Assistant Transport Planner Adam Fare has long been an advocate for raising the awareness of eating disorders and associated mental and physical health complications, after developing an eating disorder himself over ten years ago.
25th February - 3rd March marks Eating Disorders Awareness week 2019, an annual campaign run by the charity Beat Eating Disorders. Adam gave a presentation at Cornwall Street as a special edition of Bitesize Learning, answering questions and sharing his personal experiences to the team and also used the opportunity to promote the #Dumpthescales campaign, which is about making sure that BMI is not a factor in the treatment of eating disorders, as was his personal and very negative experience.
"For me it began with physical health issues which turned into mental health issues. Eating disorders are very misunderstood; everyone thinks of the stereotypical skinny person, especially an adolescent female. But it's not just being too skinny, you can be going to the gym 5 or 6 times a week, you can be doing a lot of sport, you can be overweight and have an eating disorder as well," says Adam, who has been struggling to get appropriate treatment for a number of years.
"I didn't ask for help until I was 16. I was in denial. My family tried to help me but they couldn’t do anything. The person needs to admit that they have the problem. Admitting the problem is the real strength. There really needs to be a change in the treatment of eating disorders; the average waiting time for help is 6 weeks, and it can even be up to 5 years. If you go to your GP with a physical health issue, you’re seen within 2 weeks by a specialist, by 4 weeks you get treatment. Why should a mental health issue be treated differently?"
With a sharp rise in hospital admissions over the past decade, eating disorders are becoming a growing issue in the UK. Adam believes that the most effective treatment for eating disorders is early intervention, "The NHS offers CBT (Cognative Behavioural Therapy) which is only 50% effective and the longer you’ve had the eating disorder the less likely CBT is to work and the less likely you are to recover. I don’t always agree with the word recovery because I don’t think anyone truly rids themselves of the thoughts that go with it. I think you just learn to manage it and learn to live. And you can live, and you can prosper and have a life, but it’s really about admitting you have that problem and pushing yourself to get that help and really pushing yourself to be receptive to that help.
"I’m still going through turmoil every day myself, I don’t sleep many nights and I’m on constant meal plans. I have to check in with a councilor every day to check my weight and dietary intake, how much exercise I’ve done because I’m still in a physical danger zone. 20% of people with a serious eating disorder will die as a direct result and I really don’t want to be one of them. The massive surge in hospitals of people with eating disorders shows that we’re not on top of this. Early intervention just isn't happening. We’re letting mental health issues become physical health issues before we treat them and it’s just not good enough."
It's equally as important in a male dominated industry such as ours to be aware of eating disorders and how they can manifest themselves, because as Adam has proved, it can affect anyone at any time. "When I started my treatment I was with a crisis team and the first thing they said to me was “we’ve never had a man before, we don’t know what we’re doing with you really.” It took them 6 months to audit me and they still didn’t know how to treat me so I ended up discharging myself and going it alone, which caused me a lot of stress."
Adam's advice to any one who thinks they may know someone with an eating disorder is to "encourage them to get help but don’t push it upon them because it needs them to admit they need help themselves. Express your concerns and just look out for them. It can happen to any one any time, any age any gender any age any ethnicity. It doesn’t discriminate. I’ve got lifelong health implications from it and I don’t want it to happen to anyone else."
For more information about eating disorders, including early warning signs, please visit the Beat eating disorders website.