TW: Eating disorders
Today’s post is a guest post from Prickly Pineapples: A health, wellness, vegan, and recovery site with the goal to call out diet culture BS.
Having an eating disorder that’s not anorexia is isolating because you’re on your own.
That’s not to say that people with bulimia and anorexia have it easier, because they don’t. The criteria for anorexia and/or bulimia diagnosis is very high and largely based on weight. When it comes to getting treatment it’s a case of “come back when you’re dying” for everyone.
However, the most common eating disorder is largely unknown.
Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED) which was previously known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) is the diagnosis people get when they don’t have all the symptoms to be diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Sometimes people may experience overwhelming anorexia traits, or bulimic traits or a combination of them all. Everyone who experiences an eating disorder goes through it and behaves differently.
These four eating disorders aren’t even the only ones. What’s right under all our noses on social media is orthorexia.
Orthorexia is characterised by an obsession with a “healthy diet”. This isn’t just about having a healthy lifestyle. People who are orthorexic peruse this to the point of it ruining and interfering with their lives. They experience the same kind of anxiety suffers of anorexia and other eating disorders do, except it’s not so much about eating less, but more about only eating “pure” or “clean” foods. If it sounds harmless – it’s not.
Eating disorders are the most fatal mental illness.
Living with OSDED
I had to recover alone.
I’ve had some great therapists and counsellors over the years. However, not a single one had a clue how to treat someone with an eating disorder.
I’ve straight up been told they don’t know what to do.
To just eat.
That all teenage girls “try” starving themselves at some point, so don’t worry.
That I’m “too pretty” to feel bad about myself or to have an eating disorder.
While they might have been good at dealing with mild to moderate mental illness, they were out of their depth with me. However, I wasn’t “sick enough” for hospitalisation; so I had to take money out of my own pocket for therapy.
There wasn’t a local or available therapist who specialised in eating disorders, hence why recovery was something I had to do alone.
It’s not about being thin
At their core, eating disorders aren’t necessarily about being thin.
Eating disorders are often triggered by feeling a lack of control in one’s life, or pre-existing mental illness.
Although I never had a healthy relationship with food as a kid and teenager, it manifested into a full-fledged eating disorder during a time in my life where I didn’t feel secure or have control over my immediate future. So it became a coping mechanism. I couldn’t control my life or my future, but I could control what I ate, and how much I exercised.
Going to bed calorie deficient soothed my anxiety. Being able to feel a solid jawline and my ribs soothed it.
Some people’s coping mechanism is to drink, or do drugs, or smoke. Mine was to self-destruct.
Yet, I hated being thin. But there’s an odd paradox in that no amount of weight I lost felt like enough. You have a goal weight or body image in mind but when and if you get there; you’ve a new goal. Nothing is ever good enough to satisfy the eating disorder.
I don’t feel like myself when I’ve been very thin. I feel more at home in my body when I’m a little curvy but the prospect of recovering and gaining weight was still a big no no for a while.
How I recovered
Although I never found someone who specialised in eating disorder treatment, I still went to therapy and counselling. I learned that rather than talking about eating disorder behaviours and experiences, if I addressed the root cause, recovery would be easier.
I relapsed because my life fell apart again. But since then, things have happened in my life that previously would have triggered a relapse, but it didn’t.
Learning about nutrition has also been very healing. It helped disprove my eating disorder voice making me feel like all food did was make me fat. Food is fuel. We need an average of 2,000 calories for a reason because a good chunk of those calories goes to maintaining basic bodily functions. It’s why you might find your period stops if you have an eating disorder, your body stops giving energy to non-essential functions because it literally doesn’t have enough energy to go round. All the “fear foods” like fats and carbs aren’t big bad foods, carbs are actually our bodies main source of energy!
It’s not easy. In the beginning, when proper meals were too much, it was a case of just drinking Complan often enough to physically rebuild my strength, and then easing myself back into proper meals and snacks.
Recovery is the hardest thing in the world, but it’s absolutely worth it. When your eating disorder tells you you’ll be happier when you’re thinner – it’s lying.
You can read more posts like this, and find great vegan recipes and interviews with other creators on the Prickly Pineapples blog.