Even a mother can have an eating disorder

29 March 2023

Anna Ehn, author and journalist

“I want to provide hope and inspiration on a realistic basis. It is difficult to recover, which is important to know for both the affected and family members,” says Anna Ehn.

Everyone can recover from an eating disorder, but it often takes a long time. Research has shown that one in ten new mothers suffers from the disorder. Being an adult, a pregnant woman or a parent of a young child with an eating disorder is a topic that Anna Ehn will raise awareness of at this year’s Märta Nasvell Day.

How long it takes to recover varies from person to person. It often depends on how long a person has had the disease and whether or not other factors affect it. Anna Ehn, journalist and author, has written many articles and several books on eating disorders.

Anna Ehn
Anna Ehn, author and journalist.
Photo: Eva Lindblad

“I want to improve understanding in various ways and be a communicator of knowledge,” says Anna Ehn. “It is important to reduce the stigma in society and that we dare to talk about eating disorders. There are many myths and beliefs, for example, that eating disorders only affect young people. That is not true. Many adults suffer from the disease as well.”

Anna’s latest book, Vägen mot det friska – att bli fri från ätstörningar (The Path to Health – Getting Free from Eating Disorders), was published last autumn. She has also written the novels Vårfrost (Spring Frost) and Ormen i mig (The Snake in Me), both of which depict life with the disorder. Together with her colleague Leone Milton, she runs Ätstörningspodden (The Eating Disorder Podcast). 

“Having your experience reflected and acknowledged is so incredibly important, both for those affected and their loved ones,” says Anna Ehn. “These are complicated diseases that we need to talk about from different perspectives.”

One’s own recovery paves the way for the recovery of others

Anna Ehn has suffered from eating disorders herself. Today she wants to transform that experience into something meaningful and important. 

“My commitment is based on my own experience,” continues Anna Ehn. “I also get inspired by meetings and conversations with people I meet through work and when I lecture around Sweden. All experiences are a vital source of knowledge. 

“I interviewed David Clinton, Docent at Karolinska Institutet, and he said: ‘Your recovery paves the way for others’. It was a very nice thing to say and has become important to me. What I have experienced can be of benefit to others.”

Research for the future

Many studies are ongoing, including EDGI, the world’s largest study on eating disorders. The aim is to investigate how genes and the environment impact the risk of being affected. 

“A lot is happening in research right now, so I have high hopes for the future,” says Anna Ehn. “Above all, several aspects of eating disorders are highlighted and different diagnoses, both known and unknown, are recognised, which is positive for those affected.”

Eating disorders in pregnancy and infancy 

The Märta Nasvell Day is organised by Uppsala University and Uppsala University Hospital for anyone interested in “Eating disorders, today’s and tomorrow’s care”. Anna Ehn will speak about eating disorders in pregnancy and infancy, a topic she and Leone Milton have written about in the book Mamma med ätstörning (Mother with Eating Disorder). Becoming a parent can be particularly challenging for someone who suffers or has suffered from an eating disorder. For many, pregnancy and the first period of motherhood is a vulnerable time. 

“Research shows that every tenth new mother suffers from an eating disorder,” says Anna Ehn. “I want to make this large but rather hidden group visible so that more people can get help and support. 

“Every day, I meet people who feel so alone in their experience, who feel they are met with a lot of ignorance and that people do not understand them. A theme day like this can really help spread knowledge. It is an interesting programme about, for example, treatment and research, which I am proud to be part of,” concludes Anna Ehn.

Personal about Anna Ehn

Profession: Journalist and author,

Currently a lecturer at the Märta Nasvell Day with the theme "Eating disorders, today's and tomorrow's care", Friday 14 April at the Psychiatry House at Uppsala University Hospital.

Recently published Vägen mot det friska – att bli fri från ätstörningar (The Path to Health – Getting Free from Eating Disorders) (Natur & kultur).

Anna Ehn has written several fiction and non-fiction books on eating disorders, including Vårfrost (Spring Frost) and Ormen i mig (The Snake in Me). Together with Leone Milton, Anna Ehn has written the book Mamma med ätstörning (Mother with Eating Disorder) (Natur & Kultur). They also run Ätstörningspodden (The Eating Disorder Podcast) together. Anna has recently started her own publishing house, Juniperus förlag, to publish literature and spread knowledge about eating disorders.

Family: Husband, three children and the dog Jessie.

What I do in my spare time: Walk the dog, ride horses, read.

Hidden talent: Incredibly good at napping.

My role model: American cross-country skier Jessie Diggins, who recently won the World Cup – and who is open about her former bulimia. That's courageous! Many people in elite sports don't dare to tell.

This drives me: Every conversation, every fate, every story I get to hear. I know how difficult this disease is and how it affects the whole family, and I want to do what I can to help bring relief.

My summer talk in P1 would be about: Eating disorders, eating disorders and eating disorders, this fascinating, complex subject with links to society and to the deepest psychology and genetics. Perhaps I should devote the entire programme to the situation of family members, because it is often very, very difficult.

Martha Nasvell Day

Märta Nasvell Day is organised every year by Uppsala University and Uppsala University Hospital. It is a day that focuses on the challenges of psychiatry, understanding, preventing and treating mental illness, and provides an opportunity for questions and discussion. This year's theme is: Eating disorders, today's and tomorrow's care, on Friday 14 April at the House of Psychiatry at Uppsala University Hospital.

Märta Nasvell Day is dedicated to the nurse and donor Märta Nasvell. She fought all her life for people with mental illness to be treated with the same respect as those suffering from physical illness.