Eating Disorder Awareness Week

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Health Assured team

25 February 2021

Content warning: discussion of eating disorders, signs and symptoms. If you need help with an eating disorder, contact Beat Eating Disorders for confidential support and advice on 0808 801 0677. 

If you’re under 18, call the BEAT Youthline on 0808 801 0711. 

March 1st-7th is Eating Disorder Awareness week. This yearly event, set up by Beat Eating Disordersaims to end the suffering of those with eating disorders. To do this, they set up events, produce resources, and run a helpline offering advice to any and all who need it. 

How do eating disorders affect lives? 

More than a million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder. It’s likely that this figure is a lot higher—a lot of people keep their illness secret. There are no genders, ages or backgrounds more likely to suffer. Eating orders don’t discriminate. 

People with eating disorders can experience symptoms and signs like the following: 

  • spending a lot of time worrying about weight and body shape 
  • avoiding food-centred socialising  
  • eating very little
  • vomiting or taking laxatives after food
  • exercising too much 
  • having very strict habits or routines around food 
  • changes in mood such as being withdrawn, anxious or depressed 
  • feeling cold, tired or dizzy 
  • pains, tingling or numbness in arms and legs (poor circulation) 
  • Feeling your heart racing, fainting or feeling faint 
  • problems with digestion, such as bloating, constipation or diarrhoea 
  • weight being very high or very low  
  • not getting a period or other delayed signs of puberty 

These symptoms and signs can make life difficult, especially when someone feels the need to be secretive about their disorder. Stress, anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand with the pressure these symptoms bring. But, with the right treatment and support, recovery is possible. 

This year, for the first time, Eating Disorder Awareness week has a theme—binge eating disorder. 

What is binge eating disorder? 

Binge eating disorder is a serious mental illness where people eat very large quantities of food without feeling like they’re in control of what they’re doing. 

It’s not about choosing to eat large portions, nor are people who suffer from it just “overindulging”. Binges are very distressing, often involving a much larger amount of food than someone would want to eat. 

Episodes can include eating much faster than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry, eating alone through embarrassment at the amount being eaten, and feelings of disgust, shame or guilt during or after the binge. 

How do I get involved? 

Beat Eating Disorders have set up a range of ways to get involved, this year. From sponsored walks, to video game streams, to simply learning how to open up a sensitive conversation with a sufferer, there’s something for everyone. 

These ideas are socially distanced, and can be undertaken as part of a remote team—since COVID-19 has seen an uptick in eating disorders, this week is an invaluable tool in helping people with a serious illness. 

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