Norwich eating disorders charity expands work to help obese

A Norwich-based charity which helps people with eating disorders is to extend its services to those affected by obesity as well as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

At a time when reports suggest that obesity costs the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds a year, Beat has decided to offer its support services to those affected.

The national charity, which used to be called the Eating Disorders Association and has its headquarters in Prince of Wales Road, has seen an increase in the number of people calling them for help with emotional issues around food and obesity, and so last month members voted for a change in its constitution to embrace all aspects of the eating disorders spectrum.

Chief executive Susan Ringwood said: 'Callers to our helpline were saying they were ashamed of themselves, they felt guilty, their eating was out of control and they hated the way they looked. We became increasingly aware that sometimes our volunteers couldn't tell what size the person on the other end of the phone was, because the way that people who are underweight or overweight talked about themselves was so similar. They talked about themselves and they way they feel, rather than their size.

'There are a significant proportion of people who are overweight and who have an emotional and unhealthy relationship with food.

'They have quite deep-seated emotional difficulties and need proper pyschological and emotional support to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight and shape. For some it is as serious as those who need pyschological support for anorexia and bulimia and there's not anywhere out there to provide that support, so it is something we have been helping people with for some time now because we don't turn people away.'

The charity, which helped almost a quarter of a million people over the last year, is starting to work with some local authorities and health services around the country to provide psychological support for people who are overweight and obese.

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Ms Ringwood added: 'We'd like people to know that anyone with an emotionally unhealthy relationship with food can contact us for help and support. Already some people who are obese or who feel they have lost control of their eating are contacting us because they have nowhere else to go. Our track record of providing services to people affected by eating disorders shows how our help can enhance a sufferer's motivation for recovery; empower someone to seek help and support. We are uniquely placed to provide the missing element of support to people concerned about their weight.'

Anyone experiencing emotional distress around food can contact the charity through its helpline on 0845 634 1414 or online at www.b-eat.co.uk

Do you have a real life story about the emotional and pyschological impact of over-eating? Contact health reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk.