Girls' website tackles eating disorders

CHILDREN as young as 11 are among hundreds of people around the world seeking help to combat eating disorders from a website set up by a north Norfolk teenager.

CHILDREN as young as 11 are among hundreds of people around the world seeking help to combat eating disorders from a website set up by a north Norfolk teenager.

Meg Crayford-Noble is amazed at the huge response to her campaign, on the social networking Myspace site, which has attracted 1300 on-line supporters in four months.

It challenges pro-anorexia (ProAna) and pro-bulimia (ProMia) websites which encourage vulnerable sufferers to keep losing weight with “thinspirational” photos of emaciated girls and tips on deceiving doctors and parents.

North Walsham High School student Meg, and her friend Elinor Goodhead, who attends Cromer High, say they know the dieting pressures on teenage girls in a Size 0 culture which admires super-slim celebrities like Nicole Richie and Victoria Beckham.

They are aware of pupils at their schools with eating disorders and say a growing number of males are also falling victim to eating and compulsive exercise disorders.

The girls and local supporters are staging a charity gig this Saturday to officially launch their Fight To Live campaign.

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They plan to donate 75pc of the proceeds to national eating disorders charity Beat and plough the rest into future fund and awareness-raising events.

“Eating disorders are not about choice. They are a mental illness,” said Meg, 16. “In the last couple of years at junior school girls start reading magazines about celebrities and fashion and I think every girl would say they have felt the pressures and thought: 'wouldn't it be nice if I was a bit thinner?'”

Elinor, 15, added: “Even the magazines with articles about the dangers of eating disorders will have something about diets, or fashion photos of thin models, on other pages. You can't get any magazines for teenage girls without something in.”

Meg believes her site has filled a gap because young people are more likely to confide in others their own age rather than in parents and other adults.

“I never judge people. I just listen and encourage them to go and talk to their GP in confidence,” she said.

Messages, from as far afield as China, Australia and the USA, were left by sufferers, ex-sufferers, their friends and loved ones, and up to 50 had been from children aged 11 and 12.

“I find it inspiring and I enjoy it,” said Meg. “It takes a lot of courage for some people and when they say things like: 'Thank you so much. You've made me realise that I do need help', it makes it all worthwhile.”

·View the website at:

FIGHT To Live's launch gig takes place this Saturday, January 26, in B2@Brickmakers, Sprowston Road, Norwich.

Bands Daggers and Diamonds, Snowblind, A is for Automatic Weapons, and Airstrip 51 are all playing for free. The venue and ticket production have also been donated.

The event is open to anyone aged 15 or over. Tickets cost £4 on the door, from the Theatre Royal in Norwich, or via 01603 598688. Doors open at 7.30pm and the music starts at 8pm.

·AT least 1.1m people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, with those in the 14-25 age group being most at risk.

·As many as one woman in 20 will have eating habits which give cause for concern.

·Females are 10 times more likely than males to suffer from anorexia or bulimia.

·In a survey of 600 young people with eating disorders, the charity Beat found that only one pc felt they could talk to their parents, nine pc would talk to someone at school, 17pc might approach a doctor or nurse, and 92pc felt they couldn't tell anyone.

·In 2006 NHS hospitals treated 58 children under 10 for eating disorders. This included 35 boys.