Imagine being told that your leg wasn’t broken enough to warrant treatment, despite you being unable to walk.
Or that you weren’t yet deaf enough to require hearing aids even though you could no longer make out what people were saying to you.
Eating disorders are not just about weight loss and low BMI yet people across the UK are being refused treatment for not meeting the criteria, forcing them to get worse to access much needed help.
It’s not right and action is needed!
When my problems with food started, I distinctly remember my GP saying that usually you have to join long waiting lists for therapy but given that my weight was low they might be able to see me faster.
I wasn’t yet at crisis point but I was underweight, and I had a six month gap between my initial assessment and my first appointment.
Fast forward to the present day when I sadly relapsed and went down that all too familiar path of food restriction and over-exercise, my friends were telling me to get some help quick.
“There’s no such thing.” I said, “it’s all based on your BMI and mine won’t be low enough to qualify.”
Well sadly I was both wrong and right – patients do have to meet an incredibly low BMI criteria and unfortunately I now had, allowing me to access some much needed support in a very short space of time.
Whilst there’s no doubt that the help I am now getting has been invaluable in stopping my difficulties worsening and slowly turning my thoughts and behaviours around, no-one should have to be that thin and unwell before they are taken seriously.
I know people that have long battled their eating disorders in secret and finally plucked up the courage to speak out only to be told their BMI is too high to be eligible for therapy.
Such news often leaves them with no alternative but to lose even more weight, putting their health at further risk and causing potentially irreversible damage.
Thankfully there are third sector organisations that don’t discriminate and help anyone facing difficulties with their ability to eat, body image and exercise levels. They do invaluable work and bridge the gap that NHS services commonly leave.
It goes without saying that physical health is hugely important, and when patients are either at, or fast approaching, a very low weight they clearly need urgent care. But the treatment of eating disorders should not be solely based on someone’s BMI as it so often is at the moment.
Anorexia sufferer and campaigner Hope Virgo has long fought for fairer treatment for those experiencing eating disorders and commenced her ‘dump the scales’ petition three years ago in support of this.
She needs 150,000 signatures to encourage further debates in parliament, asking the government to ensure that nobody is turned away purely on the basis of their weight.
I fully support Hope’s endeavours and encourage others to do the same here.
Please consider signing her petition to make a difference to those suffering eating disorders.