When Your Eating Disorder Doesn’t Have a Name

By Kirsten KochheiserMarch 2, 2021

I feel like a mess most mornings, laying in bed, hitting the snooze button for the fifth time in a row, pretending to be somewhere else just for a moment, because I know the second my feet hit the floor, it’s all over. See, I know my mind will take my body hostage, dragging it upstairs and into the kitchen. For some people, the kitchen is a place of joy or maybe even relaxation for those who love to cook. For me, however, the kitchen is resolutely and irrevocably terrifying. 

There are no monsters in my kitchen—I don’t need monsters to live there. One lives in my head and chomps away at my thoughts with its rough teeth and talons. This creature is my eating disorder, and it claws at my brain, screaming that I need to eat everything in sight or I will die from neglecting it. Every morning, I go to war with this monster. It likes to tell me I am not enough, that nobody loves me, that I cannot handle the emotions that arise in my body. It tells me that food will cure me. And most mornings, I choose to believe it because when I do, the monster ceases screaming, my anxiety and stress diminish until they aren’t even blips on my radar. Just a moment, when I am eating, I can breathe. And then the binge is over. Reality comes in like a fist, hitting me powerfully in the stomach.

It’s not just the pain that comes with bingeing, it’s the shame and guilt that follow. It’s my eating disorder cooing in my ear, now you cannot eat to make up for the treachery you have enacted on your body. It’s depression chiming in that maybe I’d be better off dead than deal with this binge-restrict cycle.

Every day I choose to wake up, I also choose to fight an illness that acts like a chameleon, blending in with its background so nobody can see how sick I really am. My eating disorder looks quiet to the outside world; I look like a healthy young woman. But internally, my eating disorder is LOUD, often screaming in my ear. It tells me everything I am not and everything I should be. One moment, it sees coffee as breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the next it believes two pints of ice cream is a snack.

My experience does not fall into the neatly defined categories society has placed on eating disorders. My eating disorder does not stem from negative body image, but from trauma. My eating disorder does not conform to society’s expectations. My eating disorder is messy, inconsistent. Like me, it cannot decide what it wants to be. Because I do not have anorexia, or bulimia, or even binge eating disorder, I have Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) and most of the time, my tongue trips over this term like it’s a prison sentence rather than a diagnosis.

Within, l exist on an internal battlefield—my eating disorder always at war with my mind. But I am learning how to fight it. Through on-going treatment, I have adapted coping skills, like grounding, mindfulness, and how to allow emotions to arise without needing to push them down, out, or away with food. I have accepted that my experience is valid even though it does not fit one of the given molds. I am learning that I am a mess and that is okay. 

There’s a  good chance I will wake up tomorrow and I will still cringe when my feet hit the floor, knowing the monster will try to lure me to the kitchen. But now, I am ready to fight back. I am ready to feel every emotion my body can hold and I am ready to channel that intensity into a ray of light because this is recovery.  Recovery is fighting the demons in my head every day, and winning some of the time.


You are human. Messy and whole, capable of so many good things, regardless of your eating disorder. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at info@twloha.com.

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Comments (11)

  1. Dakota

    I feel inspired with this article, thank you so much for this article
    I am a 14 yo trying to figure out early on if i have eating disorders and not 2nd guessing if i do… I dont want to be wrong and think im lying about who i am and if i do then i will be scared.. I honestly dont know if i have any disorders or if its just me being dramatic.. I think my life is so easy and im just being so dramatic.. Well.. thats what my parents tell me.. “Your just being so lazy” or “Get your goddamn work done”. So i stopped hanging out with my family.. For a long time.. Probably weeks but I have to sit at the table to do work for school since im online so i cant get away from my parents so i dont talk to them… My dad is off doing work until night and my mom is busy with email so its just me being yelled at all day if i got my work done.. I felt so stress that I finally just started hurtinng myself… Each mark made me tear with happiness that I can finally relief myself… I covered my wounds.. I remember being caught once doing it but thats it.. I was screamed at pretty much how i was a disappointment to them… they didnt get help or anything… I think they just want to watch me suffer..
    If you have any advice you can help me with please tell me.. Im sorry for the vent…
    – Dakota Graff

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Dakota,

      Please know how sorry we are to hear that you are dealing with so many heavy situations and moments. We understand how difficult it is to navigate life when those around you are not as supportive or understanding as you need. We hope you will reach out to us, and will remember that you are never truly alone. There is hope and there is help. We would be honored to offer you some encouragement and resources. Would you email us at info@twloha.com?

