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The nation's uneasy relationship with food

With almost 60% of the population unhappy with their weight, are we obsessed with or just passionate about food? New ICM research carried out in January 2013 by Priory Group has highlighted that 78% of respondents believe today’s society places too much emphasis on being thin, and at the same time, over half felt that they would be happier if they were thinner.

At a time when we hear suggestions of celebrities using body doubles in advertising, the research has highlighted a growing trend of body issues amongst men. Whilst the general public often sees body image as a women’s issue, it is clear that men are feeling the strain of weight concerns too.

The media’s portrayal of the perfect male physique adds further pressure, meaning affected men often hide their eating problems with excessive exercise in a bid to achieve the ‘perfect’ body. Figures from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggest that 1.6 million people are affected by an eating disorder in the UK, with males accounting for 11% of this figure.

The findings show that up to 56% of people are unhappy with their weight, with 27% of respondents saying they have found it difficult to stop eating once they have started. The research also highlighted that 60% of women and over a third of men admitted to feeling guilty after eating, with many acknowledging that hunger was often not the driver for eating. Instead, boredom, stress and loneliness featured as the top three alternative reasons. According to statistics published late last year by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) the rate of hospital admissions for the treatment of eating disorders increased by 16% during 2012.

Dr Alex Yellowlees, Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Glasgow said of the survey findings:

“We live in a society which idealises thinness and is obsessed with dieting, size and shape. The growing trend of eating disorders in men is noticeable in Priory’s admissions too. Society needs to re-capture the truth that our real value and worth is not reflected in our clothes size but in our personal qualities and relationships with others. A lasting recovery from an eating disorder is highly achievable, particularly when help is sought early on and treatment is followed through a structured programme. Treatment for an eating disorder can be life-changing. Anyone who is concerned about their eating habits should consult their doctor as soon as possible.”

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