Teenagers talk about their experiences with eating disorders to highlight awareness week

Natasha Pond is encouraging people to seek help for their eating disorder

Natasha Pond is encouraging people to seek help for their eating disorder - Credit: Lightening photography

This week marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week and is a chance to enable more people to understand eating disorders and challenge the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding them.

Natasha Pond, who suffered with an eating disorder, with Jo Percival (right) clinical nurse speciali

Natasha Pond, who suffered with an eating disorder, with Jo Percival (right) clinical nurse specialist with the eating disorders team and Dr Kiran Chitale, child and adolescent psychiatrist with the eating disorders team. Picture: Lighteningphotogrpahy . - Credit: Lightening photography

Two teenagers who suffered from eating disorders but are now on the road to recovery have spoken about their condition and are encouraging people to get help.

Both girls were referred into the care of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) Central Norfolk Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders Service (CEN-CAEDS), based at Mary Chapman House Hotblack Road, Norwich, after their weight dropped.

Both are now at a healthy weight but want to offer advice to others who have the same shared experiences as them.

'I thought I was fat and had a hatred for myself and it all just got too much. But I was very good at hiding the fact that I wasn't eating, and kept denying that I had a problem,' said Natasha Pond, who started seeing the trust's eating disorders team a year ago after developing problems the previous summer.

'The turning point came when I started going to the eating disorders clinic and was told that if my blood pressure dropped any lower I'd be put in hospital.

'I then realised I didn't need to worry about people in my life who wanted to judge me.'

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The 15-year-old wants people to know that there is help available and people aren't on their own.

'My advice to others would be to stay strong – you're not alone and there are people out there who know how you feel and can help.

'Don't believe what the eating disorder is telling you – you are not ugly or fat, but you are perfect in your own way.'

Her sentiments are echoed by Kirsty – who preferred not to disclose her real name – who lost around two stone in just 18 months after she began restricting her food and exercising excessively.

She has credited CAEDS, which was awarded an accreditation by Norwich-based eating disorder charity BEAT last year, with helping her to gain her confidence back.

She said: 'I wouldn't be as well as I am today if it wasn't for the service.

'I've managed to put weight back on and feel much better.

'It's not easy to open up, but I've come to realise that talking to someone about it does make everything a lot better, so would encourage others to do the same.'

Jo Percival, clinical nurse specialist with the service, which also covers the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area, said: 'We have seen a huge increase in referrals recently, from 70 two years ago to 180 in 2014/15.

'This is mirrored across the UK, where the prevalence of eating disorders is increasing because of peer pressure and the emphasis that celebrity magazines put on getting the perfect body.

'The team do some fantastic work to care for these patients and help them get their lives back on track.

'We are very proud of the service we provide.'

For more information about the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, visit www.nsft.nhs.uk

For more information about eating disorders, visit www.b-eat.co.uk