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Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Colette is an Impact Officer in the BBC Children in Need Belfast team, and in 2013, she was diagnosed with an eating disorder. Here she explores her experience and takes a look at how funding from BBC Children in Need is making a difference in this area.

Colette in front of a colourful background

I was diagnosed with an eating disorder when I was 18 years old.

I had just started university and was living in student accommodation, away from my family and close friends for the first time.

Throughout my teens I battled with mental health issues and really struggled with my body image. I always believed I wasn’t good enough, and was constantly trying to change my appearance to fit in.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was developing an unhealthy relationship with food and this was the beginning of a 6 year battle with an eating disorder

When I moved for university, my eating disorder quickly got much worse.

When you’re 18 so much is changing and if you don’t know who to turn to for support, it can be really difficult.

Managing my food and exercise was an unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with/numb emotions I was going through.

Having an eating disorder impacted everything in my life

I stopped attending lectures, I lost friends and I couldn’t find enjoyment in activities I had previously loved.

Thankfully through the support of my doctor and wider team, as well as a local eating disorder charity, I was able to make a full recovery.

I now practice body acceptance and no longer try to change my outer appearance to deal with emotions I feel inside

I am also really passionate about helping other people who are going through the same situation, as I know how debilitating eating disorders can be.

Eating disorders disrupt your life and can result in loss of education, relationships and quality of life, and it’s so important that we prevent this through early intervention.

BBC Children in Need funding helps provide early intervention for eating disorders through a number of projects across the UK with organisations such as; BEAT, Eating Matters and Somerset & Wessex Eating Disorders Association.

In Northern Ireland BBC Children in Need fund Cúnamh, an organisation providing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to young people at risk of developing an eating disorder.

CBT is a talking therapy based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected

This type of therapy aims to help identify negative patterns and deal with problems in a more positive way, looking for practical ways to improve a person’s current state of mind.

Cúnamh’s 1:1 CBT sessions help improve young peoples’ mental and physical health and prevent the development of longer-term eating disorders.

Body image issues and low self-esteem can lead to eating disorders becoming more prevalent in teenagers; this is why early intervention work is so important to ensure that young people are supported in their individual journey towards recovery.

Everyone should have access to support when they need it

I’m proud to work for BBC Children in Need, because they help change lives through the grants awarded to local charities and projects across the UK, all of which are made possible thanks to our amazing supporters.

We are always interested in hearing from organisations making a difference to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people, and would encourage organisations interested in our funding programmes to get in touch!

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by eating disorders, these organisations may be able to help.

You can access Beat’s Youthline on 0808 801 0711 (if under 18) or Beat’s Adult Helpline on 0808 801 0677 (18 yrs+). The helplines are open 365 days a year from 12-8pm on weekdays and 4-8pm on weekends and bank holidays.

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