Slaying the EDNOS

EEDNOS: a medical acronym that stands for “Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified”

It’s a messy thing. This is the acronym used for people who have eating disorders that aren’t classically classifiable as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. It’s a junk drawer of eating disorders, and it includes purgeless binge eating.

I’ve long suspected I either fell into EDNOS or I was borderline EDNOS. I think most people go on a kitchen rampage once in a while, but I seem to do it regularly. I don’t know how long I’ve been this way; the old adage about boiling a frog seems to apply. It just slowly crept into my life somehow. It hasn’t seemed major enough to deal with, though. Even though I’ve struggled to keep my weight steady my entire life, and I’ve been struggling to get rid of a sudden 80-lb weight gain for the last decade, I’ve never been extremely overweight. And when I do rampage through the kitchen, it is to the tune of 1,000-2,000 calories of damage, and not the sky-high levels I’d see listed with more classic cases of binge eating. And it didn’t seem to happen that often.

And yet, here I am, still struggling to conquer that 80 lbs, even though I eat very well on most days and I like to exercise.

And then, last week, after two days of being unable to stop eating all the food in my apartment, I saw online that you should seek help if you are binge eating at least once per week.



I asked around and Googled around. I finally landed on The Emily Program, which was suggested by my PPO, is affiliated with my alma mater, and has a nice web page. I liked that they also had a research angle, which appealed to the science nerd in me.

I called to set up an appointment for an assessment. I was a little surprised that I wasn’t bothered by this. I’ve seen a lot of stigma happen to others regarding eating disorders and getting therapy in general. It seemed like admitting I had such a flaw embedded in my brain should have been tougher. Perhaps I was just glad that I might finally be able to do something about this thing. Making the phone call was surprisingly easy.

That said, if it had been tougher, I would have been thrilled with the phone service at The Emily Program. The woman who scheduled my first appointment was the sort of person who could put you at ease even if she were giving you instructions to diffuse a time bomb. Hell, even the automated phone tree was disarmingly supportive.

The thing that struck me most, however, were a series of questions I received, like, “Is it okay for us to leave messages on your home phone?” and “Is it okay for us to send mail bearing our logo to your home?” It brought home the fact that this is a tough thing for other people. This is a thing that some people need to keep secret. This is a thing they keep secret from the people they live with.


Over the last ten years, I had made some progress against the 80 lbs, much of which I gained very suddenly in 2004 after a series of health problems.

Much of that progress was due to being in an obesity treatment program, which involved daily doses of phentermine. It was expensive, and it brought on weird sleep problems and truly annoying dry mouth, but it worked. In one year, I went from 235 to 200. That’s not stellar progress for one year, but it was progress, and it was during one of the most horrifyingly stressful times of my life.

The phentermine and weight loss stopped in 2009, when my home was foreclosed. I couldn’t afford the treatment anymore.

The good news is that I kept the weight off. The bad news is that I’ve hovered between 190 and 200 for the last four years. I chipped my way down into the 180s last year, but I bounced back above 190 after a couple of months. It’s been a constant battle just to stay under 200.

A few months ago, I looked into going back on the phentermine program, despite the fact that I kind of dread resorting to the drug again. The irony is that I’m only borderline obese now, and I don’t qualify for the program.

Likewise, I’m afraid that my assessment with the Emily Program will deem me not sick enough for treatment. I’m worried I’m being a hypochondriac. I’m worried I’ll be too unbroken for treatment. I’m worried that I’ve inflated my own binge eating problem, just so that someone will help me make it go away, and that will in turn be the key to returning to a healthy weight.

I know there’s a monster at the door. I’m worried that my monster isn’t big enough for anyone to help.


I do okay against the monster when I have total control over what food enters my apartment. I have challenges at work, because I work at a food company and there is always free food around, but it seems that the biggest problems come when I’m at home with the food. Because the food is always there, and there’s usually nobody watching.

But I don’t buy junk food at the grocery store, because I don’t have the money to waste on it. The problem is when I have other people over, and the snack food gets left around. I rampage the snacks while socializing, and then I rampage the leftovers later.

(I also rampage food at other people’s parties, but at least I’m not trapped with the leftovers.)

I’m not about to stop socializing, because there’s no way an eating disorder is going to separate me from other people. I’ve tried to get people to at least take leftovers with them, but that only sometimes works. I’ve tried throwing the perfectly good food away, but… wow, I can’t.

And then there’s the issue that I’m planning to move in with Fes Works in a few months. In a few months, I will no longer be able to entirely control the food that will be in my living space.

