**** This is an early posting of my Weekend ED Series because this weekend, I’m doing nothing, baby. Well actually I’m meeting a church friend tomorrow to pray together and I’ve got some recipes up my sleeve to play with and I have about 18 rolls of NY Times paper to read through front-to-back, but I want to be away, far far away from the blogosphere and anything work-related for at least two days.
Today…is my last day as a summer intern at the L.A. Times. It feels surreal. It feels weird leaving…with a group of other reporters who have just recently been laid off this week. Hell, even my recruiter is leaving (voluntarily)!! This is the talk and gossip of the week; wherever I turn, my editors and staff writers are all whispering about this lay-off/bankrupt business of the news industry. What will become of the L.A. Times if I ever do return?
Another note: Please boycott online “news” places like Huffington Post and Yahoo, at least for my sake! They are stealing jobs from people who deserves to be paid well, or at least fairly. Even if you don’t read the news in print anymore, support industries that pay real reporters and does not steal stories or hire byline-hungry wanna-be bloggers!
Okay that’s all. ****
There’s more to eating disorders than just the “classic” anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder.
But you knew that. Maybe you’re struggling with some kind of issues yourself, but you don’t know how to label it because it doesn’t fit the categories designed for a clear diagnosis. But would it surprise you if I told you that I also had a whole list of weird and totally disordered behaviors in addition to the main ED departments?
Actually, these abnormal eating disorders have their own department now. Since they aren’t neatly anorexic or bulimic, they got lumped together into the Eating Disorder Otherwise Not Specified department, or EDNOS. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as harmful and disordered.
Here are just some that I struggled with for random brief periods during my ED limbo:
There was half a year (or more?) period in which I would chew and then spit out my food. It could be bread. It could be meat. It could be cheese. Obviously, I chewed and swallowed my fruits and vegetables because they have nutrients and are low in calories and are “good” for me. It started out with a panicky spitting of food into my napkin during meals out. And then I realized that I could have both worlds of tasting my food and not eating my cake, too! Well, that developed into a full-fledged spit-and- chew episodes in which I would so waste through tons of food. I’m so ashamed to think of all the food I wasted, just to get a temporary, unsatisfying taste of it.
Oh, and strangely enough, I think it does do really weird stuff to your body. Every time after that, my heart felt like it was palpitating and I felt faint. And it definitely is NOT satisfying at all and by the end of it you’re just hungrier and crankier because you just want to EAT, damn it. There is no cheating when it comes to eating real food. My spit-and-chew phenomenon ended when I finally could stand it no longer and outright binged. So if you’re entertaining the idea of doing this, you’ve been warned.
2) Eating non-foods:
Sometimes I would purposely burn my food to a crisp so I didn’t have to eat it. I cannot decipher the crazy logic behind this…non-logic. I guess it was just kind of sabotaging myself. But at times, I would actually eat the burnt carcinogenic foods, because…they are food and presumably, non-caloric. I also liked to eat the skin and peels of fruits and vegetables, sometimes even throwing out the flesh just for the skin. My parents got outraged whenever they saw me do this, so I did this behind their back—sometimes even picking the peels off from the trash. What the heck was going through my mind at the time?!
3) Eating voluminous foods:
This actually is probably more part of my anorexic tendencies. Everything I ate had to be large in volume—loads and loads of raw vegetables, fruits with skin on so that I get full from the fiber, yadee yadah. I had an obsession with fiber. That was the first thing I checked when I looked at the nutrition label. To be honest I see this in a lot of “healthy living” blogs as well, and…it bothers me. You don’t need a sackful of mushrooms or lettuce for lunch, even if you do plan to eat something “naughty” afterward. This need to fill up with low-caloric foods just means you’re hungry and you should really go eat a sandwich.
Woo! Had I a liberal hand with salt and spices! I craved flavors so much in my food (probably the result of low-carb and low-fat diet) that I could probably shake salt and pepper into my mouth. I could squeeze a bottle of (low-sugar) Heinz ketchup into my mouth, straight up. Everything I ate had a handful of salt and a generous drizzle of sugar-free Smuckers syrup on top, from roasted potatoes to cottage cheese. Again, what I really needed was real food—this was my way of tricking my mind into getting “more” with “less” calories. Trust me, it’ll backfire on you one day.
5) Not sitting:
Even in church. I could not sit (I stood at a separate room). Even in the day when I was reading the bible, or typing on my laptop, or reading a book. I could not sit. Even when I was eating breakfast or lunch. I could not sit.
I even made a desk for myself—my laptop would be placed on top of a stack of books so that I could comfortably type while standing up. I would lick my yogurt while slowly pacing around the room. I would sip my coffee while pacing outside the patio. I would prop my book open on a shelf so that it meets my eye while I stand.
