This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week and I find it very disturbing to learn that a staggering 1.6 million people in the UK and over 200,000 in Ireland are affected by this condition. I watched a very poignant interview today on ITV’s This Morning, where Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford interviewed two viewers whose lives have been damaged by eating disorders. One girl, Sian Selby, saw her mother suffer from anorexia and subsequently die from the disorder and the other girl, Lucy Clarkson, suffered from bulimia for five years. Both stories were very different but the common denominator was the fact that lives have been ruined by the disease.
The term ‘eating disorder’ refers to an illness which manifests itself in a variety of unhealthy eating and weight control behaviours that become obsessive and compulsive. The issue is too vast and complex for me to go into here, but for anyone suffering from the illness or worried about a loved one, the ITV website has provided a comprehensive list of help-lines and websites here http://thismorning.itv.com/thismorning/eating-disorders
I’m fortunate not to have suffered from an eating disorder myself but like most people; my weight has fluctuated through the years. Having been a size ten through my teens and twenties, I hated the fact that my thirties saw my waistline expanding if I so much as looked at a piece of chocolate cake. Of course I’ve tried all the diets – haven’t we all? But listening to Sian Selby’s account of how she watched her mother starve herself to death made me really think about how much our children pick up on. I now have a teenage girl who’s become very conscious of how she looks and how she’s perceived by others. I think society is to blame for the pressure a lot of young people feel to be thin or beautiful but as parents, surely we have a duty to show our children that it’s okay to just be themselves and not to have to fit in to society’s idea of ‘perfect’.
This subject is close to my heart, having known some people who’ve suffered and are still suffering with the disease. I just thought I’d share with you a poem I wrote a little while ago on the subject.
A young girl watched her mum as she
conformed to how society
dictated how a girl should look –
a little nip, a little tuck.
Although just five, she took it in
and saw how chocolate was a sin.
No sweets or biscuits were allowed.
A healthy diet – mum was proud.
By age of nine she often heard
her mum discussing how she cared
so much about her size and weight
and how size six made her feel great.
When she was twelve she realised
that big was bad and she despised
the buds of breasts that just appeared,
for she might now look fat, she feared.
So this young girl of chubby form,
she sadly thought it was the norm
to diet and to exercise.
To be like mum – her crucial prize.
When in her teens her carbs she cut,
along with fatty things that put
an ounce of flesh upon her waist.
Her view of self was sure misplaced.
For in the mirror she would look,
while standing tall she’d try to suck
her tummy in but sadly there
was not an ounce of flesh to share.
With every day her frame grew thin.
A chubby girl she saw within.
The bones protruding from her hips
and still no food would pass her lips.
At sixteen she could walk no more,
emaciated to the core,
with failing heart and fading sight.
No will to live or win this fight.
Her mother sat beside her bed.
A string of endless prayers she said,
but through the night she cried bereft
because her darling girl had left.
So is society to blame?
Yes, we should hang our heads in shame.
This twisted world we’re living in
despises fat and honours thin.
As parents we should fight the fight
and be our children’s guiding light.