It is eating disorder awareness week. It is estimated around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, that’s roughly 1 in 60. If that doesn’t highlight the extent of the issue than let’s put that into perspective. Let’s take an arbitrary figure, let’s assume that the average person has 300 friends, colleagues, family members on social media. That means that the chances are 5 of them are suffering.
With a problem that is so rife and so seldom discussed it is good and right that it has a week to try and raise awareness. Discussions need to be had and actions need to be taken to try and reduce the number of people who struggle with something as vital as eating.
What are the eating disorders
The main two are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. If somebody is anorexic they tend to avoid eating. The lack of nutrition results in extreme weight loss and can eventually lead to their death. Bulimics can appear to be a healthy weight and sometimes even overweight but similarly the unhealthy relationship with food can have a destructive impact on a sufferers health. Bulimics follow a pattern of binge eating followed by purging. This is when they attempt to remove the food from their body due to concerns about their weight. This is often done by making themselves vomit, or taking laxatives.
Both conditions are serious but anorexia is the most likely to prove fatal. Extreme malnutrition can in itself be fatal but also lowers a bodies defences dramatically. The effects of bulimia are less likely to be fatal but can also lead to permanent organ damage. In some cases, the effects on the digestive system can be so dramatic that it can lead to permanent and painful constipation.
The exact cause is unknown. It isn’t just a condition that you can take a pill to cure. Understandably the conditions have strong links to depression and anxiety. On an individual level, these mental health conditions all have similar roots
But on a larger scale, with cases increasing dramatically it is evident that the problem springs from societal issues. There has been a discussion about models used on catwalks. There are discussions about body shaming, but clearly, this is not enough. We still live in a society where beauty isn’t considered objective but rather considered a set of standards that women have to abide by. And I use women very very deliberately. Yes, there are men who have low self-esteem and self-confidence, but around 80% of people suffering from eating disorders are sadly female.
It has become a cliché but ultimately the people who work in fashion and film need to be on the frontline combating these issues. It was great when America’s Next Top Model had its first ever plus-sized model, wouldn’t it be better if we lived in a world where models weren’t separated into different categories based on their size? Where there weren’t plus sized and regular models, there were just models.
Ironically it seems to be self-made celebrities that are leading the charge. If you check out Instagram there is a really amazing trend of influencers promoting a body positive charge. But as always it isn’t about singling out larger ladies as being beautiful the message should be that all women are beautiful regardless of what dress size they are. I say this rocking what can only really be described as a “dad bod”! Unfortunately, we have created a society where we perceive beauty to only exist in a small subsection of humanity – I think it’s clear we need to start moving those goalposts as people are literally dying to fit into an outdated, preconceived notion.