Advice for young people

This page contains tips and advice for young people who believe they may have an eating disorder, for general information visit our Eating Disorders main page.

Tips on eating healthily

All young people are growing, so it is crucial that you eat regular nourishing meals to give you energy. If you are also doing a lot of activity, you will need to eat more to keep up with your energy needs.

Eat regular meals

If you skip meals you’ll get hungry at other times and may end up feeling out of control of your eating.

Eat balanced meals

Fats, vegetables, protein, fruit, dairy, carbohydrates: our bodies and brains need all of these to be healthy.

Eat everything in moderation

Don’t ban foods: you’ll end up craving them.

Eat together as a family

Evidence suggests this can help prevent eating disorders


Exercise is a crucial aspect of young people’s lives. It promotes physical fitness and can lift mood and help in managing emotions.  It is also a great way to socialise and connect with others.

However, occasionally, a you may start to exercise in an obsessional way with the aim of weight loss.  You may start going to the gym for long periods of time or for long runs, swims or cycle rides.  If this behaviour continues it can become a habit which is difficult to break. Obsessional exercise can also lead to injuries.

Body image

It’s really common for young women to be unhappy about the way they look. This can affect young men too, but is more common in girls and women. Exposure to underweight models and images can make you less happy with you own appearance, and so can negative talk about bodies and weight, and being picked on or bullied about weight.

Feeling unhappy about the way your body looks puts you at risk for eating disorders, obesity and low mood.

If you have a negative view of your body, and you want to be more positive about the way you look, remember:

  • the media manipulates images – no one really looks like the women in magazines, not even the models themselves (this is true of Facebook and Instagram too – most young people modify photos of themselves before they post them online)
  • try to avoid focusing on your appearance, remember that your appearance and weight are not your most valuable characteristics
  • eat a healthy balanced diet, where possible with family, and take exercise in a safe and healthy way – not all eating disorders involve weight loss: binge eating, vomiting and excessive concern about shape and weight are symptoms of eating disorders too
  • avoid fashion and gossip magazines or websites, and consider who you follow on social media – exposure to underweight images leads to seeing yourself as larger and feeling less happy with your body, and can lower your self-esteem

Social media

Social media can be great for connecting with other people, but it can have a confusing and even dangerous side with regards to eating disorders. For tips and advice on using social media, follow the link below.

When to seek help

It can be hard to know when to ask someone for help – maybe you worry you’d be wasting their time, or it would mean admitting that there is a problem.  However, you are more likely to get better if you ask for help early so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you’re worried: eating disorders are serious illnesses and can be life-threatening.

The sooner you address an eating disorder the better, as habits can become entrenched.

Eating disorders are hard to fight alone, it can be helpful to talk things over with a supportive friend, or to speak to the eating disorder charity Beat. Their helplines offer support and information about eating disorders and difficulties with food, weight, and shape, but to access healthcare you need to see a professional.

Talking to someone about your worries, no matter how small or silly you think they are can really help to change the things you don’t like about your life. There are lots of people who can help, you just need to ask. You can:

Talk to your parents

Talk to your parents and let them know how you are feeling. Your parents can get advice from our service. They can visit our referral page for details.

Talk to another adult

Talk to an adult you know outside the family. You might find it easier to speak to your school nurse, a teacher, or another adult you know well.

Speak to your doctor

Book an appointment at your local doctors’ surgery and discuss your worries with your GP. It can be difficult to be honest about exactly what might be bothering you but the more information your GP has, the more easily they will be able to find you the right help. GPs are the first step to accessing specialist support.

You can also speak to a GP if you are worried about a loved one although, due to issues around confidentiality, there will be limits on what they can share with you.

Alternatively, you can:

  • Call our service on 01865 902515. We will listen to your worries without judgment, and think with you about what help is available.
  • Get help online . You can ‘self-refer’ to the service using our online referrals form. The online referrals system is for routine referrals only.

If you notice any of the following, medical assessment is crucial:

Weight loss/clothes that previously fitted are now too large

Children and adolescents are still growing and so your weight should be increasing over time. If you are losing weight, this is concerning and you need to have a GP check-up. Weight loss can be a sign of physical illness as well as an eating disorder so an early assessment is crucial.

Your periods have stopped

Being underweight affects hormones related to reproduction, and periods stopping or failing to start can be a sign of being severely underweight. You may also notice that your friends have started their periods and you still haven’t.

