The media has a constant interest in the topic of eating disorders, which gives us the opportunity to share experiences and expertise, give opinion, and signpost people towards help, support and recovery.
We have seen an increase in accurate reporting in recent years, something we have worked hard to influence and a change we welcome. However, there are still some sections of the press that continue to cover the issue in ways that are trivialising and unhelpful to our cause and to the many vulnerable people affected by eating disorders.
Often the media still relies on sensationalist images that are potentially very dangerous – pictures of people at their most emaciated, skeletal, lowest weight. Pictures indistinguishable from the "thinspiration" images found on pro-anorexia websites that everyone knows are harmful and that most people think should be banned.
Journalists often think these are shocking, when in reality they are potentially harmful to people affected by eating disorders.
These sorts of pictures also distort people’s idea of what an eating disorder is really like. Anorexia is the rarest eating disorder and accounts for only 10% of cases and many people with eating disorders won’t be underweight at all.
Beat has a set of Media Guidelines to encourage balanced and responsible reporting. As well as the use of harmful images, we discourage mentions of specific weights or the lowest weight a person reached, amounts eaten, and other specific behaviour that formed part of a person's eating disorder.
We were invited to submit evidence to the Leveson Inquiry and the report published in November included our submission. We also support Hacked Off, the campaign for a free and accountable media. We are happy to discuss how we can help you to implement them in your reporting of eating disorders.