Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Eating Disorder Awareness Week is an annual campaign run by BodyWhys, the eating disorder association of Ireland. 2017 marks the association’s 20th anniversary, and Eating Disorder Awareness Week will run from the 27th of February to the 5th of March, with events taking place to raise awareness of the various types of eating disorders.

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are psychological conditions that revolve around issues with weight or food. They are typically characterised by disrupted eating habits, excessively large or small portions, and purging (vomiting after eating).

What Kinds of Eating Disorders Are There?

The most well-known eating disorder is Anorexia Nervosa, commonly called anorexia. This is when a person eats less food and less often, usually in order to lose weight. Anorexia most commonly affects people who are not overweight, and may even be underweight.

Bulimia Nervosa is another well-known eating disorder, but differs substantially from Anorexia. Unlike anorexics, bulimics will still eat, often consuming large portions of food. They will then purge the food in order to avoid gaining weight. Bulimia tends to affect larger people, who want to satisfy their hunger without gaining weight.

Purging disorder is quite similar to bulimia, but with one distinct difference. While bulimia typically involves frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food, followed by purging, purging disorder does not involve excessive eating.

Although the term eating disorders tends to bring to mind someone who does not want to eat, they can also apply to over-consumption of food. Binge eating is frequently consuming large amounts of food, but with no specific intention to avoid weight gain. This could be because the person is unconcerned about their weight, or are actively trying to gain weight.

Night eating is one of the least talked-about eating disorders, despite the fact that it affects 1-2% of the population. Night eating is characterised either by consuming at least a quarter of your daily intake late at night, or by waking during the night to eat at least twice a week.

What Causes Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are a cultural phenomenon, which means they do not manifest directly in our psyche, but are a result of external influences. We’re all familiar with the criticism the media gets for their portrayal of beauty, but this is actually believed by many to be the direct cause of most eating disorders.

Numerous studies have shown that people in the Western world are roughly twice as likely to suffer from eating disorders, with women suffering in up to 90% of cases. However, we have seen the rates of eating disorders begin to grow in countries that receive lots of Western media. At the same time, the number of men diagnosed with eating disorders has risen around 30% since the year 2000, reflecting the increasing pressure men face to look good.

Around 200,000 people in Ireland suffer from eating disorders, and about 80 lives are lost each year to these conditions.


Eating Disorder Awareness Week will run from the 27th of February to the 5th of March. To learn how you can get involved, please click here.