Recently, I came across a great article on one of my favorite blogs, Venus Vision, where the author talked about EDNOS, or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. I linked the article to my Facebook page because I think this is so important for people to know about. I had never heard of EDNOS until I stumbled upon the website, Finding Balance, and when reading it, I felt overwhelmed, but relieved. Finally what I had struggled with had a name. I couldn't hide anymore. It forced me to admit to myself and to others that my behaviors around food and exercise were not normal. They were also dangerous and connected to other issues I had. I felt like a big piece of the puzzle had finally fallen into place and it allowed me to see the big picture of my life, and move forward in correcting negative behaviors.

A few days after I posted the link, I received this email from an acquaintance of mine:

I followed your link recently about EDNOS. As a woman that has always struggled with body image, in spite of being what I consider an otherwise secure and well adjusted individual, it's comforting to know that I'm not alone. By the numbers, I am doing okay..but I obsess over every pound gained or lost, the tightness or looseness of my clothes, the food I put in my body. When vegetarianism wasn't enough, I cut out eggs and dairy. When that didn't seem like enough, I cut out all processed foods. When that didn't seem like enough, I cut out anything fried. To many people around me, this seems unnecessary, but it's the only way I feel in control. When I feel bothered by television or print ads featured “beautiful” women, I restrict myself more.

Over the last 7 years or so I've gained and lost, then lost and lost and lost. I'm the same size I was when I was a teenager, much smaller than I was 5 years ago, and I still worry every moment: this is flabby, that is saggy…I have adolescent anxiety about my body at age 32. But I don't binge and purge, I don't starve myself. Instead, I monitor everything. I count calories, I fret going on vacation and not being able to control my food, I'm compulsive about exercise…all things associated with EDNOS.”

It's tough getting emails like these. On one hand I'm happy I have touched someone's life, and I pray that they can help themselves or seek the help they need. On the other hand, it makes me sad to know that for one email I get, there are at least 10 that read it and can relate, but didn't tell me, and probably hundreds of thousands that are suffering, but don't know what they're suffering from.

According to Edward J. Cumella, PhD, “Somewhere between one-third and one-half of diagnosed eating disorders have EDNOS. The important thing to know about EDNOS is that it is a serious medical and psychological condition. It can be just as deadly as anorexia can be….It is important that people with EDNOS are diagnosed properly and get the treatment they need.”

People with EDNOS come in ALL shapes and sizes. ALL ethnicities, ALL ages and BOTH men and women,(as do all eating disorders). Direct from the Finding Balance website:

Persons struggling with EDNOS can range from ‘less-extreme' behaviors like common dieting, frequent concern about body size, and/or occasional overeating, to more extreme behaviors including frequent purging, obsessive dieting, obsessive exercising and more.

Just because a person doesn't fit the criteria for anorexia or bulimia does not mean they don't have an eating disorder requiring attention. And don't be fooled by appearances; most disordered eaters are normal weight or overweight, not skinny. But they can still struggle as seriously as an anorexic or underweight bulimic.

In fact, many who struggle in the EDNOS category are at risk for the same dangers as those who meet criteria for other disorders, including the risk of heart attacks, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and even death.

REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU FALL ON THE EATING CONTINUUM, if your motivations regarding food and exercise are based on ‘psychic' rather than ‘physical' needs, you need to know that your struggle is important, and worthy of seeking out appropriate medical and/or therapeutic assistance.

I believe EDNOS is much more common than any of us know. Any time we allow diets, our weight, food or exercise run our life, we are robbing ourselves of precious time. Our society has made dieting, weight and obsessing about food a normal, everyday occurrence.

In the past, the reason I never got help for my disordered eating was because I thought my behaviors were normal and not dangerous. They were inconsistent, so I thought I was okay. I would go through long periods of normal eating and exercise, then plunge into disordered eating during times of crisis, stress, or even if I wanted to lose just a few pounds. What I saw in the media, in movies and news stories of what an eating disorder looked like wasn't me, so I thought I was doing well compared to that.

This post is merely informative. If you or someone you know could be suffering from EDNOS or any other eating disorder, there is help and hope.