By Maria Duffy. First published on Monday 21st February 2011. 13 Comments so far.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week


This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week and I find it very disturbing to learn that a staggering 1.6 million people in the UK and over 200,000 in Ireland are affected by this condition.  I watched a very poignant interview today on ITV’s This Morning, where Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford interviewed two viewers whose lives have been damaged by eating disorders.  One girl, Sian Selby, saw her mother suffer from anorexia and subsequently die from the disorder and the other girl, Lucy Clarkson, suffered from bulimia for five years.  Both stories were very different but the common denominator was the fact that lives have been ruined by the disease.

The term ‘eating disorder’ refers to an illness which manifests itself in a variety of unhealthy eating and weight control behaviours that become obsessive and compulsive.  The issue is too vast and complex for me to go into here, but for anyone suffering from the illness or worried about a loved one, the ITV website has provided a comprehensive list of help-lines and websites here 

I’m fortunate not to have suffered from an eating disorder myself but like most people; my weight has fluctuated through the years.  Having been a size ten through my teens and twenties, I hated the fact that my thirties saw my waistline expanding if I so much as looked at a piece of chocolate cake.  Of course I’ve tried all the diets – haven’t we all?  But listening to Sian Selby’s account of how she watched her mother starve herself to death made me really think about how much our children pick up on.  I now have a teenage girl who’s become very conscious of how she looks and how she’s perceived by others.  I think society is to blame for the pressure a lot of young people feel to be thin or beautiful but as parents, surely we have a duty to show our children that it’s okay to just be themselves and not to have to fit in to society’s idea of ‘perfect’.

This subject is close to my heart, having known some people who’ve suffered and are still suffering with the disease.  I just thought I’d share with you a poem I wrote a little while ago on the subject.


A young girl watched her mum as she

conformed to how society

dictated how a girl should look –

a little nip, a little tuck.

Although just five, she took it in

and saw how chocolate was a sin.

No sweets or biscuits were allowed.

A healthy diet – mum was proud.

By age of nine she often heard

her mum discussing how she cared

so much about her size and weight

and how size six made her feel great.

When she was twelve she realised

that big was bad and she despised

the buds of breasts that just appeared,

for she might now look fat, she feared.

So this young girl of chubby form,

she sadly thought it was the norm

to diet and to exercise.

To be like mum – her crucial prize.

When in her teens her carbs she cut,

along with fatty things that put

an ounce of flesh upon her waist.

Her view of self was sure misplaced.

For in the mirror she would look,

while standing tall she’d try to suck

her tummy in but sadly there

was not an ounce of flesh to share.

With every day her frame grew thin.

A chubby girl she saw within.

The bones protruding from her hips

and still no food would pass her lips.

At sixteen she could walk no more,

emaciated to the core,

with failing heart and fading sight.

No will to live or win this fight.

Her mother sat beside her bed.

A string of endless prayers she said,

but through the night she cried bereft

because her darling girl had left.

So is society to blame?

Yes, we should hang our heads in shame.

This twisted world we’re living in

despises fat and honours thin.

As parents we should fight the fight

and be our children’s guiding light.

Maria xx

13 comments so far

  • Great post Maria, but I’m afraid you’re missing the point slightly.

    As a long-term sufferer (for want of a better word) of a variety of eating disorders, I want to explain that societal pressures are only a tiny factor in the development of eating disorders. In fact, peer pressure will only have an effect if various other factors are already in place.

    In fact, I think I have too much to say on this subject to hijack someone else’s post – maybe I’ll blog myself tomorrow, if I get the chance.

    Well done for raising the issue though Maria, and getting everyone talking about it! 🙂

    • Hi Jane. Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you thought I misrepresented the facts. That’s the very reason I said that the whole subject is too vast and complex for me to go into. I know that there are many reasons for people developing eating disorders and social pressures are only part of it. My point was that as a mother of a teenager, I can see how social pressures are already having an effect on her. It’s a huge subject – worthy of a book and not just a blog post – and I was just touching on a part of it that I can relate to. I look forward to your post. Maria x

      • Hey hon, I didn’t mean any offence! This is a highly emotive issue and I’m afraid I get rather touchy about it.

        Sorry for hijacking your post, but you’ve given me plenty to think about! 🙂

  • Great post Maria! It is so very sad to watch a beautiful young woman go to waste, famishing herself to death. People with an eating disorder look at themselves through a filtered glass, contorted to suit the image in their minds. While they are so lovely and beautiful. They have the right to be themselves and deserve to be loved, no matter what their weight is!

  • What a great poem and a wonderful message to parents. Children are under so much pressure to look good, they often find themselves unhappy for not being perfect. But does anyone know a human being that IS perfect? I don’t.

    CJ xx

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