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Eating Concerns

Sometimes when you face difficult feelings or situations, it can affect how you feel about food and eating.

You might eat too much or too little, or constantly worry about your weight or body shape. If you focus a lot on controlling how much you eat, binge eat and then make yourself sick, or feel the need to get rid of food from your body by vomiting after meals or using laxatives, it's a sign you might need to get some help.

Eating concerns can cause serious health problems, or even death from starvation. They may also cause mental health problems, so it's really important to get help as soon as you can.

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All You Need to Know

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa (often simply called anorexia) is an eating disorder where people worry about their weight, want to lose weight, and eat less and less food. 

People with anorexia go to extreme lengths to avoid eating and try to become very thin. They might eat very little, exercise too much, and become obsessed with food and their weight.

Even if they are already too skinny, they still think they're overweight or unattractive. Anorexia can have serious effects on a person's body and emotions.

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)

This used to be known as selective eating disorder. People with ARFID avoid certain foods or types of food, or they may limit how much food they eat. Unlike anorexia, people with ARFID don’t necessarily do this to lose weight.

Common reasons people with ARFID may limit their food intake include:

  • Struggling with the appearance, smell, texture, temperature or taste of certain foods
  • Not realising when you are hungry in the same way that other people do, or you may simply not enjoy eating
  • You may have had a frightening experience with choking, vomiting, or stomach pain and be afraid that this will happen again, so you stick to what you consider “safe” foods.

Binge eating

This is a condition where people regularly eat large quantities of food in a short time and feel like they are not in control of this. In a binge eating episode, people may eat a lot faster than usual, or eat even though they’re not hungry, and feel embarrassment or shame afterwards. This can be very upsetting.

Although binges are often unplanned and catch the person off-guard, sometimes they can be planned, and the person might buy particular types of food to eat. Unlike bulimia, people with binge eating disorder don’t usually “purge” afterwards (try to get rid of any food in their body).

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia is an eating disorder where you get into a cycle of “bingeing” (over-eating) and “purging” (trying to control your weight by making yourself sick, or using other ways to get rid of the food in your body).

It's different to just eating a bit more than usual sometimes - bingeing is often very distressing and people do not feel in control of it. It is usually a way of dealing with difficult feelings and emotions, and is often followed by a desire to purge.

You may feel that parts of your life are out of control and that purging gives you a sense of control. But bulimia can seriously damage your body, so it's important to get help.

Disordered eating

Disordered eating includes irregular eating behaviours such as:

  • Skipping meals
  • Hoarding food
  • Emotional eating/over-eating
  • Fad diets and cleanses
  • Heightened focus on appearance
  • Supplement misuse
  • Intense feelings around weight or shape
  • Excessive exercise.

The difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder is often to do with how badly you are affected by the behaviours. Disordered eating is used to describe these behaviours when they are not severe enough to be diagnosed as an eating disorder.

Orthorexia

This is where you become obsessed with eating only food you believe to be healthy. It does not mean that if you are on a diet or a healthy eating plan, you have an eating disorder. Someone with orthorexia would use healthy eating as a way to cope with negative thoughts and feelings, or to feel in control. They might feel extremely anxious or guilty if they eat food they feel is unhealthy.

It can also cause physical problems, as you might be cutting out essential nutrients or whole food groups because you believe them to be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is not currently recognised as a separate eating disorder, so your doctor would not diagnose you with it, although the term may be mentioned when discussing your illness.

Who Can Help?

If you think you may have an eating disorder, see a GP as soon as you can. They may refer you to an eating disorder specialist. It may make things easier if you bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment.

You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling their adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.

You can talk to your parents or carers, or a trusted adult within your school or setting, or any trusted friend.

Kooth offers online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support 7 days a week until 10pm. 

MAP Norfolk can give free and confidential support, information and advice on issues such as housing, money and mental health. You can call 01603 766994 or email info@map.uk.net.

If you live in Norfolk:

If you're 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for anonymous and confidential advice and guidance from a health professional. Chat Health is available Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.

You can also contact the Norfolk Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you live in Waveney:

You can call the Suffolk School Nursing service on 0345 607 8866 or email childrenshealth@suffolk.gov.uk.

Urgent Mental Health Support

For 24/7 immediate advice, support and signposting for anyone with mental health difficulties please contact 111 and select the mental health option. 

If you feel someone's life is at risk or they cannot be kept safe, call 999 or go to A&E.


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