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Eating Disorders

  • Regularly eating too little, eating a lot in a short space of time (binge eating), thinking about food or calories 24/7, or making yourself sick after eating, can be signs of an eating disorder.

  • Eating disorders include bulimia, anorexia and binge eating.

  • They can affect anyone.

  • If you’re struggling with your eating habits, there is help available.

Eating disorders are closely tied in with mental health. While we often see them portrayed in very specific ways on the TV and in the media, eating disorders are different for everybody. They take various different forms, as well as different levels of severity. 

It’s estimated that about 1.25 million people are dealing with issues around eating in the UK. They affect people from all genders, backgrounds and ages. While conversations in the media often focus on the most severe types of eating-related issues, they often develop gradually without you realising. It is possible to overcome them, so getting the help you need is very important if you’re struggling with issues around eating. 

If you’re having problems with your eating, or feel that your circumstances or relationships are affecting how and/or what you eat, then you can talk to CALM. CALM’s trained helpline staff are available from 5pm to midnight everyday to chat and help you move forward with whatever you’re going through. You can also find out more about eating disorders at BEAT – the UK’s eating disorder charity.

What to look out for

If you have an eating disorder it can affect many aspects of your life, from how you view your body and your enjoyment of food, to your social life and everyday routines. Everyone’s experience will be unique to them, but there are some common behaviours someone struggling with eating may display:

  • Spending a large amount of time worrying about weight and body shape
  • Avoiding social activities that might involve food
  • Eating very little
  • Deliberately making themself sick or taking laxatives after food
  • Exercising too much
  • Creating strict habits or routines around food 
  • Mood changes. 

Some people will also experience other physical symptoms, such as:

  • Feeling cold, tired or dizzy
  • Difficulties with digestion
  • Menstrual irregularities, such as missing periods

Why do people struggle with issues around eating?

Eating-related issues can affect anyone regardless of age, background, or culture. However, there are some factors that may make it more likely for someone to develop one. Here are a few of them:

  • Family, social or peer pressures
  • Low self-esteem and/or shame
  • Stress, loneliness, depression, or trauma
  • Unrealistic beauty standards
  • Emotional or psychological distress.
  • Frequent dieting or exercising

Recovering from an eating disorder can be a long process. When someone is in recovery, there may be setbacks and relapses, but seeking help can provide ways to overcome an eating disorder.


What does recovery mean? 

Recovery is possible and there are many organisations and groups that exist to support people with eating disorders. Everyone will experience recovery differently, developing their own approach to eating habits, social support, and coping mechanisms.

Where can I find help?

  • Talk to CALM from 5pm to midnight every day. Our helpline staff are there to talk and to help you find ways to move forward. Calls and webchats are free, anonymous, non-judgemental and confidential. 
  • Outside of these hours, call the Samaritans on 116 123 
  • Contact your GP for an appointment (which might be done over the phone or by video – during covid19) 
  • Self-refer yourself to NHS Psychological Therapies here 

Dealing with eating disorders

  • When it comes to eating disorders, everyone experiences them differently. Changing your mindset might not be easy and can take time, so be kind to yourself along the way.
  • Logging the things you eat and drink might feel daunting, but it can help you to notice a pattern. This might make it easier to switch up your routine.
  • But… if you are calorie-counting, or paying excessive attention to what you are eating, then developing techniques to ground yourself and focus your attention on something else can be really important.
  • Reading about other people who have overcome eating disorders or share similar stories to you can help you learn about what you’re going through and help you on your own journey.
  • It’s not always easy, especially when you’re feeling low, but remember you deserve to be happy and you’re good enough.

Talking about eating disorders

It can be difficult to talk about eating disorders with your friends, family or a medical professional. Here are some ways you can start a conversation around how you’re feeling: 

“I need to talk – I’ve been struggling with my relationship with food and think I might have an eating disorder.”

“You might have noticed I’ve not been around so much lately. I’ve been finding things difficult, and think I might have an eating disorder.”


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