Tackling the Problem with Food; Your Health in Association with the NHS North East Today Is the Beginning of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and Next Month Health Experts Will Be Highlighting the Dangers of Obesity. Here CLAIRE GREW Talks to Those Who Have Been Troubled by Eating Problems at Both Ends of the Spectrum. BATTLING ANOREXIA

Article excerpt

Byline: CLAIRE GREW

IT'S estimated there are a staggering 1.1 million people affected by an eating disorder in the UK, with youngsters between 14 and 25 most at risk.

And official figures show the number of people diagnosed and admitted with an eating disorder in NHS hospitals has risen by over 30% in the past 10 years.

The charity Beat works closely with people suffering with eating disorders, providing them with the help and support they need to get back on track.

Their aim is in the title - eating disorders can be beaten, with the right help and support.

Just one of the women they have helped is 21-year-old Rachel Cowey from South Shields, who relied on Beat and her family to get back on the road to recovery.

Rachel, who is studying French and German at Northumbria University, was diagnosed by her GP with anorexia at the age of 16, as the pressures of school exams and bullying became too much.

"I first started skipping meals when I was 15 but then by first year of sixth form college I started to skip more and more meals until I was hardly eating anything, and in the end I was only eating once every four days," explained Rachel.

"I just didn't want to be me. Most people think that an eating disorder is about losing weight but it's not, it's more about wanting to disappear.

"At first I was in denial about having an eating disorder, so when my college lecturer gave me advice I just ignored it."

Rachel became concerned after noticing she had lost a significant amount of weight in only eight months.

Her road to recovery began at home where she received out-patient treatment with her mum Angela as her main carer.

"At home I was allowed to eat meals rather than be fed through a tube like other patients," explained Rachel. "And even though I could not go out after I was diagnosed, my friends were able to come round and see me.

"The support from Beat also helped as I was able to talk to people who also had anorexia, and it was nice to be known as myself and not as anorexic Rachel.

"I also really wanted to go to university and so this motivated me to gain weight."

Rachel's life has changed for the better. She's had a bar job, been on holiday to New Zealand, lived in France and passed her driving test.

"It's hard to get out once you've been housebound for a long period of time but, getting out there, and experiencing real life has definitely helped me," added Rachel.

"What I've done shows you can make a full recovery. There is hope for everyone, support and motivation is my key piece of advice as you're the only one that can recover."

"At home I was allowed to eat meals rather than be fed through a tube, and even though I could not go out, my friends were able to come round and see me. …