You are making yourself vomit

Vomiting makes the body lose vital salts and can cause serious heart problems, like the heart going into a funny rhythm. It also causes tooth decay.

You are taking drugs to try to lose weight

These may include laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills. Again, these can unbalance levels of salt in the body and can cause serious heart problems.

You lose control of your eating

Eating an abnormally large amount and feeling unable to stop eating.

You may also notice the following:

  • Fainting or having “funny turns”
  • You are over-exercising
  • You are persistently unhappy

If you see the family doctor he/she will talk to you, assess your physical health, and usually do a blood test.

Recovering from an eating disorder

Life’s too short to weigh your cornflakes

Advice from other young people

Advice for friends and siblings

Further resources


  • b-eat is the UK’s leading charity supporting anyone affected by eating disorders or difficulties with food, weight and shape. They also have a section on book reviews.
  • Men Get Eating Disorders Too is a charitable organisation that seeks to raise awareness of eating disorders in men and to support sufferers, carers and their families.


  • Overcoming Binge Eating by Christopher Fairburn – a self-help guide for people who think they might be binge eating.
  • The Overcoming Bulimia Workbook by McCabe, McFarlane and Olmsted – a self-help guide for individuals with symptoms of bulimia nervosa
  • Binge Control by Cynthia Bulik – a compact guide to understanding binge-eating disorder (BED)
  • Life Without Ed by Jennie Shaefer – a personal account of eating disorder recovery

Common questions young people ask

Do I have to come to CAMHS with my parents?

Legally, if you are under 16, your parents will need to attend your initial assessment as they are responsible for you so we will need to ask them before we can help you. This can be really helpful as we might be able to help them to support you and understand you better.

If you are 16 or over, we would strongly recommend that you invite your parents to the initial assessment appointment. You will be offered individual time with a clinician where you can talk about things you may not want to discuss in front of your parents.

If you require on-going treatment within our service, we can discuss with you who will be involved in your care and who will attend your CAMHS appointments.

Will anybody find out that I coming to CAMHS?

No, at CAMHS, your information is treated confidential within our service. After your assessment, we will contact your GP. If we did think it would be helpful to liaise with other services such as your school, we will only do so with your consent.

Do I have to be weighed?

As part of medical monitoring, it is likely that you will need to weighed. We understand that this can be difficult for some young people. We can talk about weighing arrangements with you to make this easier. Weights are important to monitor progress and a way for us to monitor your safety. However, weight is not the only measure we use to monitor your health. We also look at other physical health indicators but most importantly, we listen to what you and your family report to us.

Will I be forced to gain weight?

If you are underweight, part of your treatment may involve restoring your weight back to what is healthy for you and your body. Our first priority is ensuring that you are physically healthy and fit. This may seem frightening and unpleasant but we need to ensure you are not putting yourself at risk of harm.

Being underweight and/or not eating enough has significant risks and consequences on your health. Please look at our body map to learn more about the effects of being underweight/not eating enough.  We know that gaining weight may be a difficult experience for you and so part of the treatment will support you and your family to manage this process.

How long do I have to come to CAMHS?

Each young person’s journey through CAMHS is different so there is no one answer. Our figures show that the average time a young person spends in our service is around one year however some families need less time and others might require more.

How can I have an eating disorder if I am not underweight?

This is a question we hear a lot! Being underweight is not a criterion to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. According to a research study (Fairburn & Harrison 2003), 80-85% of people with eating disorders are not underweight.

When will be my appointments be?

Your appointments will be arranged between you and the clinician who is meeting with you. Appointments can be booked week by week but also can be booked further in advance if this is helpful. Appointments may fall in school times but we will try our best to work around your needs.

I’ve heard CAMHS aren’t a helpful service?

You may have heard from other young people or read on the internet that some young people have not found CAMHS helpful. Like all things in life, each of us experience things differently to one another. Just because your friend may have not found CAMHS helpful does not mean you will not either.

At the same time, we do recognise that some young people may find it difficult to accept they have an eating problem and do not want help from us. Our experience is that at the beginning of treatment, you may find it difficult but by the end of treatment, young people are often grateful for the help they receive from CAMHS.

A young person who has previously been in our CAMHS eating disorder service has advised us on this question and said:

‘It might be difficult at first but taking this first step is the best you can ever do.’

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Page last reviewed: 19 January, 2023