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Saturday, 11 August 2012

An Axe To Grind

Today I received this email from a young woman

“I am taking part in a 54 mile cycle ride from London to Brighton on the 16th September!

I have struggled with anorexia since I was 8 years old……. After two lengthy hospital admissions and being pushed to breaking point, I am now fighting back with the help of day care. I am not alone in my struggles, there are an estimated 1.6 million people in the UK suffering from an eating disorder; anorexia has the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder. However, it doesn't just impact on the sufferer, …………. It isn't only the sufferer who requires help in coping and b-eat acts to provide such support.

I am fundraising to help show that eating disorders can be beaten and give something back to the services to which I owe so much for still being here today! Money will go to Beat the eating disorder charity.”

I struggle to understand how B-Eat can raise money through promoting excessive exercise, being done in particular by people who are struggling to recover from anorexia. Is this how we teach people to B-eat eating disorders and all its symptoms?

B-Eat, are you listening? I will give money to people you encourage to have a rest-in. I don’t think anything else is smart.



  1. Very worthy of debate. I have lost count of the number of clients who believe that they SHOULD exercise hard every day in order to make up for all the "bad" foods they eat. If we lost our obsession with the shoulds, we'd be a lot healthier, mentally and physically.

  2. Beat certainly is listening- listening to those up-to-date and enlightened clinicians who are including exercise in their treatment regimes for eating disorders. They know that having a positive attitude to physica activity is a natural part of living a full, healthy and active life.

    We take great care to make sure that anyone who undertakes a physical activity to fundraise for Beat is healthy and well enough to to do safely.

    We know from our daily contact with people at all stages of their recovery that someone can be fully weight restored and no longer engaging in any compensating behaviours, and yet still be struggling with troubling eating disordered thoughts and feelings. That is why we never assume that if someone says they are struggling, it automatically means they are underweight, or still obsessed with dangerous actions.

    So, by all means do give money to people who want a rest-in, if that is what you want to do, but don't fall into the fallacy of thinking all physical activity is dangerous. It isn't.

    Susan Ringwood
    Chief Executive

    1. Thank you colleague Susan and Beat for entering this friendly but none the less important debate; several points.

      I take your point about enlightened and up-to-date clinicians...I'm certainly a bit older than some by now,and I'm as up to date as the latest journals, and seeking enlightenment every day with varying success and a few setbacks.

      There has been a very lengthy debate (in 2012) among the eating disorder clinicians and researchers on Linked-In about exercise in anorexia treatment, with many views, cautions and caveats. We concur that part of therapy is to enable people to do moderate activity free of perfectionist beliefs, harmful strivings, obsessive components and freedom from the need to use actitivy to make eating permissable and safe.

      I am still concerned about using people whose behaviour reflects active symptoms or symptom substitution. I don't think many of them are showing a "positive attitude to appropriate physical activity in a full and healthy life".

      I wish I had a tenner for all the people who tell me sincerely that they "don't have anorexia now" but happen to be running 150 miles per week" or in training for this or that Marathon and whose self worth takes a dive if they cannot go out and run in the cold at 5am.

      I'm not against using activity in treatment; nor am I against running Marathons. This is not what I said. It's about being consistent. Helping people to have insight into their own behaviour is one thing. Using ex-sufferers (or accepting donations from sick people) to raise money on the part of an eating disorder charity, well, thats something else that deserves friendly debate. It's what we are both here for.

      Surely doing a 54 mile bike ride when you are recovering and in Day Care is madness; it suggests that the disease is alive and well and showing its face, albeit in a form designed to garner plaudits rather than concern.

      I know Beat needs donations and fundraising and for sure the publicity that comes with it. Perhaps, I sigh, its all about business; but this is a debate about ethics, means and ends.

      Wouldn't it be great if Beat came out with a position statement on this type of fundraising. That would make a few headlines.

      Hesitating to press the send button.....but... here goes.