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26th Feb 2024

‘It really does get better’ – Eating Disorders Awareness Week and the importance of education

Jody Coffey

eating disorder awareness

**Trigger Warning: This article discusses eating disorders in detail**

Today (February 26th) marks the beginning of Eating Disorder Awareness Week

An estimated 188,895 people in Ireland will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives, making education and awareness around mental health illnesses necessary in our society.

Both can help to break down barriers and stigma around eating disorders, as well as start important conversations, which can encourage people affected to seek support.

Eating disorders are serious and complex mental illnesses with an increased risk of mortality and suicide. With the appropriate, specialist treatment and support, people can and do recover. 

Why is Eating Disorders Awareness Week so important?

Due to the secretive nature of eating disorders, it is not always possible to find reliable statistics that reflect the true number of people affected by them. 

For this reason, Ellen Jennings, Communication Officer at Bodywhys, says the annual awareness week is essential.

“The statistics that we see around eating disorders are likely underrepresentative of the true picture of people’s affect,” Jennings tells

In 2023, over 1,000 people supporting someone with an eating disorder accessed free family support services from Bodywhys – The Eating Disorders Association of Ireland.

“Awareness weeks like this that we have every year allows us to open up the conversation and maybe get people involved, who might not otherwise be aware of how an eating disorder impacts a person.”

“It opens up conversations with the hope that we can do our part to break down the stigma that exists around eating disorders and to open up space for more people to share what they’re experiencing and to get the support they need with us.”

Recovery looks so different for each individual person.

Ellen Jennings, Bodywhys

Education on the topic may also highlight certain thinking or behaviours that may signal the development or presence of an eating disorder.

This year’s theme is ‘Eating Disorder Recovery and Beyond: Respecting Individuality and Identity’

As an eating disorder develops, it can have a profound impact on a person’s identity and individuality.

Each person’s experience with an eating disorder will differ, with each person also facing unique obstacles on the road to recovery.

“We’re focusing on how recovery can look very different from person to person and how much the eating disorder can take away from the person’s identity and it could become part of their identity.

“It’s non-linear; there’s no one way and there could be lots of ups and downs along the way. I’ve heard someone describe it as ‘sometimes it feels like you’ve taken five steps forward and what four steps back, but you’ve moved that one step. It’s just hard to see that when you’re in the middle of the process.

“Recovery looks so different for each individual person. The eating disorder didn’t happen overnight and treatment and recovery is also a process that takes time, learning, and unravelling of how an eating disorder is impacting on the person’s life.”

The main message is that there is no one way to do recovery.

We’re just trying to bring people’s lived experience to the fore.

Ellen Jennings, Bodywhys

#EDAW24 Events

As part of the campaign, a series of events, open days, and protests will take place across the week until March 2nd.

These free online events will feature personal experiences of recovery, the role of social connections, identity, supporting someone with an eating disorder, navigating body changes through the lifecycle, and more. 

As well as the online events, the social media account for Bodywhys will also have important content featuring lived experience perspectives, clinical perspectives, and research perspectives.

Lived experience of people impacted by eating disorders is of particular importance, Jennings says.

“We’re just trying to bring people’s lived experience to the fore because the people who have been through it and come out the other side or maybe still feel that they’re experiencing their eating disorder can tell us a lot about how to understand an eating disorder and how it impacts every aspect of a person’s life.”

Emma, a person with lived experience of an eating disorder, said:

“From someone who never believed it could, it really does get better. You are another vivid version of yourself at a point in a bright future, looking back in gratitude.” 

Laura, a person with lived experience, added:

“My recovery was volatile with lots of steps forward and backward. My family and I were in constant search of that one cure for my eating disorder, which obviously did not exist.”

These lived experiences also serve as a symbol of hope for those impacted by an eating disorder.


  • Eating Disorder Awareness Week events can be found here.
  • Bodywhys online psychoeducation PiLaR programme for family members, parents, and carers starts on Wednesday, March 6th, 2024, running from 7 pm – 9 pm. To book a free place, please contact Christopher via [email protected]
  • Bodywhys Online Support Groups, for men, students, young people, and adults are available here.
  • Email support and a listening ear can be accessed via [email protected]
  • Bodywhys Helpline Number: 01 2107906  
  • Instagram: @bodywhys
  • You do not need a diagnosis to avail of Bodywhys services. If you want to learn more, support someone, or raise awareness to get involved this Eating Disorders Awareness Week, you can find all the details on the Bodywhys website and social media platforms.