What is an eating disorder?
Problems with eating can be complicated and there is no one single cause of eating disorders. Lots of people change their diet and worry about the way they look. This does not always mean that you have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are also not just about food – they can be a way of coping or feeling in control. Eating disorders are serious and everyone who has one deserves care and support. They can take over your life and the lives of your family and the people around you.
There are three main types of eating disorder:
- Anorexia - trying to control your weight by not eating enough, exercising too much or both.
- Bulimia - losing control over how much you eat and then taking drastic action to not put on weight, for example making yourself sick.
- Binge Eating Disorder - eating large portions of food until you feel uncomfortably full.
People with eating disorders are often secretive about their eating and may feel guilty and ashamed. They may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food, which can affect them in many ways. Everyone is different and so eating disorders can differ from person to person, too. The good news is that recovery is possible and the sooner someone gets treatment the more likely they are to manage their eating better.
How can I find help?
If you are worried you have a problem with eating there are things you can do to help yourself.
- Stick to regular mealtimes: make sure you have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start with smaller portions until you get used to eating frequently.
- Try to be honest about what you are or are not eating to yourself and other people.
- If you lose more weight, you are likely to feel more anxious and depressed. Try to be kind to your body; look after it and don’t punish it.
- Do not weigh yourself more than once a week.
- Get your weight and height checked with a health professional, for example a school nurse, practice nurse or GP. They will be able to work out whether you are in your ‘healthy weight range’. You can ask your GP or school nurse about this.
- Try not to spend time checking your body and looking at yourself in the mirror. Nobody is perfect.
- Stay close to your family and friends. They can help you and help you to avoid unhelpful websites that encourage you to lose weight and stay very thin.
If you are worried about food or eating, the first step is to talk to someone you trust… and try to do it soon. This is probably easier said than done! Find out more about starting difficult conversations. The services below could support you also.
Worried about someone else
Are you worried someone you know may have an eating disorder? It’s hard to know what to look out for. Learn more about eating disorders here.
If you’re worried that someone you care about is showing signs of an eating disorder act quickly and speak to someone you trust. Don’t delay. Getting help quickly is really important.