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26 February 2024

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

In 2023, Shout Volunteers took more than 20,000 conversations with around 12,000 texters about eating disorders or body image issues - around 80 conversations every day. So if this is something you're dealing with, you're absolutely not alone.

Who can get an eating disorder?

Eating disorders can develop at any age and can affect anyone. According to the charity BEAT, an estimated 1.25 million people have an eating disorder in the UK. The most common disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. There are also Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders and Avoidant/restrictive Food Intake Disorder.

The causes of eating disorders are complex, and often develop as a result of a combination of different risk factors. These might include a family history of eating disorders, addiction or depression; a history of trauma; being bullied; and a history of anxiety, low self-esteem and perfectionism.

What do eating disorders look like?

Everyone’s experience with disordered eating is unique to them. Some common signs to look out for include preoccupation with weight and body shape, using laxatives or making yourself sick after eating, over-exercising, restricting the types and amounts of food you eat and avoiding social situations that involve food.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, managing your thoughts and behaviours can be extremely difficult. It can be particularly challenging if you are overwhelmed by stressful events which can include family gatherings and holidays.

This Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we asked Shout Clinicians for their advice to help you get through these situations as best you can.


Talking about your thoughts and feelings around your eating disorder can be one of the first steps in recovery. If you have a trusted friend or family member, try speaking to them about what you’re experiencing. If there is no one you feel you can open up to, you can reach out to one of the support services suggested at the end of this article.

It is also important to communicate your boundaries to friends and family during social situations that revolve around food and eating. If you can be triggered by questions or comments on your weight, let friends and family know so that they can be aware of how they can support you.

Lean on your supports

Remember that you don’t have to cope with an eating disorder on your own. You deserve to be surrounded by people who want the best for you and are a positive influence. You may find it helpful to join an eating disorder support group or forum where you can be motivated and inspired by people who have overcome disordered eating. Beat Eating Disorders offers a range of online support services including one-to-one and group chat.

Try not to compare yourself

If you're on social media, exposure to certain body images can be triggering and fuel disordered eating. It's important to find alternative uplifting and inspiring contents on social media, or to try and switch off from it.

Focus on self-compassion

Remember that having an eating disorder is not your fault. You deserve compassion, especially from yourself. Self compassion tips to use around food include allowing yourself room to make mistakes, to enjoy things you like and reminding yourself that food provides your body with essential nutrients.

Use a distraction technique

If you’re finding it hard to cope, sometimes distracting yourself by getting outside for a walk or a change of scenery can help reset your thoughts and release endorphins, hormones associated with reducing stress and improving wellbeing. Try something relaxing that you enjoy, such as watching your favourite tv show, playing with your pet or doing yoga or breathing exercises.

Don’t put pressure on yourself

While family gatherings and events such as birthdays can be exciting, they can also be anxiety inducing, especially if you feel like you are having to answer unwanted questions about your relationship with food. Socialise on your terms and don’t feel forced into situations you would rather avoid.

Eating disorders are complicated

At Shout, we help texters by guiding them to a calmer state, where they can consider their next steps. If you need support, text 'Shout' to 85258 for free, confidential support by text message, or explore other options here.


thank you for talking with me about my eating disorder. it really helped me and gave me newfound confidence to talk to someone in my life

Shout texter