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Unseen: The Rise of Eating Disorders in China

From diet pills to vomit rooms, the Food Chain investigates the rise of eating disorders in China. Is this an inevitable consequence of economic development? And if so, why are eating disorders still all too often seen as a rich white woman’s problem?

In the first of two episodes to explore the rising prevalence of eating disorders outside of the western world, Emily Thomas speaks to women with the illness in China and Hong Kong, who explain how hard it is to access support for binge-eating disorder, bulimia and anorexia, because of attitudes to food and weight, taboos around mental health, and a lack of treatment options. They describe the pressure on women to be ‘small’ and ‘diminutive’, but still take part in the country’s deeply entrenched eating culture.

A psychiatrist working in China’s only closed ward for eating disorders blames an abundance of food in the country, parental attitudes and the competitiveness of Chinese society. She also warns of the dangers of the uncontrolled diet pill industry. From there we delve into the sinister world of ‘vomit bars’ with a social media analyst.

We also explore the link between the rise of eating disorders and economic development. Does there need to be an abundance of food in a society before these problems develop?

See the video from BCC news here.