I have never been a “thin” girl. I always had baby fat and chubby cheeks and I was always overweight. However, my self-esteem was never a problem. I showed up to the first day of kindergarten wearing a red dress and a matching feather boa. That moment would go down in history and my parents still haven’t let me forget it, even 16 years later.
Back when I was 4, I didn’t care about my pudgy belly or chubby legs, but that all changed by the time I was 8. I was still pudgy and continuously bullied by kids at school. The first diet I ever went on was the Special K diet in fourth grade.
That diet only lasted a day or so, but the mindset that I needed to be on some sort of diet has lasted since. In middle school I lost 20 pounds on South Beach diet and gained it all back before high school. Then I joined a sports team and got slimmer, but then gained it all back again after 10th grade.
When I was 15, I starved myself for 5 days straight before a family cruise. When I was 17, I looked forward to going to college because no one was going to be looking over my eating habits and I could starve/binge/workout on my own schedule.
My relationship with food has always been interesting. I definitely had an eating disorder, but I wasn’t Anorexic because I was still overweight. I wasn’t Bulimic, because I wasn’t throwing up. I was bingeing, but not enough to classify it as Binge Eating Disorder. I was nothing and at the same time I was everything. Then, after a very eventful therapy session, I learned I had EDNOS.
This photo is from 2011. This is the photo that flipped the switch in my brain and made me want to lose weight the “unhealthy” way.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, EDNOS, now known as OSFED, is a feeding or eating disorder that causes significant distress or impairment, but does not meet the criteria for another feeding or eating disorder.
To put this into perspective, approximately 40-60% of cases in eating disorder treatment centers fall into the EDNOS category and about 75% of individuals with eating disorders seen at non-specialty community settings had EDNOS.
So if EDNOS is so prominent, why does it fly so low on the radar? Because those suffering do not show the severe symptoms linked with Anorexia or Bulimia. This is why it is so important that we recognize EDNOS as an actual diagnosis to begin with.
There are plenty of misconceptions about eating disorders: “all people with eating disorders are sickly thin,” or “they can choose to have an eating disorder…they should just stop…” First off, no. You cannot choose to have an eating disorder of any caliber. One of the biggest misconceptions about EDNOS is that everyone has some form of it.
EDNOS is different than just feeling like you ate a lot that day, or that you need to run a little faster, or that you should lose a few pounds. EDNOS is like a bug in your head crawling around telling you that you definitely ate too much that day, that you absolutely need to run faster, and that you must lose multiple pounds. It is not just passing thoughts. It is not just a bad day.
Because of my EDNOS, I started self-harming in other ways. I lost friends. I had suicidal thoughts, I was almost sent to a treatment program (a handful of times). My relationship with my family suffered and I had a hard time in school. But worst of all, my relationship with myself went from the confident, feather boa wearing 4-year-old to the self-loathing, baggy clothes wearing college student.
This photo is from 2013. Two years and 60 pounds later, I am at my lowest weight ever (and still wearing baggy clothes). This was taken 3 months before my diagnosis.
My recovery has been a rocky road, and most people going through any sort of recovery will probably tell you something similar. Relapse is a very real thing and it is very scary. I love to go out and brunch with my friends, but on a “bad day” ordering french toast instead of eggs can send me into a panic. I was gluten, dairy, and sugar free for almost 2 years because of my own dietary restrictions. Eating a piece of bread was like pulling a pin on a grenade.
Everyday is still a battle. I want to love myself, but I hate the way I look. I want to eat everything in sight all the time, but I want to starve myself. I want to be at peace with my body and mind, but I have EDNOS.
This is me now in 2016. I don’t know how I feel about this photo of me, but I do know this: the hot dog I’m posing with was damn good.
Any eating disorder is deadly, even one that is “not otherwise specified.” If you or anyone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can find resources and tools to get help here.