“I HAVE had many days of eating only one yoghurt and nothing else, which I realise is very dangerous,” – those are the words of a student trying to raise awareness of eating disorders.
Andrew Holland is a first-year English and creative writing student at Chichester University. In July, the 19-year-old will part with his locks and have his head shaved live on the internet to raise funds for eating disorder charity Beat.
Andrew, who faces his own ‘battles with food’, is campaigning for greater awareness and support for those with eating disorders, especially given the dangers of the conditions.
“Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness,” said Andrew.
He said his experiences of university life and a desire to support Beat prompted him to arrange July’s event.
“It has caused me to realise how present this issue really is,” he said.
“It is a common sight to see people at university who delay their food shopping to save money, or eat very little, due to fear of gaining weight.
“Seeing this happen on a daily basis has made me strongly believe that everybody has their own battle against food.
“Whether it’s being afraid to eat too much, too little or not at all, food is often seen as an enemy, instead of a friend.”
Beat is a charity Andrew ‘truly believes in’.
“I have definitely had my own battles with food, especially at university,” he said.
“For many students, myself included, gaining weight at university is a huge fear. But being surrounded by friends and peers, it is very easy to fall into the habit of eating all of the wrong foods, or not eating at all.”
He is hoping his head-shave will raise funds which will bring about greater awareness of eating disorders.
“Living in university halls and being in a very sociable environment, it can become very easy to skip meals without people noticing, which is something that I have been guilty of doing time and time again,” he said.
“I have had many days of eating only one yoghurt and nothing else, which I realise as very dangerous.”
Andrew believes a large problem is students having to manage their own money for the first time.
“Being a first-year university student, having to truly manage and budget my money is something new to me. The temptation to save money by not going food shopping, so that I can go out more often, buy the latest CD or a new item of clothing, can be all too tempting.”
Challenging stereotypes associated to eating disorder sufferers is also very close to his heart.
“To many, eating disorders can very easily become a joke, as many do not realise how serious it is,” he said. “The public opinion towards eating disorders is not as sympathetic as it needs to be.
“I have known some people to use the terms of anorexia and bulimia as a joke when describing somebody who is very thin, ignoring the fact that they may be suffering from a serious mental illness – it’s completely wrong.
“With the social stigma given to those suffering, it can make it hard for sufferers to admit it to others, as well as themselves.
Welcoming Andrew’s efforts, a spokeswoman from Beat said: “Beat is very grateful to Andrew for choosing to support our work in this way.
“He currently has quite a head of hair and at least he’s chosen the warmer weather so hopefully won’t notice the cold as much.
“There is still a great deal of misunderstanding and stigma attached to these illnesses which affect more than 1.6 million people in the UK and with the support of individuals like Andrew we are able to offer information, support and hope to the 250,000 people who contact us each year for help.”
Andrew’s head shave will be streamed live on Facebook on July 13.
Anyone who would like more information about sponsoring Andrew and seeing the event live can visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AndrewHolland23