Updated: May 17
It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the UK and an article published by The House on www.politicshome.com covers the issues raised by Baroness Parminter on the shocking 41 month wait times for people suffering with eating disorders.
So, why should we care? There has been an increase in the awareness of overall mental health although those suffering with an eating disorder are often too far gone to reverse the damage that has been done. Eating disorders are more responsible for loss of life than any other mental condition. I’ll write that again and let it sink in,
Eating disorders are more responsible for loss of life than any other mental health condition
Between 1.25 million - 3.4 million people currently in the UK being challenged by an eating disorder, it’s definitely time to talk and time for change.
I spoke with Bobbie Evans, leading and award winning personal trainer on the Hot Wagon Podcast session about her very personal and transparent story with the development of her eating disorders that were brought on by postnatal depression after the birth of her first child.
There is a big myth around eating disorders and the thought that they are always associated with a desire to be thin. This is not always the case. Eating disorders are very complex and are associated with biological, behavioural, psychological and social circumstances.
Think of it this way, a person looks on social media, reads magazines, watches movies and sees an often tilted view on reality. Peer Pressure. They are potentially already depressed or stressed and then start to tell themselves that they are not good enough. So it’s this feeling of not being enough or lack of confidence that can make issues with food an exercise start.
Statistically, eating disorder triggers, can be linked more to adolescents and 25% are male.
Let’s look at a scenario. A teenager's body starts to change during puberty, a woman’s shape starts to change, metabolism changes, men get taller, start to develop facial hair as well as the other physiological changes that take place. We all know what it is like when those around us, family and friend’s start to comment on those changes. If those comments are negative and associated with body change then this can kick start the negative internal voice for a teenager which leads to the anxiety cycle / fear of food.
Here’s how the fear of eating cycle works.
1 . Increased anxiety perfectionism, obsessive thoughts - low self confidence
2. Cope by restrictive eating or binge eating - excessively eating or starving to gain control and confidence
3. Neurological changes that increase denial, rigidity and depression - Eat and temporarily feel satisfied before the negative thought process and shame kicks in to start the cycle again.
This is just one scenario. There are other potential triggers for example, brain based challenges, some people are wired to ignore or do not even notice hunger symptoms. This can also be present in reverse. The brain will continue to tell a person to eat and that they are hungry even when they are not which can lead to binge eating.
There is an extremely high connection between people that suffer with eating disorders and those that suffer with anxiety, depression or OCD. Losing someone you love or caring for someone who is sick can also change the signal’s in your brain regarding eating. I certainly remember that I didn't eat hardly anything for a month following a bad relationship break up and was not getting any body signals that I had not eaten. I also remember a friend of mine’s mother being so ill and in hospital that they also didn’t eat for months and became noticeably underweight. I’m sure you can recall many times that you may have seen the early onset of this yourself.
It’s certainly fair to say that this starts in the brain, so taking the time to speak to someone or encouraging a person to get professional help in the form or doctors and counsellors is the best advice. Let them get to the root of the problem with you or with your loved one. It may be small now however we know that it can snowball into something much bigger and much more life threatening.
I asked Bobbie Evans what she would say to anyone that was suffering out there now.
Her advice was,
“You need to address it, start writing it down, get a notepad and just start writing your day to day habits and look back at it. Be the person on the outside looking in and then you can identify that it is a borderline disorder. My first port of call was the doctor”
Wise words from someone who has experienced it first hand and how something we think is quite harmless at first, can quickly develop into something much more sinister and life changing.
I’ll leave you with this point,
an eating disorder is not a choice, it is a mental condition.
Let’s all please share and be much more aware.
If you or anyone are affected by eating disorders or mental health, Modern Mind Group offers mental health awareness training for the workplace. www.modernmindgroup.co.uk
There are many other services out there too such as the charity www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk
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