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"What is an Eating Disorder?" - ED Awareness Week

"What is an Eating Disorder?" - This year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is taking place between February 27th- March 5th

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This year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is taking place between February 27th- March 5th. This year’s theme is all about raising general awareness, and addressing the stigma around eating disorders in men. Trust us, #StrangerThingsHaveHappened.

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses characterised by irregular eating or exercise behaviours and the control of food. They massively impact the general population with 1 in 50 people of the UK population have an eating disorder, with 1 in 4 people with eating disorders being men.

“As a male who has played sports for all my life, as well as regularly attending the gym (for health reasons) for the last 5 years, I have seen first-hand the pressure put on males. There are so many various expectations for men to look a certain way, act a certain way and eat certain foods. Personally speaking, during my more intense fitness phases, I would often get ridiculed when eating certain foods or not doing “enough”. This effectively led to me developing an eating disorder surrounding what I eat, how I approach what I “need to be” eating during fitness phases and pushed me to calorie count and meticulously measure what was going into my body. Even then, it just ended with me feeling like no matter what I ate, it was never doing any good, so I still continued eating too little, and worrying about “getting a lil belly”. Luckily, now I have realised that my opinion is what matters, and it has enabled me to comfortably eat what I want”. – Finlay Eaton

Types of EDs

Commonly diagnosed eating disorders can include, but are not limited to:

  • anorexia nervosa – characterised by an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight.
  • bulimia – characterised by either binge eating and making yourself to vomit or use laxatives, or purging (doing an extreme amount of exercise after a binge to avoid putting on weight).
  • binge eating disorder (BED) – being compelled to/forcing yourself to consume unreasonably large portions of food until you feel uncomfortably full.
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED). A person may have an OSFED if their symptoms do not exactly fit the expected symptoms for any specific eating disorders. OSFED is the most common eating disorder.
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) - when someone avoids certain foods and/or limits how much they eat.

“I know how easy it is to think ‘oh, well it could never happen to X person’ but you would be surprised how many people actually have an eating disorder. The chances are that you probably already know somebody who has had, or currently has one. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read up on EDs now, to listen to other people’s stories, and be mindful of the language you use. You never know what someone could be going through, and also don’t want to find yourself lost for words if someone were to confide in you” – Sharon Azams

What to Do if I May Be Struggling with an ED?

“Speaking about eating disorders isn’t a cry for sympathy, but about making people aware that they exist”Finlay.

At Roehampton

The University’s wellbeing and emotional support services are there to help you with your journey. They can be found here, will daily wellbeing drop-ins, counselling and out of hours help.


Your first point of contact should always be your GP, who will take you through the appropriate steps for your experience.

How Could I Support?

Be empathetic! Whether you know someone who has had an ED or not, these are serious illnesses that demand the same level of understanding, patience and empathy as any other illness would.

“People suffering with an eating disorder are already having a hard fight, so to have to fight back against myths as well as their disorder is a challenge!”. – Lily Wells.]

Warning signs to look out for include:

  • dramatic weight loss/weight gain.
  • lying about how much they've eaten, when they've eaten, or their weight.
  • going to the bathroom a lot after eating.
  • excessive exercising.
  • avoiding eating with others.
  • cutting food into small pieces or eating very slowly (or alternatively, rushing to finish food).
  • wearing loose or baggy clothes (to potentially hide weight loss).

Aviary - A support group for anyone supporting someone else with an eating disorder: The Aviary (



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