Nutrition Major Struggling with EDNOS

By February 26, 2013

Hi. I’m not really sure how this works; I literally just found your website and I think it’s great what you’re doing to help people. Anyway, I’m a college sophomore and during my freshman year, I started to occasionally indulge in high caloric sweets like cookies, except I would never finish eating said treat because I would spit it out. I didn’t know this was anything bad. Earlier in the year I had gained a few pounds and proceeded to crash diet and ended up losing the weight and more by writing out was I was going to eat the day before. I’ve gained part of the weight back, but now I’m terrified of gaining anything more, even back to my weight before college. Sometimes I eat and swallow the treats I eat, but I become very self critical and I’ll skip a meal because of it. I’m afraid to snack in front of my parents and brother because I think that they’ll say I’m being a “pig,” in a sense. It also doesn’t help that my Mom’s on a diet and she constantly tells me how bad she eats, even though it’s nothing compared to me. So I don’t eat or get so mad that I overindulge in snacks. She always says she “needs to be better this week,” as in eating better, and then I end up feeling like a pig again whenever I eat. She hasn’t told any of her friends she is on a diet, and I end up being her vent. I also have a friend who is currently dieting right now, even though you can see her ribs when we go to the beach or whatever. I’m a nutrition major, so she always asks what’s healthy and eats exactly what and how much I eat, if we’re together. She makes me feel really self-conscious and I don’t go out to eat with her much anymore because I know she’s watching me eat. Problem is, I can’t talk to her about this because she is extremely self-conscious herself and she works out constantly because she thinks she’s getting fat. Instead of working out to get healthy, she works out to monitor the amount of calories she burns. I’m almost positive that she does this for the attention. For example her Mom told her she can only work out once a day, but then she’ll boast later about how she ate a hot dog and worked out later to work it off. I can’t help her when I can’t help myself. I’m trying really hard to stop chewing and spitting, but all I can think about is food because I don’t have anything to do since it’s summer break right now. I end up picking at foods and eating way too much of whatever I’m picking at. I feel like I can’t talk to anyone I know because I’ve heard what they’ve said about my friend and I’m afraid that’ll happen to me. I hope this made sense, I don’t know where else to really go. Thanks for taking the time to read this. – Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Your letter touches me, because I remember well the pressures of being a nutrition major in college while developing preoccupations with food and weight. You are battling a number of forces, but the good news is that you recognize something is wrong and are reaching out for help.

You have waded into the waters of EDNOS. Your eating issues are being intensified by the following:

  • Feeling the pressure of being a “role model” because you are studying nutrition
  • Fear of gaining weight, in part for that reason
  • Fear of eating the “wrong” way in front of others, because you believe you have to eat perfectly
  • Increased knowledge of the caloric value and fat content of foods
  • Self-imposed meal plans
  • Attempts to crash diet
  • Skipping meals to compensate for eating treats
  • Depriving yourself of the full experience of consuming treats
  • Overeating (or not eating) in response to anger and frustration
  • A mother who diets and is very food focused
  • A friend who is a disordered eater
  • Not expressing your true feelings and concerns to your mother and friend

First, you have fallen into the “perfection trap” when it comes to your eating. Instead of setting up rigid (and unrealistic) guidelines for yourself regarding how you think you should eat, strive to be a good role model of balanced, healthful living. Here at FINDINGbalance, we recommend choosing healthy foods 90 percent of the time, allowing some flexibility to enjoy moderate amounts of “fun” foods. When you stop depriving yourself of favorite foods, your cravings and obsessions will decrease. Peruse “Eat Well, Live Well” articles at this site for ideas of how to begin.

Also, you have developed some “all-or-nothing” or “black-and-white” thinking. You are viewing your eating and small weight shifts in extremes. If you eat a snack or swallow a treat you feel like a “pig” and think you will gain lots of weight. You either abstain from certain foods or overindulge, with nothing in between. At home, you view your options for entertainment as eating versus nothing else to do. If you are not perfect, you are a failure. Start to identify those extremes in your thinking and replace the lies with the truth. Read “False Beliefs: Restrictive Eating” and “False Beliefs: Overeating” for examples. Also, view videos under “Mental and Emotional Health.”

There are a couple of books I recommend that you read: Life Inside the “Thin” Cage by Constance Rhodes (about EDNOS) and Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole.

Chewing and Spitting can become an addictive behavior. Read an explanation of it on the website. It is important that you seek support before it gets worse. There is no shame in getting help and this is a burden you should not have to carry alone. There is someone out there who you can trust and confide in. Not surprisingly, many people in the field of nutrition have experienced some form of disordered eating. When you return to college, definitely follow up at your counseling and support center to continue what you start at home.

Lastly, it sounds like this summer will be especially challenging for you. To avoid becoming self-focused and isolated—which usually happens with disordered eating—try volunteering, participating in church activities, and/or experimenting with a new hobby. You need to limit time at your house and with your friend. (You may want to refer your mother and friend to articles and videos on our site.)

Although it is a confusing, unsettling time for you right now, God can use it for good some day. As you overcome your eating issues, you will develop insights and understanding that will make you an excellent, effective professional in the future. Take steps today to move towards freedom.