I’m going out to lunch tomorrow; posh restaurant (French) and good company I’m really looking forward to it. A couple of years ago however it would have been a different story; I would probably have upped the diet a bit beforehand, perhaps gone for a long run in the morning, just to create a bit of “space”, turned up determined not to overindulge and left berating myself for my weakness in doing just that. Cue more intense dieting for the following few days to undo the “damage”. I wasn’t anorexic or bulimic, but after a lifetime of dieting I did have a disordered approach to food.
Sound familiar? I think there are few of us, particularly amongst women, who don’t know what it is like to divide food into “good” and “bad” and then to find ourselves both denying or overindulging in those foods at different times for different reasons. It is so ubiquitous we seem immune to how far we’ve moved away from merely linking food with hunger and satiation. However, for a significant proportion of the population, this disordered eating tips over into an eating disorder, be it anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS), including binge eating. Current figures suggest about 1 in 250 girls/women will experience anorexia, generally in adolescence or early adulthood and about 1 in 2000 boys/men. You can multiply the numbers by 5 for bulimia suffers. Not much is known about the prevalence of binge eating but a small study in 1992 put this as high as 21% of the cohort studied.
Still you might be thinking, these figures sound relatively low, but when you learn that more young people die from anorexia than any other psychiatric disorder you begin to get a very real idea of the scale of the problem. Even for those who don’t die, the average length of suffering for anorexia is 6 long years, with only 43% recovering completely. On top of this there is often a range of associated health problems ranging from the psychological (depression, phobia, addiction etc) to the physical (cardio-vascular and renal problems, menstrual and fertility problems, osteoporosis and osteopenia etc).
Eating disorders are widespread and the prognosis currently poor. Trust me, the eating disorder sufferer is not just that emaciated person you see out and about sometimes, it’s not just the friend with bad breath who spends a lot of time in the bathroom, it could be our sister, daughter, son, brother or cousin as well as our friends. Arguably we all know some one suffering in some way from food related issues, let’s be honest with our own demons and help the next generation to tackle theirs. One way of doing this is by supporting B-eat and Eating Disorders Awareness Week