Wednesday 12 July 2023

Hunger and other eating disorders

I am lucky enough to have been one of the 46% of anorexics who have recovered. 33% partially recover, and 20% develop chronic anorexica, although these are statistics that I would take with a large pinch of salt. For anyone who is anorexic, or is caring for someone with the disease, I would urge you to read Hadley Freeman's excellent account of her own journey, Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia.

So much of it rang true for me, and I realised a lot about my behaviour, even now. It's taken me many years to be able to eat in a restaurant (and I still often panic when trying to choose what to eat). I find it difficult eating with friends, though my circle of Friends I can Eat With is growing now, I'm glad to say. There are so many things that stood out for me, and this book has given me a greater understanding of my fears and insecurities. So I would urge anyone - maybe everyone - to read this book.

I ordered it from the library in part out of curiosity and in part as research for my novel HUNGER which will be out next year. I wanted to write about what it must be like as the mother of an anorexic (god forbid) but also the daughter, so we have Jess's diaries, written to her dead father. I wanted to give some insight into what this baffling and terrifying illness is like, and to give hope that there is life after anorexia. It was tough to write, but I hope it will be worth it. (There is also a love affair and plenty of dogs, by the way, so it's not all doom and gloom.)

I've also come across Hope Virgo, another recovering anorexic, who is behind the BAN THE SCALES campaign and is visiting Number Ten and having talks with other government departments as well as BEAT, the eating disorder charity, to try and make sure there is more help available. At present, if you have an eating disorder and need counselling or any in-patient treatment, there just aren't the beds available, and people are dying.

So this might be a depressing topic, but it's one I feel very strongly about, and I believe that the more people know about eating disorders, the more understanding there can be, and more help for those that really need it.