I need help just to deal with that.

Keeping the monster at bay by controlling the food that crosses into my living space is an okay solution, but a bit of a bullshit one. It means I’m not really dealing with the monster. I’m just keeping it outside the door.

The problem still exists when I walk out of my apartment. And soon, I won’t even have my own apartment.


I once read an article about a woman who lost a lot of weight. She said she now kept treats around her house, and that she only took one at a time, because she told herself that the food would still be there tomorrow.

I’ve had times of my life where I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. I’ve lost two homes: one to a freak spring flood, and one to foreclosure. I know for a goddamned fact that the food won’t necessarily be there tomorrow. Often, the only things stopping me from eating everything I can grab are social stigma, the cost of food, or the size of my stomach.

If there is food in the room, I will stare at it. I will stare at it with the numb stare of an addict. Not looking at the food requires my constant attention.


My first stepfather once said, “It costs the same for a tow truck whether your car is partly in the ditch or all the way in the ditch. You might as well go all the way into the ditch.”

I think he meant it in a carpe diem sort of sense, but I’ve applied it to food all these years. On a lot of the bad binge nights, I’ve heard the saying in my head. I then figure I might as well let the binge roll on and fizzle out on its own, and then be better tomorrow.

There’s a certain sanity to that, but the tow truck costs more if it has to visit you every single goddamned week.

Also, my first stepfather was an asshole.


I stepped on the scale this morning. 193, which is down a couple of pounds. The past few weeks have been rough in terms of food control, but after making the phone call last week, I’ve been able to keep the monster at bay.

And then my brain took a bit of a disturbing turn. I found myself hoping that the therapy wouldn’t take away my calorie counting habits and my scale. I hoped that they wouldn’t try to make me happy with the weight I am now, because that would mean I’ve wasted ten years of work. Partly ineffectual work, yes, but it’s work. And it’s what I know.


  1. Enemy Propagandist (@smallerdemon)

    Good luck. It’s tough. But I’ve been around you enough times to know you’re tougher.

  2. This is a hard one. Ginger suffered from the same kind of poorly defined eating disorder and was somewhat involved with the Emily Program too.

    She had learned a poor health habit at a young age, that if she sabotaged her health enough to need hospitalization, she’d be temporarily escape from an abusive situation at home.

    Part of what made our relationship so successful was the fact that I understood her issues with feeling safe, maintaining her health, supporting her independence, treating her like an adult and letting her play like a little kid.

    There had been so many complex and confusing things in her life that had hurt her deeply. She constantly told me how grateful she was to find someone who understood that making her happy was just as complex and confusing…well, not confusing; but certainly far more art than science.

    I guess what I am trying so delicately to say, is that if the parallels I perceive are true, the issues probably don’t start and stop with the relationship with food. That’s just the way that the symptoms express themselves.

    Relationships are important and complex and sometimes we need reminding that we may be viewing them too simplistically. Trading controll and privacy for security and support isn’t the same as trading beans for rice.

    It’s more like trading beans for an invitation to a dinner of curry with a foot rub afterward…

  3. Michael Hutchison

    Hey Melissa,
    Good on you for being upfront about your struggle. My wife and I have been having some backsliding and still have a 100 pound struggle to go. Thanks for sharing this with your friends.

  4. Congratulations on taking the leap. I nodded big time at this: “I know there’s a monster at the door. I’m worried that my monster isn’t big enough for anyone to help.” I know exactly what you mean. I’ve felt that many times.

    If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. I can’t believe I didn’t see this when you posted it last year.

    “And then my brain took a bit of a disturbing turn. I found myself hoping that the therapy wouldn’t take away my calorie counting habits and my scale. I hoped that they wouldn’t try to make me happy with the weight I am now, because that would mean I’ve wasted ten years of work. Partly ineffectual work, yes, but it’s work. And it’s what I know.”

    This. So much this. This is what kept me sick for so long. I didn’t get treatment even though I knew I was literally killing myself because I was terrified that when they took away my rules and my counting and my measuring and my weighing myself, I wouldn’t have anything left. Who was I if not anorexic? And then I realized that I used to BE a person with all sorts of things that had nothing to do with food, eating, starving, weight loss, or the associated numbers. And then I got mad, because I started thinking about all the things anorexia was stealing from me, had stolen from me already. It was a good anger. It helped.

    I’m so glad you’re getting better. I remember how it feels to get your life back from ED. It’s freeing and scary and wonderful all at once. I can tell you it will never be gone but eventually you will start to realize it’s as gone as these things get, and that is a fine fine place to be, my friend.

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