Eating Disorders

Get Support
Personal experiences
Further information

Eating disorders are not unusual and yet people who are experiencing problems with eating, in its many forms, are often embarrassed and very secretive. It is important to know that you are not unique in the way you are behaving & feeling and to get help and support. Your health will suffer as a result of an eating disorder so take the first step and contact one of the support groups below, or on our helplines pages or go and speak to your doctor.

Here we look at what eating disorders are, one lady shares with us her personal experience of eating disorders and at the foot of the page some general information to help you if you are having problems with balanced eating. As always, if you are happy to share your experiences with others then please send us your story.

Hi there,
It's me Jessica,
nutritional therapist , this time talking to you about unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders, which are often due to psychological or emotional difficulties. If you are constantly worrying about your weight and obsessing about food then you might develop abnormal and unhealthy eating behaviours.

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders might mean:
starving yourself or limiting calories
eating only certain things at the expenses of a healthy and balanced diet
eating lots of junk food in short periods of time (binging)
taking drastic measures to reduce or maintain your body weight (binging, vomiting, taking diuretics or laxatives, excessive exercise)

You might think that your efforts to control your eating habits are a healthy way to achieve the body you want, but if they control you life things may have gotten out of control. Maybe you have started with a plan to lose a few pounds but you behaviour has turned into unhealthy and destructive eating patterns. Eating disorders significantly damage normal body functioning and can be life-threatening!!!

What are the main types of eating disorders?

There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder
Anorexia is associated with a distorted body image, like thinking you are fat even though you are underweight. Serious health consequences can result from starvation and about 1% (or one out of 100) women between the ages of 10 and 20 have anorexia
Bulimia is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating (rapid consumption of vast amount of food in a short period of time), alternated with purging (self-induced vomiting or usage of laxatives). About 4% (or four out of one hundred) of college-aged women have bulimia
Binge eating disorder refers to a pattern of consumption of large amounts of food even when a person is not hungry. About 1% of women have binge eating disorder, as well as 30% of women who seek treatment to lose weight

What are the risk factors for eating disorders?

You might develop unhealthy eating habits in your efforts to control or alleviate emotional difficulties and unconsciously turn to food to ease your pain or exert some control over your life.
Common circumstances and risk factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders include:
Family problems or a troubled home life
Major life changes: (divorce, death of a loved one, puberty, moving to a new place, starting high school, etc)
Romantic or social problems
Physical or sexual abuse or trauma
Psychological Factors: Low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, anger, or loneliness
Interpersonal Factors: Difficulty expressing emotions and feelings, history of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight
Social Factors: Cultural pressures that glorify "thinness" and obtaining the "perfect body"

In some individuals with eating disorders, the brain chemicals that control hunger, appetite, and digestion may be imbalanced. In this case the nutritionist might be able to help through prescribing some specific supplements.

What are the social effects of eating disorders?

If you have an eating disorder you might not be aware of how much damage you are doing to your body and to your self-esteem. Although different eating disorders have different physical and emotional effects they all impair the body’s normal functioning, cause long-term health effects and significantly impact your social and emotional well-being ending with social isolation, shame and guilt, depression, low self-esteem and lack of interest or involvement in other activities.

What are the physical effects of eating disorders?

• loss of menstrual periods
• dry, brittle bones due to significant bone density loss (osteoporosis)
• dry, brittle nails and hair; or hair loss
• lowered resistance to illness (depressed immune system)
• digestive problems such as bloating or constipation
• muscle loss and weakness
• severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure
• fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness
• long-term health problems including low blood pressure, low heart rate, low body temperature, poor circulation, anemia and stunted growth .
• dehydration (can lead to irregular heartbeats, heart problems, and even death)
• inflammation of the oesophagus from frequent vomiting
• tooth and gum problems
• bowel irregularity and constipation from laxative abuse
• vitamin and mineral deficiencies
• chronic kidney problems or failure

Binge eating disorder
• obesity and related health problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, liver and kidney problems, certain types of cancer
• decreased mobility
• shortness of breath

Just some of the books available



Eating Disorders Association
For help with eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder contact:

Eating Disorders Association, 103 Prince of Wales Rd, Norwich, NR1 1DW.
Helpline 0845 634 1414
(open 8:30am to 8:30pm weekdays & 1:00 to 4:30 Saturday)
Youthline 0845 634 7650
(Callers 18 & under - open 4:00pm to 6:30pm weekdays & 1:00 to 4:30 Sat)
e-mail: Web site:

Overeaters Anonymous
A twelve step programme for those who wish to stop eating compulsively. Offers Acceptance, Understanding, Communication, relief and power.

Overeaters Anonymous
PO Box 19, Stretford, Manchester
Tel 07000 784985
Main contact Number which refers you on to individual regional carers.
UK web site Worldwide support

Personal experiences of Eating Disorders

Anna, who has suffered with long term problems as a result of her eating patterns, shares her experiences with you .

I have been asked to write an article about the long term effects of eating disorders and how it has affected me. I did think of going into a long spiel about my life and how it all developed, but I suspect when you hear stories about anorexia and bulimia the plot is basically the same and I suppose my story wouldn't be that much different. It's the usual emotional problems, lack of control over what's happening and of course the need to fit in with ones peers.

I am a fifty two year old mother of two a real average Joe or Josephine if you like and I have coped for most of my life with eating disorders. In my youth it was anorexia; I went from the fattest kid in Primary school to a really skinny adolescent and from 12 to 18 managed to live on a diet of black coffee, the occasional apple and ryvita and watery soup. A thirty a day cigarette habit helped too to stem the voracious appetite I had so I was on my way to bad health right from the get go.

However I met and married a wonderful man (and surprisingly I still am) who helped me and I started eating again but I was so frightened of fatness bulimia became my drug of choice; it remained so until my early forties when I finally managed to stop. I still don't have a healthy relationship with food. I hate it and now it hates me because it does make me fat. From just under seven stone at my lightest I am fifteen stone and am not a happy bunny.

It has to be said at this point what all the obsession with dieting has cost me, and believe me it has cost me dear. In the years when I should have been enjoying proper nutrition for my body I was doing just the opposite. My bones are thinning and I look forward to the prospect of osteoporosis. This together with scoliosis, arthritis and trapped nerves will make for a fabulous old age filled with pain and problems. Could I have avoided it? The scoliosis - no, that's something I was born with. The osteoporosis - yes, that something that doesn't run in the family and poor nutrition in my case is to blame.

So peeps what can I say to you? What words of wisdom can I create here to move you and change your life? Nothing probably, but the next time you think to yourself I'm going to get this weight off and I'll cut down on everything and I wont eat too much and heaven forfend I'll dump everything down the loo - remember me. All you have to do is think of a poor old girl tootling around on her mobility scooter prematurely aged and everyday in pain. Then make your choice - a little extra pounds and getting around - or the prospect of a thin body and a pack of broken bones. If I could do it all over again I know which one I'd choose.



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