Eating Disorders aren’t a ‘one type fits all’ sort of subject. They aren’t a ‘privileged white girl’s over the top celeb diet’. Or perhaps the most popular misconception ‘just for skinny people’. The harsh reality is that eating disorders don’t discriminate against race, age, sex, weight or social status.
As Eating Disorder Awareness Week comes to an end, it is important that a wider spectrum of the general public are shown the services provided and advice available. While the stigma and media stereotypes surrounding the illness should be abandoned.
Many people are too quick to assume that those with a bigger body binge eat while those with a smaller body have anorexia. But it’s not as simple. People’s bodies don’t always tell the real story, often leaving those who are perceived ‘overweight’ out of the Eating Disorder conversation. Others assume that eating disorders are a ‘feminine illness’. Out of an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK ,who have eating disorders, at least 25% are predicted to be male.
Despite the greater belief that it ‘isn’t a real disease’, recent brain imaging research shows that the brains of eating disorder patients show significant differences to those who do not have one. Noticeably, a distinct dullness in the part of the brain that connects stimuli to feelings of pain and hunger (Insulas). Alongside an over-reactivity in the parts that exercise self-control (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex).
These widespread misconceptions can mean that eating disorders go unnoticed among those who do not fit the ‘expected image’. Ballari, 25, who suffered from Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, said that she felt her mixed-race South Asian ethnicity played a large role in her illness. She said, “My father spent a lot of time learning you do not need to be a white, privileged, teenage girl to have an eating disorder.”
What sort of advice and help is provided?
Charities all around the UK, such as BEAT, can offer advice and support for anyone struggling with eating disorders or topics surrounding mental health. Helplines are available 365 days a year and online discussions and one-to-one webchats combat a range of topics. Here at Staffordshire University, students are offered a range of support systems and guidance.
Student Union Vice President Steph Cairncross explains: “Eating disorders are an awful thing for anybody not necessarily just students. Here at Staffs, we offer loads of different services. You’ve got all of the wellbeing guidance and guidance counselors. You can book a wellbeing appointment online now as well, which is useful.
“At the student’s union, we have a student advice centre. We will be able to refer you to any local charities, like BEAT, a charity who offer information and support. Also, our advice team can help you with extenuating circumstances and if you’ve got any issues with your academic studies because of it.”
For any extra information regarding the topics raised visit the BEAT website. If you, or anyone you know, may be struggling with an Eating Disorder, be sure to contact a trusted health professional.