Weighing pupils and measuring their girth could push them into eating disorders. As a former anorexic, I know the dangers
In an attempt to fight obesity, the government could force schools across England to weigh and measure their students. Under a suggested policy from No 10, children would jump on the scales and have their middles taped once a year. If they qualified as overweight, they’d be subjected to extra gym classes and a school-imposed programme of weight loss.
Eating disorders in men are often hidden. One man reveals how bulimia has shaped his life
It was a Thursday night in Chinatown and the restaurant was packed. It was one of those places you go when you and your friends can’t agree on what you want: menu as thick as a Bible, dishes from every country east of Norwich. Cheap, plentiful, tasty. The air was jammed with food smells and the heat that burst through the kitchen door every time it opened, but that’s not why I was sweating. We’d over-ordered again and, one by one, my friends passed their leftovers towards me.
“Give it to Tom, he’ll eat it.”
I crouched in the light of the fridge, jamming my mouth with anything I could get my hands on
I ate until it hurt. I told myself I'd learn from the pain and never let myself go like that again. But of course I did
The public health system is supposed to prevent undue financial burdens. But for author Fiona Wright, the reality is far from utopian
Before I became unwell, I had a lot of assumptions about what happened to people who were unwell. I assumed that no unwell person would ever find themself having to explain their condition to doctors who had never heard of it before. I assumed that doctors could not refuse to treat someone who was unwell, or would not ask that unwell person to convince them – often over several weeks – why they should do so. I assumed that treatment cures illness, or at least does not do harm; that medicines are prescribed precisely and not by trial and error. But most of all, I assumed that when a person became unwell, their medical expenses would be taken care of. We have a public healthcare system, after all – and our politicians speak so often of fairness and the fair go – and it is never a sick person’s fault that they are unwell, and so it seemed ridiculous that they would be penalised for something already so punishing.
This is, essentially, just a gentler way of saying that I had the privilege to be incredibly naive. When I consider now all of the money I have spent across the seven years that I was in active treatment for my illness, seven years when media commentary about the irresponsibility and instant gratification of my generation has continually intensified, I often think: if I could eat avocado toast, I’d be able to afford a house by now.
‘In this image, in all of them, I marvel how little of myself is left. The more pieces of myself I lose, the more men I attract’
I sit in child’s pose on the carpet, my back inches away from the heater in the wall, cradling images of the girl I used to be. I cup her many faces in my hands, like water droplets threatening to spill through laced fingers.
As many as 90,000 children in England could be considered eligible for bariatric surgery, yet only 18 operations were performed last year. Shouldn’t there be many more?
When Vicky Counsell was 16, her doctor told her that if she didn’t have surgery to reduce her weight, there was a good chance it would kill her. She was 140kg (22st), her weight gain accelerated by the steroids she was taking for a lung condition, and she had tried everything to lose it. “It was an easy choice,” she says. “It was life or death.” At 17, she had gastric band surgery, in which a band around the stomach creates a small pouch, meaning only a small amount of food can be consumed. Ten years on, she has lost more than 44kg (7st). “Before the surgery, I couldn’t even walk on the flat for 200m,” she says. “Now I walk for miles.” She works as a support worker for older people, a physical job she couldn’t have done before.
Although it has “definitely been worth it”, she wasn’t prepared for how difficult living with a gastric band would be. “I remember the doctors telling me I wouldn’t be able to eat a lot of food, but I don’t think I realised how tough it would be,” she says. “At the very beginning I couldn’t even keep water or juice down. Now I can’t eat bread, pizza or anything high-carb.” It can be difficult going to restaurants with friends and explaining to waiters what she can and can’t eat, and she says her portion sizes are about what you would give a child. It is a lifelong commitment, which as a teenager she says she didn’t really grasp.
We shouldn’t shy away from last resorts. Bariatric surgery is incredibly effective
For years, Louise Gray lived with a secret. She was a respected food writer, but she’d also struggled with a serious eating disorder since her teens. Here she reveals how she coped
The annual Guild of Food Writers Awards is a bit like the Oscars for foodies. When my name was called, I leapt out of my seat and ran to the stage to receive two awards. I even gave a speech, though I managed to keep it short – and not cry. In the audience of 300 food writers, journalists and chefs packed into a trendy warehouse venue in London, I could see many of my heroes applauding. Previous winners of the awards for food book and investigative food work included Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal. It should have been a moment of great triumph. But I felt like a fraud.
What the hell was I doing here? I had become a food writer entirely by accident. I looked around at all these modern-day gurus on how to cook and how to eat and knew I had a very different relationship with food. I had a terrible secret.
It was hard at first, there was blood. I knew there would be
I couldn’t help thinking of that teenager kneeling by the toilet
In a child it can be difficult to recognise the difference between the hunger for food and the hunger to fit in
I began to see a therapist and talk about the feelings of fear, the “icy claw” gripping my heart
Food is not something I need to be afraid of any more
Laura Freeman had the eating disorder since her teens, but the enticing food conjured by Charles Dickens and Laurie Lee set her free
Laura Freeman was first diagnosed with anorexia aged 14. A decade later she had begun to rebuild her life but still struggled with her attitude to food, eating small portions of the same thing for months on end. “At 24, I’d got to the point where I was recovered enough that I could eat, but only in a very formulaic way,” she says. “I had a pretty boring diet. It was more about getting through each day.”
Then one day she read a passage in Siegfried Sassoon’s 1928 Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man describing “a breakfast of boiled eggs eaten in winter”. It changed everything.
There was comfort in being able to think: I’m not in my sick room in London in February, I’m in Paris with Nancy Mitford
I really loved TH White’s The Once and Future King … In particular Merlin’s advice to his young apprentice
Even though an eating disorder has disrupted many aspects of Becca’s life, she never expected to have to relocate because of it. But after a spell in hospital while at university, she could not move back home.
“My inpatient unit said I had to start treatment within two weeks but when I approached services in Norfolk, where I am from, I was told I’d be put on their waiting list ... I didn’t know how long that could take,” she said.