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We are experiencing technical issues with our emergency phone line. In the event of an emergency, please contact 01443 508676.

We are experiencing technical issues with our emergency phone line. In the event of an emergency, please contact 01443 508676.

Dealing with eating problems

Find out more about how to support a young person with eating problems or eating disorders

We all have a relationship with food and eating, and sometimes it’s easier to be healthier than others. This can also affect the way our bodies look and feel, and the way we feel about ourselves.

If someone isn’t eating a regular balanced diet over a long period of time, it can start to become a problem, which may be medically diagnosed as an eating disorder. Eating disorders are mental health problems because they are normally the result of difficult thoughts and feelings, which lead to harmful behaviours.

Why do some people experience eating problems?

Most eating problems are a response to difficult feelings and experiences, rather than a concentrated desire to change body shape. Focusing on food can be a way of dealing with these feelings and problems.

Anyone can develop eating problems, whatever their age, gender, weight or background. 

How should I respond to a young person who may have eating problems?

  • If you become aware that a child or young person may have eating problems, the most important thing you can do is stay calm and non-judgemental. This can help the young person feel able to speak more openly.
  • Inform their parent or carer, unless it's believed that this contact would put the young person at further risk of harm.
  • Always follow the Yellow Card Code of Conduct for Adults and report your concerns to the UK HQ Safeguarding Team.
  • Adult volunteers are not expected to diagnose young people with an eating problem or any mental health condition. However, it's important to be observant while on camps and nights away to ensure young people’s safety and wellbeing.
  • The best form of support is through the child or young person’s GP. Where it’s appropriate, you can make the young person and parent or carer aware of useful organisations, such as those on this page.
  • Adult volunteers in Scouts must not become the main support for a young person who has eating problems. Specialist support needs to be identified and the UK HQ Safeguarding Team will liaise with parents or carers to identify and signpost to appropriate support.

Just being involved in a supportive environment within Scouts and the positive relationships made there, can make a big difference. Support and understanding can have a very positive effect.

What else do I need to consider?

You may need to make adaptations to activities in Scouts for young people who have eating problems. Consider this when risk assessing activities, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child or young person. Discuss their needs with them and with their parent or carer to make sure meal time arrangements are suitable. This might include adjustments, such as allowing the young person more time to eat or privacy to eat their meals.

Get support or find out more about eating problems


Childline offers information and advice about eating problems for children and young people. You can talk to them by calling 0800 1111.

Read Childline's guidance

Young Minds

Young Minds is a leading UK charity fighting for children and young people's mental health.

Shout Textline offers free, 24/7 text messaging support, wherever you are in the UK. Text SHOUT to 85258 to start chatting to a trained volunteer.

Read Young Minds' guidance

Beat Eating Disorders

Beat Eating Disorders provide information and support for anyone affected by eating disorders or difficulties with food, weight and shape.

Read Beat's guidance


Mind provide advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem in England and Wales.

You can talk to them by calling 0300 123 3393.

Read Mind's guidance