Going to a girls’ school, the issue of body image pretty much hits you from all sides, from the Victoria Beckham shots pinned to the noticeboard, to the clipping of the woman with the size ZZZ breasts, to the occasional classmate who would pop to the loo and come back coughing and reeking of vomit.
In hindsight, I reckon eating disorders must affect a lot more people than 2.5% of the UK population (that’s one in 39) as statistics suggest. Anorexia and bulimia are its most notorious forms, but there is also binge eating, atypical and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), which is basically any other form of sub-threshold. Highly associated with girls, despite around 15% of sufferers being guys, ED ensnares its victims in multiple forms: pure self-starvation, excessive exercise, purging (throwing up), laxative use and even enemas, but the fundamental question of its cause – genetic or environmental? – remains a riddle.
It’s true that rates of these disorders increase correlatively with ‘westernisation’, which is why it is often labelled as a disease of affluence, with sufferers perceived as petty and selfish. Maybe we are; either way, I’ll be relating my experience of anorexia here for you to decide for yourself. Without claiming myself as some taboo-breaker, I hope to create an unsheepish discussion about a mental health issue that is usually hidden under the carpet, particularly for those who feel (perhaps subconsciously) that the pressures of academia make personal health unimportant. Or that controlling what you eat means that you at least have control over something. University surprisingly provides the perfect conditions for an eating disorder to strike, which is why raising awareness and opening dialogue is so essential. Seeking help is always foremost, so I hope in reading my experience of the services available, as well as knowing I am also on hand for support, at least one person might be encouraged to do so. Baby steps.
For more information on eating disorders, please visit www.b-eat.co.uk/about-beat/media-centre/facts-and-figures/