I had two major “Ah-ha!” moments in my recovery.1 The first one occurred as I was browsing the psychology section at my local Half-Price bookstore. I was looking for some books for my job as a school psychologist when Almost Anorexic caught my eye. I flipped through it and, although some parts intrigued me, I put it back on the shelf. Then I picked it up again. I thought to myself, “There is no way I’m anorexic. I’m just healthy and lean!” But when I had scanned through the book, I did see myself in some of the personal stories. I did obsesses about my body, food, and exercise. I decided to make the purchase. At the time, I told myself that I didn’t know why I was buying the book. I was not anorexic. Now that I look back, this book called to me for a reason. I think my subconscious knew something that my conscious mind didn’t.
Apprehensively, I started reading the book. I told myself that I would be open-minded about what I read because maybe, just maybe, I have a teeny issue with food. Right off the bat in chapter one, I had to face this head-on. There was a screener called the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) which wouldn’t diagnose anything but would let me know if I needed to speak to a professional. I was totally honest with myself as I took this screener. “I am terrified about being overweight” Always. “Other people think that I’m too thin” Usually. “I am aware of the calorie content of the foods that I eat” Always. When I was done with the screener, I had to calculate my total score and, if it was over 20, I should consider seeking out the help of a professional. As I did the math, my inner Deborah chuckled nervously and said, “There is no way my score will be over 20. Okay, maybe a little, but I certainly don’t have a eating disorder!” My score was a 33. To put it simply, I was stunned. Sure, it wasn’t the maximum score, but it was a lot higher than I had expected.
I let this information sink in for a bit and decided that this was something that I should take seriously. I sat down with my husband a few nights later and confessed what was going on with me. I shared my screener results with him and that it might be best if I go to my general practitioner to see if I needed to look into this further. He didn’t disagree with me. I made the doctor’s appointment and my husband accompanied me when the time came. I optimistically hoped that my doctor would brush off the screener and tell me that I was fine, but I ended up being labeled as “underweight” and told to see a dietitian and a therapist.
Okay. So, I had an eating issue. Did I have an eating disorder though? I guess it depends on who you ask. My dietitian said it wasn’t anorexia while my therapist gave me the diagnosis of Unspecified Eating Disorder for insurance purposes. I hated having a label slapped on me even if it was the very vague “unspecified eating disorder” rather than the harsh “anorexia” label, but there was something amiss and I couldn’t ignore it any longer.
I eventually went through recovery with the help of my dietitian, my therapist, and, of course, my husband. I had naively thought that since everyone diets, then there must be nothing wrong with my behavior. Almost Anorexic2 taught me otherwise. As scary and difficult as it was to go through the book, it also drew me in. As I got further and further into the book, I could see myself reflected in each chapter and knew that I needed to take action in some way. Was it easy? Hell no, but I’m grateful that I stumbled upon this book that one fateful day because I hate to imagine how far I would have traveled down the disordered eating path without it.3
When did you realize you had disordered eating or an eating disorder? Please share in the comment section below.
2As a side note, I want to mention that this book talks about all eating disorders and not just anorexia.
3Epilogue: I retook the EAT-26 screener a little over a year later and I’m happy to report that my total score had dropped all the way down to a 6!
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