A 22-year-old wants to educate medics about the reality of life recovering from an eating disorder after living with one for the last five years.
Three years ago, Emma Oldfield was diagnosed with Anorexia Binge Eating Type – a combination of both Anorexia and Bulimia – an illness which took control of her life after her mum sadly passed away in 2012.
The student, who is based in Stockton-on-Tees, has made a film with Fixers to highlight five key points that she believes would have helped her recovery process.
‘My eating disorder originally started when I wasn’t very happy with my body weight,’ says Emma. ‘I started to lose quite a lot of weight in a quick amount of time, and then shortly after that, my mum passed away.
‘My eating disorder turned from being about body image to more of an emotional issue.
'It kept going because I felt I didn’t deserve to be nourished, I didn’t deserve to eat. Why was it fair that I lived when my mum couldn’t be here?’
A person will Anorexia Binge Eating Type will typically restrict their diet for a long period of time, but when they do start eating again they will fill up on huge amounts of high carbohydrate, high sugar foods.
When they have finished binging, an overwhelming fear of gaining weight returns and they will purge themselves of the food by vomiting, over-exercising or taking laxatives – and then the vicious cycle starts again.
In Emma’s Fixers film, she draws on her personal experience to spell out to medical professionals how care for eating disorder patients could be dramatically enhanced.
‘My main message for health professionals to improve the services is to listen to an individual and to actually focus on their mental health and their stability and their relationship with food, rather than solely focusing on their BMI,’ she says.
Emma's recommendations include earlier intervention and not waiting for people to reach a critically low weight before they are offered treatment.
‘For me it got to the stage where I collapsed because of low potassium levels before I got the help I needed,’ she explains.
Emma wants eating disorder diagnosis to focus on factors other than just a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI), and for more post-meal support when patients have managed to consume food.
She is adamant that eating disorders need to be seen as a mental illness, and that more out of hours help is desperately needed as she says most support services only run from 9am to 5pm on weekdays.
Today, Emma is continuing to get help for her eating disorder and says she has learnt to accept that it will always be part of her life.
‘The severity of my illness is still very strong,' she concludes. 'I’m at a point where it’s about managing my condition and dealing with it. I’m trying to make more room for life and activities, and less room for the eating disorder.’
To find other resources on this topic, and watch Fixers films, click on the image below: