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Want Freedom, But Doctor Doesn’t Think I have an Eating Disorder

By January 24, 2013

I went to my doctor this week because I really want to be free of the food issues that I have been struggling with since I was fifteen. I am now 31 and recently had a baby and do not want to pass on my bad habits. At the moment, I work very hard to keep my food intake down often not eating when I am hungry and use exercise if I feel I have eaten too much or if I know I am going to be eating something I consider to be bad. I know what I do is not healthy but I am terrified to stop in case I gain weight. My doctor said that no ED specialists would see me because although I looked underweight (although I am not because I check my weight every day) I wasn’t at a low enough weight to get help and that I do eat so I wasn’t “at that stage.” I asked if it would be possible for me to speak to someone else and she said she would try and find someone. I am not sure what the outcome of that will be yet.

 I would like to be able to tell a couple of close friends and family so that I can get some support but I don’t know how to describe what is wrong with me. I don’t make myself sick and I do eat so I know I do not have Bulimia or Anorexia. The doctor didn’t seem to think I had an ED which makes me think that perhaps there is nothing wrong with what I am doing. I am just another female on a diet. I am not sure what steps to take now. Part of me wants to forget I mentioned it and another part of me is really desperate to be free.

Dear Anonymous:

You have more insight into your ED than your physician does!  What you are struggling with sounds like the category of eating disorder called, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, or EDNOS.  It is the category most ED patients fall into.  I disagree with your MD’s assumption that no ED specialist would see you.  I think most ED specialist would welcome the opportunity to work with you at this point in your recovery.

Many individuals with EDs look “normal” and you can’t tell by looking at their physical appearance that they have an ED.  You definitely need to find someone to work with you who can assist you with the process of your ED recovery.  It sounds as if your MD is implying you are medically stable.  That’s great.  Now you need to find a therapist and a dietitian who can help you address the issues leading to your food restriction and body image concerns.  See “Finding Treatment” for guidance.

You are very right to be concerned about passing these issues on to your child.  Your child witnesses what you do and if you are showing concern about weight, or eating less than what is appropriate, they figure that out, and will adapt the behavior.

I applaud you for persisting even though your MD has not been real helpful!  Most MDs miss the diagnosis and aren’t even aware of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.  Please get help.  It sounds like this is a good time for you to make some positive changes that will help you and your child.  I wish you the best!

Brenda K. Woods, MD, FAAFP