Body Image and Eating Disorders Awareness Week (BIEDAW) #HearMyVoice – 4th – 10th September 2023
BIEDAW is a national week of significance that shines a light on body image and eating disorders.
This year, Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ) wants to amplify the voice of those seeking treatment and support for their eating disorder(s).
Eating disorders are complex and severe neuropsychiatric disorders. Treatment is essential to reducing illness’s severity, duration and impact, and a multidisciplinary treating team ideally provides this treatment. With the appropriate support, full recovery from eating disorders is possible.
There is a strong link between the low level of help-seeking among people with eating disorders and the relation to stigma. Less than one in four people (23.2 per cent) with eating disorders seek professional help.
Stigma and shame are the most frequently identified barriers to accessing treatment.
Eating disorders can be misunderstood and stigmatised and, as such, can be accompanied by a sense of shame. For someone experiencing an eating disorder, being open and honest about what is going on can be extremely difficult. Speaking with each new member of the treating team can be difficult and exhausting.
EDQ has multiple examples of stories from people with eating disorders and their family members and carers who have experienced unhelpful responses in accessing health care.
“Once I noticed my body was sending me signs of struggling physically and mentally, yet still having incredibly loud thoughts around guilt and shame, I went to my GP for some advice or support as to whether what I was experiencing was right. They were quick to dismiss my feelings, weighed me and told me that my BMI was fine and to come back if I lost any more weight,” says an individual with lived experience of an eating disorder
Similarly, many who participated in a Butterfly Foundation survey felt that healthcare workers minimised the seriousness of their eating disorders. Some people said that healthcare workers did not believe that eating disorders were real illnesses, with several respondents told they were ‘wasting hospital beds’ and should ‘eat more or eat less’. Examples provided by survey respondents included the following:
“A nurse once told me to go to McDonald’s and get a burger; it couldn’t be so hard.”
“I was told at a hospital that they would not treat [my daughter], as it is her choice to have an eating disorder.”
“I’ve had medical professionals not take me seriously because binge eating wasn’t seen as a real disorder.”
“Professionals treated me reaching out for help as an excuse for my obesity, rather than helping me get the right support I needed.”
Stigma is also closely related to discrimination. In the survey mentioned above, Butterfly found that experiences of discrimination were daily, with nearly a third of respondents saying they had experienced discrimination in accessing services. One respondent said: “I was told that my ethnic background doesn’t get eating disorders and that I would grow out of it.” Another respondent said, “Being called the wrong name and pronouns consistently. Accessing some health care systems made me worse instead of better.”
EDQ has co-designed an Eating Disorder Passport, in consultation with consumers, that can be used when accessing treatment. Clients and carers can use this self-directed resource to advocate for themselves and encourage their treating team to #HearMyVoice.
- It enables you not to have to re-tell your story to all your service providers and other people in your life.
- It helps others connect to ‘who you are as a person’ and not just the eating disorder.
- It is your advocacy tool, using your voice.
Watch for our promotional banner on the Story Bridge (Outbound) from the 4th to the 10th of September.
— ENDS —
Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact:
Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ) 07 3844 6055 or [email protected]
Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or [email protected]
For urgent support, call Lifeline at 13 11 14
EDQ encourages the media to adhere to the Mindframe Media guidelines when reporting suicide and eating disorders.
Belinda Chelius – Chief Executive Officer
07 3844 6055 | [email protected]
Eating Disorders Qld social media:
 Hart, Granillo, Form, & Paxton. (2011). Unmet need for treatment in the eating disorders: a systematic review of eating disorder specific treatment seeking among community cases. Clinical psychology review, 31(5), 727–735. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2011.03.004
 Butterfly Foundation. (2020a). MAYDAYS Survey – Pushing Past Postcodes: Barriers to accessing eating disorder healthcare and support. Sydney: Butterfly Foundation.