This week, the National Eating Disorders Association has launched its campaign: Come As You Are, which aims to amplify voices and break down the stigma associated with eating disorders. It campaigns for all voices of those suffering from eating disorders to be heard, including individuals at different stages of body acceptance and eating disorder recovery.

Speaking to two Falmouth students and one Exeter student about their experience with eating disorders, Alice* aged 18 has been struggling with a mixture of habits since the age of 12, when she became incredibly self-conscious:

“I had a mixture of everything. Binging one day, spending several weeks at a time starving myself, attempting to make myself throw up, and then it would all start over again. When I came to university, I did start getting support from the services available. However, it moved away from talking about the eating disorder symptoms and focused more on stress. So now I’ve been managing it with the help of my boyfriend.

“I think there should definitely be more talk around the subject, it’s something that people are so ashamed of, but they shouldn’t be, it’s just very easily dismissed. There is a huge stigma of ‘you’re no longer skin and bone, you must be fine,’ people don’t understand that looking a certain way is just a side effect and that the real problem is the thought process- which is painful and draining.”

Ellie*, also aged 18, has suffered with bulimia and anorexia since she was 13, and has recently approached the university wellbeing team for support. After receiving a swift reply for an initial assessment, she describes how, although there is support available, she doesn’t feel that eating disorders are as widely recognised or understood as anxiety and depression:

“It’s an extremely complex problem and of course, there are many different types of eating disorders rather than just anorexia, which some assume is the only eating disorder out there.”

In our modern society, stereotypes surrounding eating disorders are rife: Not only the habits associated with this type of disorder, but also the type of person who suffers from it. Student-led magazine Voices is launching its “Body” volume this week. Allie Guy, editor in chief of Voices, explains that the theme was a chance for people of all different shapes, sizes and appearances to share their experience of how body image has affected their lives: “It is a celebration of the differences we all have. After all, the world would be very boring if we all looked the same, this volume aims to honour the things that make us unique.”

Exeter student Holly, who features in the new volume of Voices, adds:
“My story focuses on the aspect of stereotypes within having issues with food, including the belief you have to be super-skinny to be classed as having a problem. It was scary and nerve-wracking to talk about but so empowering, now that I’ve seen the final product, I’m so glad I did it.”

*The students names have been changed as they wished to remain anonymous.