Disordered Eating vs. Eating Disorders
Well this is an epic topic. I will try to succinctly relay my thoughts, and will probably continue to come back and discuss this topic in the future.
(By the way, I’m going to try to start blogging more on actual topics. You can hold me to that, but don’t hold your breath… just in case. No liabilities please.)
Now before I go all semantic-obsessed on you, I wanted to say that this past weekend I was in Minneapolis, MN for the NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) Conference. IT WAS AMAZING. I had such a great time and met so many wonderful people. I will be writing an overview of it, probably this weekend. But in the mean time, check it:
Me, Kendra Sebelius (www.facebook.com/AVoiceinRecovery), Shannon Cutts (www.key-to-life.com), Brie Widaman (www.facebook.com/RevolutionOfRealWomen), Rachael Stern (twistedbarbiesrevolution.blogspot.com), and Julie Neumann (julieneumann.com)
Alright. Disordered Eating vs. Eating Disorders. Specifically Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. There is a distinct difference between disordered eating and EDNOS. Disordered eating is the way of life that I consider to have consumed (no pun intended) western society. Disordered eating is chronic dieting. Disordered eating is listening to outside sources for what is “right” and “wrong” to eat and not your body. Disordered eating is judging food, body size, body weight, and eating habits with a heavy dose of morality.
Is it important to shed light on disordered eating, bring it out into the open and say, “hey something isn’t right here!”? Definitely. This goes hand in hand with all the ad busting and self-esteem-raising work people are doing. All very important for creating a healthier society overall.
But is it more important to research and do studies on disordered eating rather than EDNOS? No. That’s just my opinion, but it’s a strong opinion. EDNOS, while vague since it is truly a mash-up of the three other clearly defined eating disorders, is still an eating disorder. It is a mental illness. I have had an eating disorder for 10 years. If I had sought help in any of those years up until this past year when I finally did, I most likely would have been diagnosed with EDNOS. I restricted, I binged, I used (and abused) diet pills, I exercised compulsively, I water fasted for several days at a time, I was afraid of food, and I obsessed over food, I had body image distortion, and I believed I was morbidly obese and therefore unlovable. Was I underweight? No, I was never even “thin”. So while I was fasting, restricting, afraid of foods, had incredibly weird eating rituals, and there were times (coincided with manic episodes) of compulsive exercise I would never have qualified as anorexic. I wouldn’t have qualified as bulimic either because I was always afraid of purging since I’ve had experiences of throwing up (due to a stomach virus) and food/liquid/acid has come out my nose. I’m sure that’s not uncommon, but as a kid I really didn’t want to experience that more often than I had to. What I didn’t know at the time was there are other symptoms that would qualify one as bulimic, so who knows maybe I would have… but I doubt I was consistent enough.
If I had sought help, I would not have gotten it. Okay I can’t say that for certain, but it would have been incredibly hard to get the care that I needed. Insurance companies don’t cover EDNOS. And really, it’s only very recently that the psych community has really embraced this…. obviously the criteria in the DSM-IV are there for a reason. It was believed that for one to be suffering from an eating disorder those were the signs. Now of course, it is widely accepted that one suffers long before they reach the point of emaciation, amenorrhea, or bingeing and purging multiple times a day. Sub-clinical, yes. Still serious enough for potential death? Yes. I didn’t seek help because I didn’t think I deserved it. I wanted so badly to be anorexic… but that’s a whole other story.
Now, Brie (of Revolution of Real Women!) brought up the point that it’s important to raise awareness of disordered eating because it leads to eating disorders. While a point to be taken seriously, it blurs the lines between correlation and causation. Disordered eating habits and chronic dieting do not cause or always lead into eating disorders. If they do, that person has a genetic predisposition to develop this particular mental illness. Therefore, even in a society with less focus on dieting, weighing, and small clothing sizes, people are still going to have eating disorders.
There is so much that we (as a community) still don’t know and are working to figure out about the science behind mental illness as well as the effects media and society have on those predisposed to eating disorders, that the argument is somewhat futile. I think the ultimate goal here is to raise awareness in a broad sense about our societies insane hypocrisies, raise awareness about eating disorders INCLUDING EDNOS in the medical community, and continue to have dialogue about these topics. Actually, the ULTIMATE goal is for everybody to love their body (mind and soul). 🙂