Friday, February 26, 2010

Building a Bridge from ED to Intuitive Eating, Part 3


ED’s Accomplice… EDNOS

As I began my recovery process I became more aware of certain struggles the members of the, “Through Thick and Thin” community were experiencing. Time and time again I saw similar threads emerge. When I came out to the community and shared the truth about my relapse it sparked a lot of discussion on the forum. The more we honestly shared with each other, the more our similarities became evident. In hearing my story, others heard echoes of themselves. Some were ready to step up to the plate and acknowledge that they too, struggle with eating disorder. Others felt apprehensive about wearing that label as if it were the equivalent of brandishing a scarlet letter. Many who felt fearful of looking into their shadowy areas have since found the courage to strike their own matches and see what has been lurking in the dark all these years. All over the, “Through Thick and Thin” forum we are talking about eating disorder. This act of truth-telling has erased the shame and given more people the courage to own their experience and their paths to recovery.

We have always had members in our community who deal with the clinical eating disorders anorexia and bulimia but in the past, we have seemed like a minority. However, since I began to share information about EDNOS many members are recognizing that eating disorder may be at the root of their food and body image struggles.

EDNOS stands for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. It is a horribly limiting diagnosis which prevents people from getting the help and support they need. Many with EDNOS fall through the cracks and spend their lives constantly battling a feeling that something in their relationship with food and their body is not quite right, but they can’t put their finger on it. All their efforts to find the peace they seek seem to fall to the wayside of their struggle. It can be very painful and confusing for these individuals. EDNOS is a serious issue that requires support. It should not be swept under the rug like some dirty little secret. EDNOS today can quickly spiral into clinical eating disorder tomorrow. It can cost you the heavy price of your life. “Through Thick and Thin” wants to give all those living with EDNOS a voice in our effort to share knowledge during NEDAwareness Week. We know your pain. We understand your struggle. You are not alone. It’s time your stories were heard.

EDNOS is the gray area of eating disorder. It comes in many shades and hues. Vlogger, ‘xxstrawberrykissezxx’ on You Tube described the experience of EDNOS so clearly when she expressed in her video…

“You know you’re EDNOS…

When one day you can’t imagine eating over 1,000 calories and the next you hit 2,000 or more.

When you tell people, (including health professionals) you have an ED and they don’t believe you.

When your weight always stays the same because the starving and the bingeing seem to cancel each other out.

When no one sees your emotional pain because you’re not thin enough to show it.

When you want the definition of anorexia to change so you can fit into something for once.

When your weeks tend to go… purge, fast, purge, fast… binge, binge, binge.

When someone asks you what ED you have you say, ‘All of them… on different days… and not to the extreme.’

When you eat until your stomach hurts and then realize you don’t feel like purging.

When you go to the supermarket and buy all healthy stuff and then go back to buy all the junk food.

When you reward a day of restricting by bingeing.

When you starve all day but eat over 2,000 cals. at night.

When you drink until you vomit because… well, because you want to.

When you feel like you’re anorexic but sure don’t look it!

And when you wish food didn’t exist because it would be so much easier that way.

Anyone can suffer an eating disorder. They strike regardless of age, sex, or race. And whatever the weight of a disordered eater… under, normal, or overweight… they can all suffer the same pain.”

I think this captures the essence of EDNOS better than anything I have ever come across before. A person does not have to have every experience that is described here. Displaying even one of these behaviors should raise cause for concern. If you or someone you know is dealing with these issues, please reach out for support. It can be a scary first step to take but it is a step that will put you back on the road to claiming ownership of your life.

It dawned on me that the vast majority of those who come to the path of intuitive eating deal with some level of disordered eating, with many falling in the EDNOS category. Most don’t turn to the intuitive approach until they have reached complete burnout with diets. Inside, they know that something has to give. They can’t keep going on like this. Having exhausted all the tools of the dieter, intuitive eating becomes a last resort… the final hope. There are no absolutes and occasionally a person stumbles along the intuitive approach before dieting behaviors become deeply entrenched, but in the vast majority of cases there is lengthy chronic dieting history or episodes of eating disorder.

Medical professionals and researchers have noted a distinct link between chronic dieting and the rise of eating disorder. Often, dieting can become a gateway into eating disorder for those with genetic, societal, and emotional vulnerabilities. Even someone without this propensity can get caught up in this vicious cycle because dieting distorts our perceptions about food and our bodies. It is my belief that the vast majority of individuals who turn to intuitive eating deal with some level of eating disorder, varying in degree of severity all the way from meeting clinical criteria for ED to falling in the murky range of EDNOS. This has been played out in full view within the, “Through Thick and Thin” community. The vast majority of individuals attempting to integrate an intuitive approach to food struggle greatly. I have seen a high level of confusion and subsequent relapses into disordered eating behaviors from restricting, over-exercising and occasional purges, to chronic bingeing and compulsive overeating. All too often I have heard the body bashing and self-denigration so common amongst eating disorder sufferers. I have seen patterns of emotional issues, social anxieties, intimacy and relationship struggles that are indicative of the ED mentality.

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