As the cost of living crisis sends shock waves through the country, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity has warned that the number of people struggling with a “morbid preoccupation with food” is likely to soar.
Jess Griffiths, the clinical director at Beat, said that there has been an increased number of calls to their helpline from people suffering with eating disorders over the last couple of months. They have also had more carers getting in touch, worried about the impact of food shortages and the cost of living on supporting young people with eating disorders.
“They might well have a dietitian in their eating disorder service,” Griffiths explained. “And they can’t afford to get all the bits on the meal plan to make that work for as long as recovery. That’s really stressful for your recovery journey. It’s such a delicate process of introducing fear foods and sticking to a plan and being weighed. It’s a whole journey of recovery. We’ve noticed a lot more distress around that.”
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In April, 7.3 million adults said they had skipped a meal or struggled to obtain food that month. There was also a rapid 57 per cent rise in the proportion of households cutting back on food or missing meals altogether in just three months. That will have a worrying impact on people recovering from eating disorders, Griffiths warned.
“If someone is vulnerable to an eating disorder or if they’ve had an eating disorder in the past, skipping meals could be a real trigger for them to relapse or even trigger the start of an eating disorder,” she said.
“Disordered eating and eating disorders are about a morbid preoccupation around food and weight. Any scarcity or deprivation is most likely going to increase that preoccupation. I think scarcity of food can be a real trigger for people, particularly with binge eating disorders [when a person feels compelled to overeat]. If they feel deprived that can cause real anxiety around food and binges which leads to so much guilt and shame.”