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Advice on how to spot the signs of an eating disorder from charity Beat

Following the report into the death of teenager Averil Hart, who died from anorexia at the age of 19, the charity Beat has shared their advice on what to look out for and what to do if you're worried about an eating disorder.

Anorexia can cause severe physical problems because of the effects of starvation on the body. It can lead to loss of muscle strength and reduced bone strength.

The illness can affect people’s relationship with family and friends, causing them to withdraw; it can also have an impact on their work or education

Christmas time is a particularly difficult time of year. If someone is becoming more withdrawn or they are being isolated, keep an eye on them. We also advice people to look out for those concentrating more on calories.

We would also say watch people weight changes as that could be a sign of an eating disorder.

Sometimes it is easier to speak to someone who you don't know, so our helplines are always open, including Christmas and Boxing day. We know it can be really difficult, but it is important that you talk about it.

– Rebecca Field, Beat
Some people with anorexia may experience cycles of bingeing Credit: PA

Different types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa - where a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible; for example, by starving themselves or excessive exercise
  • Bulimia - where a person goes through periods of binge eating and then forces themselves to be sick or uses laxatives to try and control their weight
  • Binge eating disorder - this is characterised by a person feeling compelled to overeat large amounts of food in a short space of tim

Signs and symptoms of an eating disorder:

  • Skipping meals
  • Complaining of being fat, even though they have a "normal" weight or are underweight
  • Repeatedly weighing themselves and looking at themselves in the mirror
  • Eating only certain low-calorie foods
  • Feeling uncomfortable or refusing to eat in public places
  • The use of "pro-anorexia" websites

For more advice:

Beat is a national charity for people affected by eating disorders Find more information on NHS Choices Anorexia and Bulimia Care Mind: eating problems Men Get Eating Disorders Too