Welcome to week 2 of the HealthyGirl.org BookClub featuring on my book, Food: The Good Girl’s Drug! I wanted to talk about something in Chapter 1 again today—but I promise next week we’ll move along to Chapter 2. (For those of you who haven’t had a chance to get a copy you can read most of the first chapter in these excerpts here, here and here. And if you want to get a copy of the book, you can do that here.)
What I want to talk about today is labels: How you describe your relationship with food.
Labels and diagnoses can be helpful—both in getting medical or psychological help, and just in getting clarity in your own head about what’s going on with you. I remember when my first therapist told me when I was 16 years old that what I was doing with food had a name (“compulsive overeating” he called it), I felt immense relief. It was real! It wasn’t in my head! I wasn’t crazy! Well, maybe a little, but at least it was in a way that lots of other people were crazy too, you know?
So, let’s talk about the terms for the weird things we do with food and see which one(s) you relate to most:
Emotional eating: There’s really no official definition, but to me, this means that a person turns to food when upset or bored or when feeling any emotion that shakes them up. This person probably doesn’t have a full-blown eating disorder, but they rely on food often enough to work through stress or anger or other feelings that it’s upsetting.
Stress eating: See above
Loss-of-control eating: Experiencing a feeling of losing control when eating certain foods—you feel compelled to eat, eat, eat and often finish off much larger portions than you meant to. You feel as if you have no control over whether to stop or not.
Eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS): You struggle with obsessive thoughts and behaviors about food and your weight, but don’t have all the symptoms of anorexia or bulimia. Things like purging after eating small amounts of food, or bingeing then severely restricting, chewing and spitting, etc. Basically any disordered behavior that doesn’t neatly fit into one of the other eating disorder definitions.
Compulsive eating/food addiction: Bingeing on large amounts of food and feeling out of control while doing it, feeling compelled to eat by an urge that is almost too strong to fight.
Binge eating disorder: Frequently (at least a couple times a week) bingeing on large amounts of food, and feeling out of control while doing it, feeling disgusted, guilty, and distressed about the behavior afterward. Often paired with depression or anxiety (although not always), and often (although, again, not always) causes weight gain.
I think these labels and terms can be helpful in helping people realize that what they’re going through is real and helping them determine the right next steps to take in recovery. But at the same time, getting too hung up on words can be a distraction: Whether you meet the criteria for an official eating disorder or not, or whether you relate completely to any one of these above terms or all of them, if your overeating and food/weight obsession is causing you pain and problems in your life, you deserve to get better!
Do you believe you have binge eating disorder or EDNOS? Or are you an emotional eater? None of the above? What terms would you use to describe your personal issues with food? I describe mine by saying I am recovered from binge eating disorder. xo…Sunny
See you next Friday for BookClub! Moving on to Chapter 2. (If you have been reading the book and have any suggestions for particular sections or topics you’d like me to discuss here, please leave a comment or email me.)
[photo via briankennedy]