“You’re not alone – talking makes everything so much better”
Two teenagers who are on the road to recovery after battling anorexia have praised the expert support they received from a specialist eating disorders team and are urging others in a similar position not to be afraid to ask for help.
The two girls were referred into the care of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s (NSFT) Central Norfolk Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders Service (CEN-CAEDS) after their weight plummeted and their health was suffering as a result. But, thanks to the care they have received, they have restored healthy weight, grown in confidence and are now looking forward to the future.
They are now encouraging others to ask for help as part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which aims to increase understanding of conditions such as anorexia and bulimia while challenging stereotypes and stigmas.
Natasha Pond, 15, started seeing the Trust’s eating disorders team a year ago after developing problems the previous summer. She said: “I thought I was fat and had a hatred for myself and it all just got too much. But I was very good at hiding the fact that I wasn’t eating, and kept denying that I had a problem.
“The turning point came when I started going to the eating disorders clinic and was told that if my blood pressure dropped any lower I’d be put in hospital. I then realised I didn’t need to worry about people in my life who wanted to judge me.”
Natasha attended one-to-one appointments, took part in family sessions and was advised on meal plans. She has now reached a healthy weight and feels much better.
“The service has been absolutely amazing,” she added. “They have really helped me to get my life back on track. Now I’ve started PE, dance and singing lessons and I am so much happier. I’m in a really good place right now.
“My advice to others would be to stay strong – you’re not alone and there are people out there who know how you feel and can help. Don’t believe what the eating disorder is telling you – you are not ugly or fat, but you are perfect in your own way.”
Her views have been echoed by Kirsty* (not her real name), who lost around two stone in just 18 months, after she began restricting her food and exercising excessively.
“I’m not really sure what prompted my illness,” she said. “I just had an urge to be really thin. I started taking drastic measures and would only drink rather than eat, and would go out running, then exercise in my bedroom. It became normal to me.
“I felt extremely tired and very cold all of the time. My mum got really concerned as she noticed that I had no appetite, was losing a lot of weight and was exercising all the time, so she took me to the clinic to ask for help.”
Kirsty has been working with the eating disorders service for around a year, and has been given individually tailored meal plans and attended one to one appointments as well as group sessions. This has helped build her confidence, start restoring healthy weight and return to her normal routine.
She added: “I wouldn’t be as well as I am today if it wasn’t for the service. I’ve managed to put weight back on and feel much better. It’s not easy to open up, but I’ve come to realise that talking to someone about it does make everything a lot better, so would encourage others to do the same.”
Central Norfolk CAEDS is a consultant-led community outpatient service run by a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, associate specialist, clinical nurse specialist, nurse, assistant practitioner and a part time systemic therapist. The team provide assessment and intensive management of young people aged up to 18 who are struggling with eating difficulties, as well as multi-agency consultation and liaison.
Although the service covers Central Norfolk, staff work closely with colleagues in west Norfolk and the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area, to ensure increasing numbers of patients receive the right care to meet their needs.
Jo Percival, Clinical Nurse Specialist with the service, said: “We have seen a huge increase in referrals recently, from 70 two years ago to 180 in 2014/15. This is mirrored across the UK, where the prevalence of eating disorders is increasing because of peer pressure and the emphasis that celebrity magazines put on getting the perfect body.
“We also see increasing numbers of boys, and have around 15 in our care at the moment. They tend to put the emphasis on getting a six-pack and end up doing excessive amounts of exercise as a result.”
CAEDS was awarded a BEAT-assured national accreditation last year. The service aims to identify eating disorders as early as possible, which gives the individual a greater chance of making a good recovery. A range of treatments are available, including psychoeducation, motivational enhancement therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, medical management and individual therapy, along with group sessions, family work, multi-family therapy and carer support. NSFT’s intensive support team can also provide additional support wherever necessary.
“We provide a comprehensive service within the community, and do our best to avoid hospital admissions wherever possible,” added Jo. “We work with our patients and their families to put together individual treatment plans tailored to meet their needs, which could include psychoeducation to help them manage their feelings, for example, as well as medication and meal plans.
“We also run a parents group, work closely with schools and GPs and carry out health promotion work where we can. The emphasis isn’t just on food, but we also look at social elements as well such as eating in public and going swimming or clothes shopping. This is really important as it helps to build confidence.
“On average, patients remain on our books for around two years as we need to work with them in lots of different ways to avoid a relapse. Physically they may recover quickly, but the psychological side may take a lot longer.
“The team do some fantastic work to care for these patients and help them get their lives back on track. We are very proud of the service we provide and the positive impact it has had on helping so many people make a good recovery. It is incredibly rewarding to see.”
If you are concerned your child or teenager has an eating disorder you should speak to your GP. Patients aged up to 18 can then be referred on to CAEDS by their GP, school or another health professional.
If you are concerned you or another adult may have an eating disorder you can also speak to your GP who can advise you on adult eating disorders services offered locally, including through beat, Norfolk Community Eating Disorder Service or the Community Eating Disorders Services Gt Yarmouth and Waveney.
For more information about Eating Disorders Week, visit: