The Dump the Scales campaign is led by Hope Virgo, and aims to raise awareness and get people who suffer with an eating disorder the help that they need.

Hope Virgo's Dump the Scales campaign has almost reached 100,00 signatures

Hope Virgo's Dump the Scales campaign has almost reached 100,00 signatures

Many people have been turned away from the NHS for not meeting the necessary requirements for help with an eating disorder, being told they’re not thin enough, not ill enough, or that their condition is not serious enough for them to be given the help that they need. This means people are either forced to pay for a private therapy service, or battle it alone.

Hope’s petition has now gained over 90,000 signatures and has been backed by many MPs, but there’s still work to be done.

Since the last time I spoke with Hope, she has reached some very productive and commendable milestones.

The campaign made a significant step forward following an appearance between Hope and Jackie Doyle Price on Sunday Politics. Within 48 hours the petition received another 20,000 signatures.

The journey to help others has also taught Hope a lot about herself.

“I have learned that there is so much more to life than letting your eating disorder win. Sometimes I feel like I am fighting every single eating disorder across the country by trying to end this complete injustice. I have learned that I am resilient but also probably need to plan a bit better. When the petition launched I thought it would get a few signatures and achieve nothing, so a lot of planning has taken place along the way. 

“I've also learned about others and the system - mainly more frustrations and worries that so many people are actually left struggling on their own. It upsets me so much that people are unable to access support services because of their BMI.

“I am not giving up on this until something changes for the better.”

Hope was recently recognised for her work, winning the Rising Star in All Other Industries award.

“I feel completely overwhelmed to have won. It is amazing that people actually believe in me and support what I do. It has definitely helped spur me on with my work and it just feels so wonderful.”

Although the petition has gained some serious momentum, there is still a push needed to get to that important 100,000 mark.

“Once we hit 100,000, it will give us another chance to push the government to take on a leadership position to tackle this. In the meantime, I will keep working with MPs, but also with the local Mental Health trusts who want to make this change now.”

The campaign has reached many milestones, but for Hope, some stand out more than others.

"Seeing the amount of MPs and individuals who want to get involved and support this."

Some of the MPs who are on board with Hope's movement include Ruth George, Barry Sheerman and Alex Sobel.

But why is it so important that people get the help? Of course, those who struggle with eating disorders such as anorexia are physically more vulnerable - but the mental impact of any eating disorder is equally as dangerous, even if they don’t result in an unhealthy BMI. 

The problem is that many people are being ignored. Eating disorders such as bulimia and binge eating disorder don’t have the same effect physically on an ill person. These are the more hidden eating disorders that are not as recognisable as those that result in significant weight loss like anorexia. 

I have spoken to several people about their experiences with an eating disorder. Some of them have received treatment and have recovered, others haven’t been as fortunate in receiving the necessary care that they need.

Some people don’t ever get the help they ask for, and have to figure out for themselves how to overcome their struggles.

Sarah's story

Sarah didn't receive any specific treatment for her eating disorder, but the problematic thinking and behaviours were identified during CBT. She manages her anxieties and struggles with the help of a supportive network of friends and family, a nutritionist, and a healthy goal-focused gym routine.

For Sarah, her disordered thoughts around food became prominent at the age of 14.

“I came home from a netball match and had eaten a cereal bar then some reason felt so guilty about it, I threw it up.”

Looking back, Sarah says she was probably not being honest with herself about the issue.

“I think I was in denial about it, and at one point my eating was out of control but I guess I was embarrassed. Then when I 'controlled' my eating I liked the feeling of being 'in control' of that so never wanted to get help because I guess I thought that would make me 'out of control' again - if that makes sense?”

The feeling of being in control is one that many people who have an eating disorder aim for - but differentiating between what is actually healthy controlled behaviour i.e. balance, and unhealthy controlled eating disorder behaviour is often a huge struggle.

"Over the years, with the help from a friend who is a nutritionist, I’ve learnt to be a lot more flexible, and that your looks and weight do not define you. I've realised there’s a lot more to life than dieting and being skinny, and I think - am I going to care if I’m a bit chubby in 60 years? No, I’ll just regret spending my life worrying about my weight and dieting. I still have anxieties about it and still track my food but it’s not as bad as it used to be..."

"I think when overcoming problems with food it’s good to have a coach to help you with it. I also have a very loving boyfriend and family who are supportive and reassure me that I’m not fat or whatever and encourage me to relax with restrictions when I need it! Unfortunately not everyone has this."

"I guess I want people not to be embarrassed that they have an eating disorder, whether that be anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or anything else.

"It’s not something to be ashamed of and there is help available (including good self help books which have helped me). Life is a lot better when it’s not controlled by food. My friend who’s helped me said ‘food (and dieting) is part of your life, they are not your life’ which is important to remember.

"There’s a lot more to life and a lot more to people than their appearance. And food is something to enjoy, not to be worried about or ruled by! Everything in moderation, and it’s fuel for your body which tastes delicious, not a punishment!"

