£15bn bill for eating disorders- when will it be easier to seek effective treatment?

I spotted an interesting article in today’s Times on a PriceWaterhouseCoopers and BEAT study, which highlighted some of the numbers and ongoing issues around eating disorders in the UK. For any of you who are battling with binge eating and don’t know whereto seek help, it’s probably not too much of a surprise to see these stats. It’s so HARD to get help – and when you do seek it, it’s even HARDER to get GOOD help- which is why I an so passionate about helping women fight their way out of this damaging cycle. Anyway, here are some figures:

1. Up to 725,000 people are estimated to suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia and binge eating in the UK.

2. This costs around £15bn per annum.

I would suggest that the number of people who are suffering from binge eating  is way more than figures suggest, as so many don’t seek help because they are too embarrassed or don’t know how to start to explain the sense of misery to a GP, or are simply too distraught, or depressed and anxious about their perceived behaviour and what that means for them.

Experts are highlighting the need for early intervention; and that is key- but what is that intervention likely to be?

I ended up talking to so-called experts who had NO CLUE about eating  issues and frankly I was made to feel even worse. That said, that was my own personal experience and there is some fantastic help and support available and a lot of it is free.

There is some focus in the (short) article on the physical consequences from eating disorders, however I would suggest that the emotional consequences can be as damaging – and less visible. Many binge eaters are “managing” their bingeing by starving, periods of “control” or normal eating between, or purging, or over exercising, or a combination of all of these. The sheer mental exhaustion as well as the overall “clutter” of negative feelings in one’s brain is potentially very damaging- and harder for health professionals who do not have any expertise in mental health issues to see and therefore address them for the long term.

That said, it’s great that some significant funding and time went in to this study as anything that raises the profile of eating issues is good. For too long it’s been hidden.  Some more figures:

3. The NHS gets the bill for around £4.6bn a year treating eating disorders

4. The impact on carers and sufferers combined is up to £3.1 billion.

I have a particular interest in working with organisations to support those suffering with binge eating issues, and have been working away at getting some figures in front of HR departments to raise the issue. Why? This article points to some reasons why- in terms in loss to the economy, it’s around £8bn a year through loss of earnings. If you are lucky to find somewhere to get treatment, the average time to start from initially seeking help professionally is nine months. It’s highly likely that a binge eater would have been suffering for some time prior to seeking help- it could have been years. Years of time off work, or being at work but not “present” or giving their best because of their binge eating issues and everything that it encompasses for them both in terms of physical health and mental health. Anyone who has eaten and eaten to the point of almost bursting yet compelled and unable to stop knows that it is nigh on impossible to focus on anything.


Relapse is still sadly high for those who don’t receive timely help. That said, it’s absolutely possible and do-able to break free for good so if you are wondering whether there is hope- there really is.

If you are interested in a session at your workplace, or want to know more about my services, call me on 07568 565808 or email me at hello@stopbingeingnow.com  I’ll be delighted to talk to you.