Friday, November 16, 2012

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

This week I saw a news article on about EDNOS.  Most likely unfamiliar to the general populations, EDNOS, or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, is what I like to think of as Anorexia Nervosa's cousin. Or perhaps Bulimia's unpopular step-sister.  But EDNOS is actually an eating disorder all its own, and in fact has a higher death rate (at 5.2%) than anorexia and bulimia combined.  Shocking, when you realize that, despite how familiar we all are with self-starvation and the binge-purge disease, so few of us have heard of this hybrid condition.  Consequently, while millions suffer, we fail to respond to what we are not seeing.  Or not understanding.  Or both.

After decades of living with an anorexia/bulimia combo of my own, I feel incredibly sad to think that so many are suffering without the qualified, professional help I was blessed enough to find before my own body completely shut down. Wheras the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) clearly defines and distinguishes between anorexia and bulimia, EDNOS tends to fall into a broad, yet nonspecific category just outside the "eating disorder" umbrella and into a vague sort of "disordered eating" category all its own.  The problems with this are too numerous to count, but one of the most critical that comes to mind is, of course, the cost of healthcare to treat individuals with EDNOS, given that even patients whose anorexia and bulimia diagnoses who meet all the DSM IV criteria must fight for even partial coverage.  Individuals who suffer from EDNOS often maintain above average body weight and appear fully functional, such that their actual medical conditions are labelled as character flaws and the solutions to their very deep and pervasive problems are generally summed up in a one-size-fits-all "eat right and exercise" recommendation by doctors, friends, family, media, society.

So what does this have to do with Lighten Up?  Well, the obvious physical message is pretty clear, I think - in our weight-obsessed, thin-obsessed world, we are more willing to look the other way while people starve and over-exercise themselves to death. And diets have become so ubiquitous that children as young as five are afraid of "getting fat" and regularly refuse to eat "bad" foods.  Yet despite all that, obesity in America is at an all-time high and the financial and emotional cost of obesity related illness continues incapacitate sufferers in ways we still aren't acknowledging on a larger level.  There is a lightening up that needs to happen if we are ever to get to the root causes of what is really going on and begin to treat the myriad people who are needlessly suffering with an actual illness and not a series of poor lifestyle choices or laziness or what is generically referred to as "stress eating."  We need to loosen the boundaries on how we define eating disorders and appeal to health insurance companies to recognize the very real and long-lasting damage that these illnesses cause.  We need to contact our legislators and insist that they pass bills like Senate Bill 481 and H.R. Bill 2677, 2007.  And most of all, we need to lighten up on each other.  And on ourselves.  We need to embrace health, enjoy food, and value our bodies for all they can do, not punish them for all they can not.

What is one thing you can do today to help yourself and your community embrace healthy body image, healthy bodies, healthy lives?  Go do it.

Til next time,
~ Hasky

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