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Our campaign – the background

This Eating Disorders Awareness Week is all about men. We believe men account for around one in four people who develop an eating disorder. Yet in 2023, their symptoms can still go unnoticed by those around them. Toxic stereotypes are pervasive, and lead people to think eating disorders “only affect women”.

We want to change perceptions. So this EDAW, we’re targeting people with no knowledge of eating disorders, and tackling unhelpful biases.

How did we develop our campaign?

Once we’d decided on our theme, we started talking to the experts. We put out a call on social media for men with personal experience to come forward. We had a brilliant response, from men from a broad range of backgrounds. After information sessions to give people the chance to ask questions, nine men attended the final focus group.

We know how harmful stereotypes around gender and eating disorders can be — but we wanted data to back that up. So we ran the UK’s biggest survey to date of men with experience of eating disorders, which over 450 men responded to.

Every man’s experience was different. And many had run into the same absurd stereotypes. With family, at the doctor, at work — a lack of awareness among the public that men get eating disorders meant they were met with disbelief, that kept them from asking for and getting the help they deserve. And of those who responded to our survey, four out of five felt raising awareness would help more men get treatment sooner.

Finding our audience

So we set about building a campaign that speaks to the general public. That tells people who know nothing about eating disorders that yes, men do struggle, and that they might have bought into toxic stereotypes that prevent them from seeing this too.

We wanted to create a campaign that was easy to share and engage with, that got our message across to people who weren’t familiar with eating disorders in a quick, memorable way. Men do get eating disorders, so let’s save our surprise for something else.

Once we’d tested different concepts, chosen a direction, and created a first cut of our campaign video, we showed it to our focus group and other volunteers with lived experience. 300 members of the general public, who represented the UK population in terms of gender, age, ethnicity and location also watched the video. And the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with a few great suggestions on ways we could improve the video, which we took on board.

What next?

Throughout EDAW, we’ll be highlighting important stats, and sharing stories from some of the men we spoke to who’ve have or have had an eating disorder. (You can read some of these now.) We also have a brand-new support group for men who have eating disorders, or are worried about themselves. But this is only the start, and we’ll continue to make sure men get the help they deserve.

If you have a story to share, we’d love to hear it – share your story.