Most people are familiar with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia is characterized by restriction of food intake, low weight and fear of food. Bulimia is characterized by binge eating and then a frantic effort to get rid of the food that was eaten either by purging, laxative use or excessive exercise. Another type of eating disorder is known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) and personally I feel that this disorder is not so well known.
What is “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified”?
A person struggling with EDNOS combines symptoms of anorexia and bulimia, but does not meet all of the medical criteria for either disease and therefore is classified as having an EDNOS. Through my story, I hope you will be able to understand this type of eating disorder more.
It started when I was 15. I had a doctor’s appointment and I had to be weighed and the doctor said that according to my BMI (Body Mass Index) at 68kg I was a bit overweight. I had never really considered myself to be overweight so I was very surprised to hear this. I became more aware of how my body looked and I started comparing myself to other girls at school and feeling fat. I decided to go on a diet. Looking back, my idea of a ‘diet’ was already not healthy back then. First, I started by skipping breakfast and not eating my lunch at school. This gave me a false sense of control, especially when the numbers started going down on the scale. But, it wasn’t enough. I started making plans and setting goal weights to hit a certain weight in as short an amount of time as possible. I became completely terrified of food. The scale started to control my life. As soon as I opened my eyes in the morning, I used to run straight to the scale. After I ate something I used to weigh myself to check if I gained anything. After using the toilet I would weigh myself as well. People used to congratulate me for losing weight but no one had any idea how it was affecting me psychologically as well as physically. I used to be always cold, no matter how many clothes I put on, I would always be shivering. I remember my mum putting the dinner plate in front of me and I would look at it and just cry, like she was torturing me. I remember going to the scale after my mum forced me to eat and I would see the number on the scale obviously increase slightly because of the food intake and I would cry and scream at my mother. ‘’See what you did? You made me gain weight and it’s your fault!’’.
Soon, I started hiding food in a paper bag and would pretend that I had eaten it. The obsession had completely taken over my life. Still I was 52kg, which for my height was considered to be a healthy weight. What I was doing was anything but healthy. I would get moments of insane hunger after starving myself and I would wake up during the night (when everyone is asleep so no one sees) and I would eat and eat and then I would go to the bathroom and throw everything up. The following days, I would go back to starving myself until the hunger kicks in. This is what my life had become. Wake up. Weigh myself. Look in the mirror and hate my body. Think about losing weight all day. Avoid food all day. Binge. Purge. Repeat.
The teachers at school started noticing my rapid weight loss and once I fainted during assembly and they found out I wasn’t eating anything at school. My parents came to the school to talk with the school counselor and I was terrified. I was terrified that they were going to make me gain weight. The purging became more frequent at this time because I started to eat more in order to convince my parents that I was okay. I started exercising excessively during night time and this continued on during sixth form. Until I ended up in the ITU due to having large gallstones trapped near my liver caused by rapid weight loss, and then this caused my pancreas to become inflamed. Malnutrition and purging due to my eating disorder caused me severe acute pancreatitis.
Why did I write all this? I wrote this to show that anyone who tries to glorify eating disorders and make it seem like it’s something great to starve yourself is WRONG. Almost dying in that hospital was a big wake up call for me. Instead of enjoying my teenage years, I was wasting them obsessing over food and losing weight and not appreciating the life I was given. I was too busy hating myself and my body to appreciate the good things in life. After leaving the hospital, I decided to choose recovery. It was the best decision I ever made. Losing weight is not worth all that pain, struggle and self-hate. As long as you’re healthy, it doesn’t matter what number shows on the scale or what size your clothes are. It was a long process towards learning to love my body. It didn’t just happen overnight. There were slip-ups and I still get negative thoughts now and then but I swore to myself that I won’t let my life be controlled by this disorder anymore and I managed with the help of my family, friends and my psychotherapist.
This is why I am writing this, to show people who might be struggling, that:
- Things CAN AND DO get better.
- Weight, scales, numbers aren’t everything in life.
- Look for help.
- Talk to your loved ones, they care.
- Unfollow negative and toxic social media accounts, follow inspiring body-positivity accounts instead.
- Purge the negativity from your life.
- Fall in love with loving yourself.
- Do not work hard to destroy yourself, work hard to be HEALTHY.
- Appreciate this life, we only have it once. Don’t spend it hating yourself.