Eating Disorders Awareness Week

20 February 2012, 06:00

We're being encouraged to Break the Silence during Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

People who think they may have a problem with their eating are being encouraged to speak out about it.

As part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Heart's doing some special features looking at how eating disorders affect sufferers, their family and friends, and we'll have advice on how to get help. 


Norwich based Eating Disorder Charity Beat told Heart:

We know that it’s not always easy for people to speak out about eating disorders. Every day we are contacted by people who struggle to confide in anyone about their distress surrounding food, weight and shape. They feel guilty. They don’t know how to talk about it. They don’t think that anyone will believe them.

“I had no idea at all how to broach the subject with anybody, and felt embarrassed. I simply waited until I couldn't stand the life I was living anymore before running out of energy and needing to share my problem.”

“I was so scared.”

Eating disorders devastate the lives of sufferers and their loved ones. Recovery is always possible, but we need people to break the silence about eating disorders to help those affected access timely, appropriate help and support.


To find out more, we conducted a survey. Over 1000 people with direct experience of an eating disorder responded, and the results were shocking:

58% didn’t tell anyone about their eating disorder because they didn’t know how to talk about it

65% waited for more than 6 months before confiding in someone

87% of those we surveyed did not contact a healthcare professional when they first realised they had a problem


This has to stop.

We all need to break the silence about eating disorders, so that sufferers come forward, loved ones can approach those they are concerned about, and everyone is aware of eating disorders. The more people talk about eating disorders in an understanding way, the more those affected will feel they can reach out for support.

“Why I didn’t seek help... Stigma. I didn’t want my gp to forever see me as a label or set of symptoms rather than a person, and that’s why I never went to seek treatment.”

 “It took others to raise a lot of concerns before I reached that point of recognising my problem.”

 “If I could offer anyone advice about coming out about your problems it would be to do it sooner rather than later.”


Eating disorders are not a choice. They are not a fad, or a diet gone wrong. They are not an indulgence. They are serious, potentially fatal, mental illnesses that require specialist professional therapy. The earlier this support is provided, the better the sufferer’s chance of a full recovery. People with an eating disorder deserve the chance to live a happy, healthy life free from their eating disorder.

“I hate that I feel ashamed because it's an illness just like any other, and just like any other illness you don't choose it, it chooses you.”

And when sufferers find the courage to confide in someone, they need to feel understood and supported.

“Knowing those around you understand and want to help YOU, the person, as a separate entity from the eating disorder is the most helpful thing I have found.”


Our call to action:

We want people to speak up about eating disorders. We all need to break the silence early so that sufferers get the treatment they so desperately need. No-one should face an eating disorder on their own.


Break the silence

  • Speak to your GP about any concerns you have about your eating, food, weight or shape
  • Talk to your friends or family if you are worried about their eating behaviours and their emotional health
  • Break the silence and talk about eating disorders, at school, in the workplace


“It is important that people aren’t prevented from obtaining the benefits of early intervention because of the shame and stigma they may feel.”

Professor Janet Treasure, Director of the Eating Disorders Unit, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust



Beat is the UK's only nationwide organisation supporting people affected by eating disorders, their family members and friends, and campaigning on their behalf. We are also the world's largest eating disorders charity.

Our activities are designed to increase knowledge, awareness and understanding of eating disorders; to provide support, help and information to people directly affected; and to increase the understanding and skills of professional staff.

We run telephone helplines, local support groups, and a website featuring downloadable information resources, message boards and online chat services. Last year we had direct contact with over 250,000 individuals, and many, many more through our website and the media.


Beat's vision is simple: eating disorders will be beaten.


If you have concerns about yourself or others, speak to your GP or contact Beat for information and support.

Helpline: 0845 634 1414

Youthline: 0845 634 7650 


Beat's Chief Executive Susan Ringwood speaks to Heart about the campaign...


Beat - Breaking the Silence