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Second Year English student, Sophie Ward, has founded the University of Bristol’s first Body Positivity society (currently ‘Body Positivity Support Group (Bristol)’ on Facebook) to tackle disordered eating, body dysmorphia and self-esteem issues in Bristol’s student population.

The group has garnered around 200 members in just a few weeks, with Sophie organising meet-ups and projects including an Instagram page and an upcoming week of articles in collaboration with That’s What She Said.

The University of Bristol has had a turbulent year for mental health issues, with five Bristol students understood to have taken their own lives since the start of the academic year. On a national level, an alarmingly high percentage of students are said to be struggling with their mental health: a Guardian investigation published in 2016 found that the number of students seeking counselling at university has risen by 50% in the last five years and the Telegraph published similar claims, finding that 1 in 4 university students suffer from mental health problems. This research suggests that Bristol’s disturbing mental health crisis is part of a bigger picture; it’s emblematic of a nationwide issue concerning the prevalence of mental illness in U.K. universities.

National Institute of Mental Health research findings say anorexia nervosa has a 10% mortality rate, the highest of any mental illness. Sadly, eating disorder sufferers who do not present with the most obvious physical symptom of anorexia – a medically underweight BMI – risk going untreated or even undiagnosed as their cases are dismissed by professionals, an issue explored by Bristol-based Body Positivity blogger Alice Dalrymple (@aliceandpeanutbutter). She was dismissed by multiple GPs whose help she sought for disordered eating and BED (Binge Eating Disorder).


Please remember that a lot of body positivity Instagrammers write things here to you that they need to hear themselves. I could post this without recognising that right now I am struggling but I want to be completely honest. “I haven’t binged in a long time. At my lowest points I binged and restricted daily whereas now it’s happened only once this year, before now. It’s been two days. My head hurts, my mouth is sore, my stomach is sensitive and I need to figure a way out. So here I am, figuring it out whilst also hoping to share some pearls of wisdom on the topic. I’ve done a lot of recovering from binges. I’ve done a lot of waking up and feeling guilty about the night before and vowing to restrict to make up for it. I’ve done a lot of exercising from a place of self-hatred. I’ve done a lot of wondering what is wrong with me and why I don’t have enough willpower to not let this happen. I’ve done a lot of realising that none of these tactics work. You cannot stop yourself binging by hating yourself”. To read more about this and the 7 things I recommend doing post-binge click the link in my bio! Please *follow* the blog and *like* the post as it really helps me get the anti-diet message out there. If you are struggling with binges YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There needs to be a louder conversation because it is an extremely unrepresented eating disorder. I’m here for you and if you need any support please feel free to email me!🌈🌞🌺🌴🌻🐢#antidiet #bingeeating #recovery #selfhelp & art work by the incredible @frances_cannon

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Sophie wrote an article for Her Campus detailing how she became trapped in a cycle of extreme dieting’ after coming to university, an issue that appears common among young people who have just moved away from home, and are grappling with newfound independence and inevitable freshers weight gain. In order to renounce the extent to which ‘diet culture’ and disordered eating are normalised among young people, Sophie has set up the group as a support network for likeminded Bristol students and non-students alike to share their stories and start a platform to invoke change.

Everyone is welcome (regardless of gender, ethnicity, age and ability) and a detailed society manifesto is available on the group’s Facebook site.

What are your thoughts on this new society? Let us know…

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