Eating Disorders and How To Help

Health Parenting & Family Advice | by | 27th Feb 2017

scales and tape - Eating Disorders and How To Help

Worried about your child’s eating habits? This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week so we’re looking at the different disorders, what to look out for and how you can help.

Are you worried about someone you know? Then you’re not alone. According to a 2015 survey by eating disorder charity Beat, over 725,000 people in the UK are suffering from an eating disorder.

NHS Choices say that an eating disorder is an “abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behavior”.

Different Eating Disorders

  • Anorexia Nervosa
    Commonly known as simply Anorexia. When someone starves their body of food or exercises too much to lose weight.
  • Bulimia
    A condition where someone makes themselves physically sick or “purges” after eating. It is common for people with bulimia to binge before making themselves sick.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BDE)
    A condition where a person will eat excessive amounts of food over a short period of time. It can often lead to weight gain and obesity in extreme cases.
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)
    When someone’s eating habits don’t fit neatly into one of the three conditions above they may be placed in the EDNOS category.


There’s a lot of stereotyping and misconceptions around eating disorders that aren’t helpful. It’s important to remember that people of any age, culture and gender identity can suffer with an eating disorder.

It is commonly thought that females suffer with eating disorders. But there’s been a lot more coverage recently about males who suffer too. offers support specifically for males suffering from an eating disorder or their carer.

Why do people suffer with eating disorders?

Seeing perfect images in magazines, TV and film has a big part to play, but other factors can trigger eating disorder behaviours too. They can often develop as a result of deeper issues people may have.

How can you tell if someone you love has an eating disorder?

You might notice the following changes in behavior:

  • Disappearing after eating
  • Being secretive about eating or avoiding it
  • Obsessively calorie counting
  • Quickly gaining or losing weight
  • Making excuses to miss meal times
  • Appearing withdrawn, depressed and or irritable
  • Being excessively tired
  • Exercising frequently and become anxious and depressed if unable to do this
  • Evidence that they are making themselves sick after eating (bad breath, stained teeth, acid reflux)
  • Overeating when it comes to certain foods or at certain times of day.
  • Frequently weighing

How to offer support?

Having a conversation is the best way to start. There could be lots of reasons for changes in their eating habits that explain why they have rapidly gained or lost weight. At the same time they may be defensive and deny any issues because they’re not ready to deal with their own behaviors. Be prepared – it may be a difficult conversation for you to have!

The Beat website has some great advice about How To Talk To Somebody With An Eating Disorder or How To Tell Someone You Have An Eating Disorder

Putting pressure on someone to change their behaviour is not necessarily the best way to deal with an eating disorder. Listening to their concerns without judging and being supportive may be a better approach. Speaking to your GP is a good place to start. If they don’t want to talk to their GP there are other organisations that can help.

Beat is a UK based charity that provides support and information to sufferers and their friends or family. The service runs a Youthline for young people up to the age of 18 on 0808 801 0711 and a helpline for adults on 0808 801 0677. The adults’ helpline will also provide advice and support to parents.

If left untreated, eating disorders can be fatal, so it’s really important to find help. Treatments can include medication and talking therapy and will depend on each case and the area you live in. The NHS has information about the available therapies and a list of the services available in your area.

FamilyPoint Helpline

If you feel you need to talk to someone about this issue or any other problems your family is having then call our advisors on the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline. The helpline is open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. They can help you to find organisations that can help.

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