Can You ‘Almost’ Have an Eating Disorder?
I remember myself as a pudgy child – not grossly overweight, but just sort of roly-poly. I started my ‘diet’ in 6th grade, so that puts me at 11ish. Months later I spent my 13th birthday in the hospital after securing an eating disorder diagnosis. In 1972, I was an early adopter of Anorexia Nervosa, and precious little was known about it. They force-fed me with a feeding tube, rehydrated me, and turned me loose three weeks later.
Anorexia turned into Bulimia, which turned back into Anorexia supported by Bulimia and augmented by compulsive exercise (and assorted other tricks) throughout more than 30 years. That’s right: THIRTY YEARS. I sought help a few times, but it wasn’t until 2009 the proverbial shit hit the fan and my ass landed in a ‘residential’ treatment program.
Six fabulous weeks at Happy Hollow….the anti-Christ of the spa experience.
Among thousands of valuable lessons, I learned which of my eating behaviors were considered disordered.
A few of the highlights?
- Dividing foods into good/ and bad categories
- Jumping on every god-forsaken eating trend that came along regardless of its validity
- Bulking up on veggies, so I filled up on those rather than more calorically dense foods
- Throwing a temper tantrum when my salad arrived with the dressing on it, instead of ‘on the freaking side’ AS REQUESTED
- Skipping meals during the day if I had an evening event. How else could I accommodate for the extra calories in the wine?
I remember thinking, Almost every woman I know does some of this stuff….and worse. That’s why I was so intrigued when I heard about Jennifer Thomas, PhD and Jenni Shaefer’s new book, Almost Anorexia, published by Harvard Health Publications. Almost Anorexia became the newest member of Harvard’s Almost Effect series whose tag lines is,
Almost is too close to always.
In other words, the series focuses on identifying illnesses before they turn into full blown diagnostic codes.
Most medical conditions present along a continuum that begins just to the right of “normal” if you were to look at it on a horizontal line. However, usually one doesn’t go from normal to a diagnosable condition right away… –
Instead, you sort of slide into the condition—for instance, ‘eating clean’ starts out harmlessly enough until you:
- Dodge social events that involve food
- Begin to feel superior to others because of your disciplined food choices
- Break down and eat a pretzel. Not a bag of pretzels, mind you. Just ONE pretzel.
- Decide to start a three-day fast to make-up for your egregious pretzel error.
Sound familiar? You might not meet the full diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder, but you’re making fine inroads toward it. In a recent Huff Post Women’s article, Jenni Schafer highlights these statistics,
While only 1 in 200 American adults will develop anorexia nervosa in their lifetime, at least 1 in 20 (1 in 10 teen girls!) will struggle with restricting, bingeing and/or purging that doesn’t meet full diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder.
Watch the book trailer here for more information, and if you’re concerned about yourself (or a loved one) take this free and confidential screening at www.almostanorexic.com.