A long time advocate for better provisions for those living with eating disorders has died at the age of 67.

Sarah Middleton, who suffered with anorexia for more than 40 years, was first diagnosed with the serious mental health condition in her 20s. 

She remained a voice for the voiceless and campaigned tirelessly for the disabled to help others impacted by the disorder. 

Speaking to this paper in 2019, Miss Middleton, of Barnards Yard in Norwich, described her early treatment as "brutal". 

She said: "To be honest, no one really knew what anorexia was. 

“They all put it down to little rich girls trying to look like models. They hated us. 

“We were put on a ward and there were eight of us in there. We had eight beds and a table in the middle, we'd have to eat five meals and they were big.

“Nothing was known about refeeding syndrome and a lot of people died because they ate too much. It was horrible." 

Eastern Daily Press: Sarah Middleton

Before her illness, Miss Middleton travelled the world and previously lived abroad in Majorca and Israel.  

She worked in a variety of roles including as an air hostess, a fruit picker in France, and a cook on a yacht.

By 1985 though, she had become unwell enough to be admitted to hospital.  

She went on to describe herself as a victim of the "revolving door syndrome” which she said costs the NHS “a fortune and would be unnecessary if aftercare existed."

More recently, Miss Middleton became part of a successful trial in which those who would never recover from an eating disorder could live in the community while being supported by other services.

Her mother, Frances Middleton, who is known by all as Jacqueline, said: “Sarah was such a fighter, and she was so fun. 

“She had the most amazing life and after she became too ill to work, she did an enormous amount of voluntary work. 

“She also gave away her privacy to help other people understand the condition. She was a voice for the voiceless, and she always had something to say. 

“People will remember her with a certain amount of joy as she was such a good friend who supported others in difficulty.” 

She also praised Newmarket House Clinic in Norwich for the care they provided for her daughter. 

Throughout her life, Miss Middleton was involved in helping several organisations, health bodies, and charities including the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People and Equal Lives. 

She gave talks to hundreds of students at the University of East Anglia, and spoke to Norfolk County Council's health and overview scrutiny committee. 

She also helped to implement change and offer guidance for the Health and Social Care Act, SEED (an eating disorder support service), and NHS England. 

And in 2019, she supported the findings of an inquiry by MPs calling for BMI (body mass index) to be scrapped, arguing that every person should be treated as an individual rather than a number. 

It followed a meeting of the Women and Equalities Committee which described BMI as "inspiring weight stigma" in which patients were being "shamed" into losing weight. 

An inspiration to others, she said: "I consider each anorexic as a different person." 

Her mother added: “That is her legacy." 

Sarah Middleton was the middle child of three, born on April 4, 1956, in Sussex, and moved to Norfolk in 1969. She died on December 27, 2023. A private celebration of her life took place on Friday. 

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