Across Australia one million people suffer from eating disorders and many don’t seek help for years, while funding for health programs is threadbare.

Twelve-hour stints at the dinner table supervising a loved one’s every bite.

That’s the reality for people like Melbourne mother Belinda Caldwell, whose daughter developed anorexia nervosa at 16.

Ms Caldwell had to give up work to be a full-time carer.

“I slept in the same bed as her for five months to stop her from compulsively exercising and doing star jumps and sit-ups,” she told AAP.

Three years later her daughter is recovering well. But at the worst point her health rapidly declined and she had to have emergency hospital treatment.

The family lives in the federal seat of Melbourne, the top electorate for reported eating disorders among young people between five and 25 years old.

Five of the top 10 anorexia hotspots are in Victoria, two in Queensland and one each in the ACT, NSW and WA.

A Butterfly Foundation forum at Parliament House in Canberra was told one million Australians suffer from eating disorders, and many are wasting away in silence.

Some take up to 15 years to get help because they feel deep shame, and this reduces their chances of recovery.

Mental health expert Patrick McGorry said health funding for eating disorders in Australia was threadbare.

The forum heard one in five sufferers of anorexia commits suicide.

Sydney mother Judy Goldsmith lost her daughter Alana, 23, in 2011.

She urged parents to look out for early warning signs, such as children talking about feeling fat, avoiding family meals, undertaking extreme exercise and returning full school lunch boxes.


* Melbourne, Vic – 3174

* Fraser, ACT – 2911

* Lalor, Vic – 2843

* Holt, Vic – 2606

* Ryan, Qld – 2606

* Gorton, Vic – 2536

* Rankin, Qld – 2432

* Calwell, Vic – 2430

* Swan, WA – 2421

* Sydney, NSW – 2410

(Statistics Deloitte/ABS data)