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More on Eating Disorders: Addressing the Misconception

By , Summerfield, NC
Bulimia? Anorexia? Binge eating disorder? EDNOS?
Q: What's the difference and what do they look like?

I talk briefly about my own history with eating disorders on my About Me page, but I have been meaning to write more on this topic.

So many people think they have eating disorders all figured out (i.e. those afflicted are skeletal and make themselves barf or eat absolutely nothing). Really, eating disorders are so much more than that.

I was just made aware (through a post on Happy Food, Healthy Life) that this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. So what better a time to speak up on this topic?

Most experts would claim that to meet criteria for a restrictive eating disorder, one must be unable to remain at a healthy weight for their height.
I beg to differ.
I know that these criteria are established by people who have years more education than I do, but something about that limited definition isn't quite right.

My view is that disordered eating is much more mental than it is physical.
I have been at what doctors would call a healthy weight for years now- since I finished treatment.
However, I still have an eating disorder.

Yes, I said what you think I said. I struggled with disordered eating once and, until some magic cure is invented, I will continue to struggle. It is a recurring part of my life.

This is not to say that I am currently practicing behaviors of an anoretic. (I'm not.)
I work hard to keep my weight stable; my days of post-lunch bathroom visits and 1000- calories a day are things of my past.

But I think that the mental aspects of disordered eating are something we can never overcome.
("We" referring to myself and others who suffer from eating disorders.)
The only thing I can control today is whether I choose to act on my thoughts and let them effect me.
An addict is always an addict, and I consider the same to be true for myself.

My obsession with my weight has died down, but it can arise again if I let it. I am still- and will always be- "in recovery", so to speak.

I would also like to note that eating disorders can be seen in all sorts of people. What used to be seen as a "rich, white young women's" disease has now crossed racial, gender, and socio-economic boundaries, and is continuing to do so.
Not to mention the fact that not everyone with an eating disorder is underweight!

I have met many people who would not fit the stereotype for an eating disorder, yet feel the same self-loathing that I once did. The same preoccupation with food and weight; the same overwhelming urge to control and manipulate the body.

When I first accepted that I had a problem, I was afraid to tell people. I didn't want to hear the dreaded "well, you don't look like someone who has an eating disorder".
I know that people don't mean any harm when they say this, but it still pisses me off.

It is a close-minded approach to this disease, and it can also be a trigger for many sufferers. I know that, for me, this response made me desire to lose even more weight. So I could "fit the role".

Now, back to my initial question:
A: To keep it short and sweet, anorexia is characterized by self-starvation/food restriction and constantly feeling "fat", even if you are far from it. Bulimics are people who practice binge eating and then purging through vomiting, laxative use, or over-exercising. BED (binge eating disorder) involves compulsively eating large amounts of food (often in secret and to the point of uncomfortability). And EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified) refers to subjects who exhibit certain symptoms of a disorder but don't meet full criteria.
*Read more at the National Eating Disorder Information Centre

Eating disorders can affect anyone, and I would like to keep raising awareness.
If you think you or someone you know has an eating disorder, don't be afraid to get help!

Daily meditation helps me to stay mindful of what may arise and it deepens the connection I feel to my own body. It has helped me to appreciate my health and love myself.

I know that meditation is not for everyone; one type of treatment does not fit all!
Whether it be a support group, art therapy, inpatient, or something else- find what will work for you.



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