“They are just a fussy eater.” “They will eat if they are hungry.” “Stop spoiling them.”

If like me, you are a parent of a child with an eating disorder, these are all phrases you will hear time and time again.

The reality is that this kind of talk spreads misinformation and a lack of understanding about eating disorders.

To mark Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2024, I took part in a debate in the Scottish Parliament to share my family’s experience with ARFID - Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.

ARFID is a condition in which people avoid certain types of food, resulting in an overall restrictive intake. This may make it difficult to get the proper nutrition you require because someone with ARFID will have a limited list of ‘safe foods’.

So, when it comes to everyday activities like attending school, family gatherings, and going out to eat, this restrictive behaviour presents a real obstacle.

Unfortunately, people make a quick judgement about someone and label them fussy or a picky eater.

Awareness about ARFID is growing. Beat, the UK’s eating disorders charity, has experienced a sevenfold increase in calls to their helpline about ARFID over the past five years.

I am pleased that the Scottish Government has a special focus on eating disorders. However, ARFID is widely misunderstood and there is no nationwide treatment available.

We must do better to ensure that every level of our health service has an understanding of eating disorders to help the thousands of people across the country who live with one.

So please, think before making comments about others eating habits and take time to find out more about conditions such as ARFID.

Remember, if you need someone to talk to about an eating disorder, call Beat on 0808 801 0432 which is open from 3pm to 8pm, seven days a week, 365 days a year.