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Recovery is possible - spreading hope during Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Words by Abi Scaife

“I suffered from anorexia from the ages around 13 to 19, with multiple inpatient admissions,” says Emily Warburton-Adams. You may know her from Below Deck: Mediterranean - or from Instagram where, as english_ems, she speaks about her recovery journey and showcases Pow Food, her catering company.

“In my last admission when I was 18/19, the switch [flipped] and I really wanted to get better. I think I saw long-term what my life would be if I carried on being this unwell and I wanted more than ever to be better, however hard it was going to be.”

This year, for Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we caught up with Emily Warburton-Adams and Tom Quinn, Beat’s Director of External Affairs, to learn more about eating disorders and how we can support those who have them.

According to Beat, the UK’s Eating Disorder charity, an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from eating disorders. That’s around double the population of Manchester.

“Sadly it's very likely that you'll know somebody who has been affected,” says Tom. “More people than ever before needed eating disorder treatment during the pandemic and we're continuing to support people of all ages, genders and backgrounds.”

Emily adds: “It's not like you wake up and it's all gone. It takes a change in habits, long term behaviour and beliefs, and my environment.”

Misunderstandings are common about eating disorders - so many of us have seen them as punchlines to a joke on TV and in the media. Eating Disorders Awareness Week is all about promoting awareness and understanding - educating people about an issue which affects so many people in our world, and deserves better.

“Eating Disorders Awareness Week is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the many different signs and symptoms, help people spot the signs quickly, and encourage people to reach out for help,” says Tom.

“There are many harmful stereotypes about eating disorders, for instance, that only young women and girls are affected, which can cause a great deal of shame and prevent people from getting support. Each year we shine a light on a specific topic to help tackle these misconceptions.”


Eating Disorder Awareness Week helps not only to guide allies but also to raise awareness for eating disorders, including those that are less well-known or understood.

This year, Eating Disorder Awareness Week is focusing on ARFID - or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. If you don’t feel like you understand what ARFID is, you aren’t alone - and that’s what Beat is hoping to change this week.

“ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) is very misunderstood, partly because it's so different to other eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia,” explains Tom. “People with ARFID avoid particular foods, severely restrict how much they eat, or both, but this is never because of negative thoughts about body shape or weight.”

“Common signs of ARFID are when people worry about choking or being sick, have a lack of interest in food, or feel distressed by certain textures, tastes or smells.”

Emily has been incredibly open about not only the fact that she struggled with her eating disorder but also her recovery. She stresses that recovery isn’t a quick and easy one-time decision - it comes with hard work and support. These are the messages that she wants to pass on to others like her who are struggling.

“I made it my mission, my purpose to help people who are younger who had gone through what I had gone through,” explains Emily. “I struggled to find anyone around me that acted as a role model and had gone through it and recovered.”

“You are in a very vulnerable place when you recover and sometimes you just want to leave that life behind.”


Eating disorders are incredibly serious but crucially, recovery is possible. People like Emily are proof of that - proof that you can come out the other side and not only survive but thrive. 

Seeing people like Emily speak out about their experiences means seeing a future for yourself, and that is key to recovery.

“It does help to have advocates who [have] recovered and spoken about what helped them - and support people on that journey,” explains Emily.

Having support from family and friends is also important to recovery - and though it can be a difficult topic to broach, Beat has some helpful tips for what to say to help people.

'We know it can feel daunting to speak about eating disorders - especially if you haven't experienced one yourself,” says Tom. “The most important thing is to reassure your loved one that you're there for them. For instance, you could offer to chat to them if they've had a hard day, help with practical things like going with them to a food shop, or planning distractions like film nights or phone calls.”

“Every person is different, so we'd recommend asking your loved one how you can be most helpful.”

If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, you can contact Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677 or  

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article. 

Beat. Beat is the UK’s eating disorder charity, supporting awareness and intervention for eating disorders. Learn more here.

Talk ED. This is a national, peer-led charity supporting anyone affected by any eating disorder or eating distress. Support them here.

Seed. This volunteer organisation based out of England aims to bridge the gap between professional care and self-help for eating disorder recovery. Find out more.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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