain, fats to protect your organs, regulate body temperature and cellular metabolism and support your nervous system and protein for muscle and tissue growth and repair. Ignoring any food groups with these important nutrients is robbing your body of what it needs to function optimally. So stop restricting and start enjoying balance! 

If it is not treated, an eating disorder can have a negative impact on someone’s personal life and general wellbeingTreatment for eating disorders is available, although recovering from an eating disorder can take a long time. It is important for the person affected to want to get better, and the support of family and friends is invaluable. 

The first route an individual with a suspected eating disorder should take is to contact your GP. The GP will then assess the person's needs and may offer treatment or refer into relevant services; these may include the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT), or if the sufferer is under the age of 18 they would be referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). A more in-depth assessment would then be carried out and a decision made about the best course of action.

Research into recovery suggest that around 46% of anorexia nervosa patients fully recover, with a third improving, and 20% remaining chronically ill (Steinhausen, 2002). Similar research into bulimia suggests that around 45% of sufferers make a full recovery, 27% improve considerably, and 23% suffer chronically (Steinhausen & Weber, 2009). 

First Steps Derbyshire

First Steps is Derbyshire’s only eating disorder charity who support those affected by eating difficulties and disorders - this includes parents, partners and families - via recovery and self-help groups, online support, 1:1 support, dramatherapy and complementary therapies. Their recovery and self-help groups are non judgemental, welcoming and there is no pressure to participate.

Telephone: 01332 367571

Email: info@firststepsderby.co.uk

Website: www.firststepsderby.co.uk


Beat provides helplines, online support and a network of UK-wide self-help groups to help adults and young people in the UK beat their eating disorders.

Adult Helpline: 0845 634 1414 available to anyone over the age of 18 and is open Monday to Thursday 1.30pm – 4.30pm. Alternatively, email help@b-eat.co.uk

Youthline: 0845 634 7650 available to anyone aged 25 or under, and is open Monday to Thursday 1.30pm – 4.30pm. You can also text the Youthline on 07786 20 18 20. Alternatively, email fyp@b-eat.co.uk

Website: www.b-eat.co.uk