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.
The number of admissions to hospital of patients with potentially life-threatening eating disorders has almost doubled over the past six years, amid warnings from experts that NHS services to tackle anorexia and bulimia are failing to help those in need.
The cookery writer’s new book is about relearning the joy of food – in print as much as on plates
Born in Southend in 1992, Ruby Tandoh is the author of two cookbooks, Crumb: The Baking Book and Flavour: Eat What You Love. She studied philosophy at UCL and was a runner-up on The Great British Bake Off in 2013. Since then she has written a baking column for the Guardian, reviewed fast-food outlets for Vice and co-founded a zine about mental health called Do What You Want. Her new book, Eat Up! Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99), deals with eating disorders (Tandoh had something “akin to bulimia” for several years in her teens), the wellness craze and food snobbery, arguing for a more relaxed and pleasurable approach to food. She lives with her partner Leah, a musician and trainee counsellor, in Sheffield.
What compelled you to write Eat Up? There are so many food books out there – but I couldn’t find any that dealt in an accessible way with cultures of eating and our relationship with food. The books in this area were either really academic or food memoirs; there wasn’t really a middle ground. In a sense I’m writing this book for my younger self and anyone coming up through their teens now who wants to enter adulthood with a good relationship with food.
I love to see food in films, or hear about it in music, or read about it in books
We want to hear about the care you have received in England. Share your stories with us
More than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by eating an disorder, according to a 2015 report commissioned by the charity Beat.
But getting help can be hard and experts have warned that NHS specialist services are struggling to cope with a growing caseload. Funding can be an issue and a recent report found that Mental health care providers continue to receive far smaller budget increases than hospitals.
It began at school, with A-star expectations and a horror of failure. Now we’re on social media platforms, locked into a game of mutually assured depression
During many job interviews, it’s common to be asked: “What’s your biggest weakness?” It’s a horrible question to respond to on the spot. We know it’s a trick, and the answer isn’t: “Sometimes it takes me more than two hours to stop looking at my phone and get dressed after a shower,” or: “I spend my free time constructing elaborate revenge fantasies.”
The cheat’s answer of choice, the panicky pick that puts you in a better light than the truth might, is along the lines of: “I’m a perfectionist.”
When Facebook launched, students were the perfect customers – because we were desperate for the validation it offered
Although precise definitions differ, broadly speaking millennials are those people born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. They are so called because they turned 18 in or after 2000. They are also collectively known as Generation Y
‘It’s like I was out of stories to tell myself that things will be OK.” Episode six of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s third series and Rebecca Bunch is in a psychiatric ward after overdosing on a plane. The animated, wide-eyed Bunch we’ve come to know and love has been hollowed out. She’s empty and ashamed. The only hope is a new diagnosis, which she clings on to as a renewed chance at life.
The episode was praised for its candid and sensitive portrayal of mental illness, specifically the diagnosis process. Rachel Bloom, who stars as Bunch and co-created the show with Aline Brosh McKenna, told Vanity Fair earlier this year that they consulted with a team of doctors to reach the character’s diagnosis: borderline personality disorder.
Averil Hart’s death has underlined how victims of food disorders aren’t treated with the respect they deserve
So much sadness attends the case of 19-year-old Averil Hart, who died from anorexia in 2012. It’s only now, finally, after a five-year wait, full of stalling, buck-passing and evasions, that her family has managed to get clear answers, and apologies, for how she came to be failed so comprehensively by an array of doctors, hospitals and specialist units.
As an “adult anorexic”, studying at university, Hart slipped through the net so many times, it could no longer even be described as a net – just a few broken strings flapping uselessly over an abyss. It comes as a small comfort to the Harts that since Averil’s death, and others like it, £150m has been invested in NHS eating disorder services, including introducing the first-ever eating disorder waiting time standards. However, it seems that changes need to go even beyond that; into wider society, where anorexia (I’m employing it as a blanket term for all food disorders) needs to be respected for what it is – a deadly psychiatric condition, where rejection of food is merely a symptom.
Averil Hart’s death was ‘an avoidable tragedy’ which shows problems with NHS eating disorders services, says ombudsman
A talented young student died of anorexia because of numerous “clear failures of care” by GPs, hospitals and specialists in eating disorders, a scathing report by the NHS ombudsman has concluded.
Averil Hart’s death in December 2012 at the age of 19 “was an avoidable tragedy” caused by an array of health professionals failing to appreciate how dangerously unwell she was, the ombudsman said in a report released on Friday.
I was extremely lucky to have found a wonderful doctor who understood me and who I couldn’t outsmart
A rather sweet news story emerged the other week, in which it was claimed that studying feminist theory could help anorexics with their recovery by teaching them how “cultural constructions of femininity” can lead to “body distress”. Now, I am of the opinion that feminism is the answer to pretty much everything, so the idea of bell hooks and Kate Millett swooping in to save the day where all those medical professionals failed certainly has its appeal. So, like I say, sweet – but also a teensy bit annoying. I would never dissuade anyone from reading feminist theory, but the suggestion that a mental illness can be treated by argument feels a mere skip from saying its causation is similarly straightforward. Gender influences, like cultural influences (fashion models, women’s magazines, all the usual suspects), play a part in anorexia’s external manifestation, but the causes are as deep and knotty as a tree root. Mental illness, by its very nature, defies logic.