Who suffers from eating disorders?

Over 1.6 million people in the UK are estimated to be directly affected by eating disorders, which consist mainly of Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa. This is likely to be an underestimate as the figures known are for those seeking/receiving treatment and it is estimated by the Department of Health that the true figure for those affected is more like 4 million.

 Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates among psychiatric disorders.


 Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder in adolescence.

 Of those surviving, 50% recover, whereas 30% improve and 20% remain chronically ill.

Eating disorders commonly affect girls and women, although it has become more common in boys and men in recent years.

While the stereotype of someone with an “eating disorder” is someone who just doesn’t eat (anorexia) or eats and then purges through induced vomiting or usage of laxatives, it’s actually not that simple.

It is more complicated than that

Some studies have reported that as much as 75% of people with anorexia or bulimia are also over-exercising – in addition to calorie restriction or elimination and other forms of purging – to get to and maintain an unhealthy weight.

While the media does not cause eating disorders it does not help as it can certainly be linked to poor body-image and low self-esteem with the message of modern life being “eat less, exercise more, be thinner and you’ll be happier”.

A false representation of real life

maintain recovery eating disorder

People are unaware that digital technology and manipulation in the fashion industry using airbrush and digital enhancement to portray the ‘ideal’ female and male body is absolutely commonplace. These images promote unrealistic standards that are impossible to achieve.

Studies have reported a significant change in the weight and size of female and male models portrayed throughout the media in western society and the concept of the ‘perfect or ideal body’. Over time the cultural ideal for women’s body size and shape has become considerably thinner and leaner and men’s body size and shape has become stronger and more muscular.

There is more to life than an aesthetic appeal

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and most cases of eating disorder share a core psychopathology: the over-evaluation of the importance of shape and weight and their control. Whereas most people judge themselves on the basis of their perceived performance in a variety of domains of life (such as the quality of their relationships, their work performance, their sporting prowess), for people with eating disorders self-worth is dependent largely, or even exclusively, on their shape and weight and their ability to control them.

Improving Self-Esteem

In my experience a lack of self-esteem is a common factor with most eating disorder sufferers, whereby they become insecure about their identity, so they shift the focus from their inner selves to their physical bodies, allowing their physical appearance to become their sense of self.

Here are the points that I focus on when working with eating disorder clients to improve self-esteem;

– Focus on your positive qualities, skills and talents that can help accept and appreciate your whole self

Say positive things to yourself every day

Avoid negative or berating self-talk

– Focusing on appreciating and respecting what your body can do, which will help you to feel more positively about it

Setting positive, health focused goals rather than weight loss related ones is more beneficial for your overall wellbeing

– Admiring others’ beauty can improve your own body confidence but it is important to appreciate your own beauty, avoid comparing yourself to others, accept yourself as a whole and remember that everyone is unique and differences are what make us special

– Remember, many media images are unrealistic and represent a minority of the population

Read more from WatchFit Expert Dean Griffiths

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