A Victim of Having an Eating Disorder at School

Flora Gosling spent most of her Freshers’ Week staring at the food on supermarket shelves, panicking that she would not be able to eat any of it. The 23-year-old from Aberdeen has an eating disorder, meaning she can only eat a very limited range of “safe foods”. “It was exhausting and isolating,” she says of her first week at university. “I was so worried about not being able to eat anything.”

A Victim of Having an Eating Disorder at School

Flora Gosling spent most of her Freshers’ Week staring at the food on supermarket shelves, panicking that she would not be able to eat any of it. The 23-year-old from Aberdeen has an eating disorder, meaning she can only eat a very limited range of “safe foods”. “It was exhausting and isolating,” she says of her first week at university. “I was so worried about not being able to eat anything.”

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Flora can eat plain pasta, bread and butter, but they are among the only foods her mind registers as edible. Anything else can lead her to gag, choke or vomit.

If she does try to eat something not on her “safe foods” list, “both mentally and physically, I immediately need to get it out of my mouth”.

Starting university with an eating disorder can be “really tough”, she says.

“You’re in a new environment; you’re trying to make new friends; you’re maybe living away from home for the first time – and on top of all that, you’ve got this thing that is constantly there.” Eating disorders are “incredibly isolating”, she adds. “You can’t just go out for dinner with your friends; you can’t go to the pub and have a meal; you can’t do all the things other people take for granted.”

The constant worry about food can also be exhausting, she says.

“I’ll be in a lecture, and my mind will just be completely elsewhere, thinking about what I’m going to eat next or if I’m going to be able to eat at all.”

Eating disorders charity Beat says there is no typical profile of someone with an eating disorder, but they are more common in women aged 16-24. The condition can lead to serious health problems and even death, but with treatment, most people fully recover.

disorder

Flora was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa when she was 18, after years of restricting her food intake and making herself vomit. She says her eating disorder is “totally controllable” most of the time, but there are still times when she struggles. “I’ll have good days and bad days,” she says. “Some days, I’ll be able to eat everything on my safe list, and other days I’ll just have bread and butter.”

She is now in recovery and is working with a therapist to expand her list of safe foods. “I’m slowly but surely trying to add more things in,” she says. “I’m at the point now where I can eat some fruit and vegetables, which is a big step for me.”

Flora says she would encourage other students with eating disorders to seek help. “It’s something you can recover from – but you can’t do it on your own,” she says. “You need professional help to be able to overcome it.”

If you are struggling with an eating disorder or worried about someone else, you can find more information and support through Beat’s website or helpline.

There is also a dedicated BBC Advice page.

If you are in the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or text them for free at 087 260 9090. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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