      You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor for free. Please don’t hesitate to ask for the help you deserve.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
  2. Diane Starkey

    I love you, Kirsten. I know from depression and anxiety – it is a daily fight, but one worth fighting. Reach out if you need an ear … or a hand … or, I don’t know, a spleen … mostly, I love you and am awed by your ferocity in staring this monster down.

    Reply  |  
  3. Tammy

    My eating disorder has been my best friend for 27 years. Ive had theropy, treatment, done all the steps, thought I was in recovery then bam at 35 I was called into my doctors and confronted with the accusation that its still there. They want me to go back to the clinics, have the treatment again. No way Im fine I said. 8 years on Im 43, I acknowledge my anorexia, I understand its effects on me and I accept them. Most people think eating disorders are a teen thing, you grow out of it. But this is probably the worst its ever been because I dont want to give it up. Im so used to it. Its seen me through some very hard times and has always been there. I would never encourage any one to even diet, and Im scared that my children will pick it up from me, even though i hidecit the best i can from them. Only a few people in my family knowbecause i had to tell them as part of my treatment 20 years ago. If anyone else asks why I don’teat or drink I say I have trouble woth my stumach so can only eat certain food once a day. Its not a lie, but its not the truth either. It is an awful, painful and consuming way to live. My body is giving up and breakingvdown, I nearly died twice in my twenties and a near miss in my thirties. My doctor says it is going to kill me but now I just don’t have the strenght or desire to fight it. It has complete control and I give in.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Tammy,

      You are absolutely right – eating disorders do not discriminate in a number of ways, including age. What you’re experiencing is valid, regardless of where you are in your journey. We understand feeling as though you don’t have the strength to fight it. Dealing with an eating disorder can be exhausting. But we hope you know that there is always hope. The fact that you recognize this challenge and what it is, shows there is room for you to heal, to move toward help once again. If you need encouragement, email us at info@twloha.com. If you’d like to see what’s available in terms of professional resources, go to twloha.com/find-help. You deserve to know healing.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
  4. Harriet Balhiser

    That is such a powerful piece. It is written by my granddaughter who is so beautiful, so smart and so sweet. My heart cries for the struggle she is going through, but I know how strong she is. She will survive and flourish. Because she is Kirsten , She is loved.

    Reply  |  
  5. Kirsten

    Hi, Tammy,
    I just wanted to let you know that your experience is completely valid, and I felt the same way–that I did not want to get better, I wanted my ed. I wrote this article in September(ish) and I have not used my ed in about four months, and life is so much better! I just want you to know that it is absolutely worth fighting for recovery and that there are people out there willing to support you! It took me multiple rounds of treatment and a lot of struggling, but I got there, and I know you can too.
    Wishing you the best!
    Kirsten

    Reply  |  
  6. Kirsten Kochheiser

    Hi Dakota,
    Hmm, not sure I’m the best person to be giving advice. But, I do want to say that it sounds like you are going through a lot right now. If you think you might have an eating disorder, you can absolutely seek out a school counselor or another trusted adult and they can have you meet with a therapist to tell you for sure. My sneaking suspicion is that if you think you do, there’s a good chance you do. But this is just a guess. And it’s very brave of you to reach out on this website! Please know that it absolutely gets better and that you are such a strong individual. And no need to apologize for your vent–this is a great place to let some feelings out. I do hope you follow TWLOHA’s reply and reach out to some resources! There are so many out there and you are definitely not alone! If you have any questions for me, please feel free and leave a comment on this thread.
    Kirsten

    Reply  |  
  7. Tammy

    My eating disorder comes also from trauma. I use it as a control. It gets worse the more out of control I feel, some times it feels the only thing I have control over is what I eat. Ive had an ED since I was 16, Ive nearly died a few times. Once of a laxative overdose as my stomach ruptured. I’ve been in clinic’s, therapy, medicated, on liquid diets. Though I’ve acknowledged it and accepted it nothing has worked because its a symptom not a cause. Now I’m 43 and its at one of the worst points in my life. My doctor says it will kill me and I understand this but I still cant let it go. Its been a constant in my life for so long it would literally be like having a labotomy and having half my body amputated. I just wouldn’t be me any more. I feek it truely defines who I am

    Reply  |  
  8. Michaela

    This is me too.
    Coffee for meals one minute and pints of ice cream the next literally. Your valid. I know I am always trying to fill a void and feed something. The voice in my head never stops.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Thank you for sharing, Michaela. We’re glad you found this post and that you hopefully feel seen and a little less alone. You deserve to have a healthy relationship with food and your body, and we hope that you will reach out for help. You can email us at info@twloha.com or use our FIND HELP Tool to locate resources near you at twloha.com/find-help.

      We are sending love your way.

      With Hope,
      TWLOHA

      Reply  |  
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