Gabriella's story

Gabriella began restricting her food intake when she stopped her hobby as a swimmer. 

"I used to be a competitive swimmer and the types of bodies I idolised weren’t what you’d see on a magazine cover. But when I stopped (for all the reasons teenage girls drop out of sports) my weight changed and suddenly I felt like the body I was in (slightly bigger than it had been, and also “blessed” with huge boobs [I’m a 30FF]) didn’t match the person I was (angsty, depressed, emo - you’re typical waify emotionally overwrought teenager)."

It was at university when she began to develop unhealthy eating disorder behaviours.

"When I went to University and had full control over my weight I started doing some scary things - exercising way too much, taking smaller plates at the dining hall so I’d eat less, restricting, and diet pills. This behaviour came and went in waves all throughout Uni and even once I’d left as I struggled to find my place in the adult world."

"Then I moved to London and as I settled into my life I noticed that nagging voice in the back of my head had dissipated. Over time those behaviours stopped and now I feel pretty confident in my body - not always, but often. I am much better at stopping those behaviours from cropping up again when I’m anxious or depressed and follow a much more intuitive eating lifestyle (I am also a pescatarian, but have been since Uni)."

"I’m 29, about to turn 30, and somehow I was able to come into a better understanding about who I am and the body I live in, even if that relationship isn’t always perfect."

Carolina's story

Carolina managed to overcome her eating disorder with the help of a friend's Mum.

"I think deep down I always knew that starving, bingeing and purging wasn’t normal behaviour but I first confided in my best friend’s mum in my late teens / early twenties."

"She took an interest, read up on eating disorders and we met up and would chat for hours about my eating and life in general."

"After university and working in London for some time I escaped my life here and got a job in Luxembourg, where I knew no one, thinking all my problems would magically be left behind."

"But my drinking and eating just got worse. My friend’s mum was instrumental in me seeking help."

"She did some research and found a therapist in Luxembourg. I duly made an appointment and went to see him. His prescribed course of treatment was for me to look at porn magazines."

"The perverse rationale being, you don’t like how you look (clearly he had no understanding of EDs), men look at porn, men like porn so by my looking at porn I would soon feel better about myself because the types of women that turn men on are not thin women but curvy ones."

"I never went back."

Carolina did not give up on searching for the right treatment when she was given this bizarre advice.

"Eventually I came back to London and I approached the Maudsley Hospital."

"I was sent a ridiculously long questionnaire to fill in and after several months I received a letter informing me that I was not ill enough to get help."

"I found a subsequent therapist at another London hospital for eating disorders. I was ushered into a huge room with white walls and 2 chairs opposite each other but very far apart. I might as well have been talking to a wall. I never went back."

"I was about to go into The Priory for treatment. It was the day before I was due to go in, my bags were packed and I made one final call to my health insurers to triple check they would cover me (I had already had numerous conversations with them)."

"The lady paused, waited, put me on hold and after a few minutes came back to tell me that no, in fact they wouldn’t cover the cost of my treatment because I had missed a monthly payment. In the 20 odd years I had been with them, I missed ONE payment when I had no money at university and now they were telling me, the day before going for treatment, after all those conversations, that they would NOT in fact pay for me. I felt utterly alone and helpless and It made me think I’d failed at having an eating disorder."

"I have a strong faith and have survived a lot. That faith, inner grit and determination combined with The wonderful counsellor I finally found, and went for about 3 years, enabled me to slowly turn my life around."

"It was unbelievably disheartening to be turned away or have to walk away so many times after plucking up the courage to step out and ask for help."

At a time when you lack hope, strength and courage, it takes an awful lot to keep going.

It's important to find methods of self-care that work for you. This helps to eleviate some of the distress that eating disorders often cause. Carolina says that she focuses on living balanced now, which helps her to cope on a bad day.

"I am totally free of EDs now and as much as I can, I make sure I strike the right balance between what I need to do and what I want to do. Exercise really helps my mental health but I know why I do it. Not as a punishment but as a way of clearing my head. It’s important that I listen to my body so if I’ve trained hard and need an extra rest day, I rest. That’s ok. Or if the children’s schedules mean I can’t get my run or workout in, the world doesn’t come to an end."

Carolina wants people to understand two things about eating disorders:

"Mostly, that by the time someone asks for help they really DO need it. The courage it takes for someone to ask for support should never be underestimated. They’ve already hit rock bottom. They ARE ill regardless of how they look physically. Eating Disorders are a mental illness hence the illness is in the mind (by which I do not mean imagined), albeit often manifested in the body. We CANNOT assume that because someone is at normal or near normal weight they are ok and don’t need or qualify for help or are suffering a torment most people couldn’t even imagine."

"They need help. Now."

"And also, that eating disorders aren’t just about food and appearance."

If you need help with an eating disorder, a loved one's eating disorder, or to simply find out more information, visit

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