The only time I could stand up was dinnertime. I would finally sit when the clock read 8 p.m., my ankles sore and my legs tingling yet numb. But before then, you would have to chop off my legs for me to sit still for more than 10 minutes.
Similar concept to the voluminous eating. I would have to take a sip of water or Crystal Light or hot tea after every mouthful when I’m eating a meal. That would force me to pause between bites, elongating my mealtime—always a goal I had in mind because I was scared shitless of running out too early of the pre-proportioned food to eat. It also fooled me (not really) to think that I was more satisfied than I really was.
Every single thing that entered my body had to be healthy. But my logic was twisted because non-caloric foods were the exception, though I did try to limit my artificial sweetener consumption because I read that they are not entirely zero-calorie (Oh my God! 5 whole calories for a tiny packet?!).
Again, I’ll be honest: a lot of blogs have warning flags for orthorexic tendencies. A couple squares of dark chocolate is “dessert”? Ordering a salad with no dressing at a nice restaurant? Protein brownies with coconut flour and NuNatural? Sure, I can’t say that is eating disordered, but if that’s all you can eat and you eliminate all forms of refined flours, sugar, “bad” fats, non-organic produce, blah blah blah from your diet and get all apologetic for eating a granola bar with HFCS, that…bothers and worries me.
People like to call it “clean eating.” Pure eating. Whole eating. Lovely, complimentary adjectives to describe their diet. But what is really going on behind the “perfect” diet? Is it stress, anxiety, guilt, cravings and fear? I didn’t think so at the time. I convinced myself I truly “enjoyed” what I was eating. I just don’t crave those processed crap anymore, I would proudly say. But did I even give myself a chance to see if I actually enjoyed other foods too? No. Was I relaxed and casual when I had to dine out away from my fridge of safe foods? No. Did I panic and get mad when someone brought cookies or cake over and offered me some? Hell, yes. Did I feel disgusting and guilty when I ate white rice or white bread? Was my diet extremely limited because of what I would and would not eat? Did I get incredibly uncomfortable when my food routines were disturbed? Yes, yes and yes. If that’s you, then you really need to rethink whether your diet is a wise choice, or a mental bondage.
8) Obsession with other people eating:
There is this one episode in “30 Rock” when a character, Jack, was put on a diet because of high blood pressure: no meat, no alcohol, no sugar. He bought a chunk of steak, made someone eat it in front of him, and intensely stared at their every bite and chew.
I was that person, except in a less creepy way. Or maybe I was just as creepy. Anyway, I was way too observant with what other people ate. Walk in the streets? I wasn’t enjoying the weather or the scenery, but staring at the little girl sucking on a Popsicle. Bible study with my church group? I wasn’t thinking about the message, but staring at the one group member in the corner who was chewing on a beef jerky. And god forbid if anyone close to me went on a diet. That would frustrate and annoy me in a strangely personal way, almost as if I was asked to go on a diet myself. And in a way, I suppose it was like that, because I was losing that vicariousness of eating via others.
9) Occasional purging:
During my ED limbo days, I wasn’t full-out binging and purging anymore. But still occasionally, I would feel the need to purge–even if it was something stupid like a few slices more papaya than I wanted or egg whites that “didn’t sit comfortably” in my stomach. At some point it wasn’t about getting rid of the calories anymore, but how I felt. I didn’t like feeling food in my stomach at a certain hour of the day; night was the only time I let myself feel full and satisfied. I cherished the gnawing emptiness inside me, and I could almost imagine that slow hunger feeding me energy. Very, very messed up is all I can say.
10) Picking and dissecting:
Looking for some self-aggravation? Just observe an eating disordered person eat her/his food. That should pop some blood vessels in you.
My parents never liked to watch me eat, because then they would get mad and they would say something to upset me and the storm will hit the house. I had a nasty habit of picking. Picking at food like a woodpecker pecks at a tree. Because I wouldn’t ever let myself eat a full cookie or dumpling, I would pick at it. Maybe a tiny tear off the edges. I would “peel” bagels and throw away the flesh. Or I would tear apart a bun and just eat the inner parts. I would eat oranges by first peeling the membranes, eating that, then dividing the citrus flesh into segments and then eating them one by one. Garrgh! I’m infuriating myself just thinking about it.
So there it is. Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified, specified. But obviously not in its entirety. There’s so many different disordered behaviors out there that it would fill up an encyclopedia.
Thoughts to Ponder:
1) Did any of the behaviors I listed apply to you?
2) What did I miss out? Or what did I list that you may not agree with? Why?
3) Do you think EDNOS can be just as dangerous as anorexia or bulimia?