Eating disorders


Age at interview: 21
Age at diagnosis: 16

Brief outline: Francesca was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in early teens, which later developed into bulimia nervosa. She believes people will only respond to help when they are ready to get better, not if forced. Francesca never thought that she could even be able to enjoy eating but says now her favourite food is Thai.

Background: Francesca is a full time student. She has four siblings and lives at home with her parents. White British.

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Francesca remembers at age 13 or 14 starting naturally losing her ‘puppy fat,’ and people complimenting her on her appearance. She had transferred to a large secondary school and it was the first time she felt recognised for something there. Francesca started cutting down what she ate and her friends soon noticed there was something wrong. Her parents were busy working and her anorexia went unnoticed for some time. 
When Francesca’s school realised there was a problem, she started to be secretive about her eating. After school contacted her parents, they arranged for her to go to a private psychiatric clinic, but Francesca says that she was not ready for treatment and managed to get discharged soon after. 
Back at home, Francesca started to eat a little more to make people think she was getting better and would leave her alone. As she put on weight, she decided to make herself sick and take laxatives. This soon became a habit after every time she ate. When Francesca noticed blood in her vomit, she realised that she needed help with her eating disorder and went back to the private clinic. She says this time she was motivated to get better. She had group sessions, different forms of therapy and she found family therapy with her parents very helpful, as it was a safe environment in which to share their feelings. 
After discharge, Francesca stayed as an outpatient to ease her back into life at home. She went travelling for six months with her boyfriend, who has been very supportive and understanding. She was anxious about the different foods that she might have to eat whilst away and says she had to adapt, but actually quite enjoyed trying new foods. When she came home, she had a ‘new sense of life’ and returned to university. Francesca also volunteers as a Young Ambassador for Beat (Beating Eating Disorders). 
Francesca advises parents and health professionals to be supportive but not pushy, and non-judgmental. The person with an eating disorder should feel that when they are ready to talk, someone is there to listen. Francesca says ‘I’m happy. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to beat an eating disorder and get over it. I thought it was just going to be me for the rest of my life, but for now, I’m definitely OK.’


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