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Coming in February, 2007 (National Eating Disorders Awareness Month)!



February 25, 2008

Thank you, one and all, to everyone who submitted a new name for eating disorders! The diversity of ideas alone shows how complex these problems are – and what a grave disservice it is to pigeonhole them as “food and weight” issues.

Before I list the 5 names that spoke to me as the most right-on, I’d like to share the whole list. I think it reflects the difficulty of coming up with one label that applies to the wide variety of these conditions, especially when we consider factoids such as 1) most people who die of eating disorders do not die directly of starvation or obesity, but suicide; 2) weight is not always an indicator of an eating disorder; and 3) eating disorder behavior and thoughts often have nothing to do with food.

Here then, are all your suggestions, along with comments that you submitted to explain them. THESE are truly “food for thought”:

• Metabolic Manipulation Dis-order.
The initials, MMD, give it a sense of respectability.
• Starved Self Syndrome... SSS
• No-self syndrome
• Empty self syndrome
• Self-awareness escape condition
• TrEATable disorder
• "Undeserving" complex
• Dissociative eating syndrome
Named because we dissociate into food, either
avoiding it or finding it. We dissociate from painful
events and go into food thoughts
• Not-eating disorders
• Nourishing Syndrome
• Sustenance Deprivation
• Sustenance Support
• Feast/Famine Crisis
• Feast or Famine Defense
• Nurturing Reception
• Dissociative syndrome
(the mind and body are dissociated from one another)
• Maladaptive coping syndrome
• Deprivation addiction
• "Drowning to death in a sea or plenty"
It reminds me of a stanza from the poem The Ancient Mariner:
"Water, water everywhere and all the boards did shrink,
Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."
I would change a few words to describe anorexia as:
"Food, food everywhere for one and all to eat,
Food, food everywhere, but none allowed for me."
• Genetic identity syndrome
• “S.E.A.S.” self evaluated anxiety syndrome
I have had an ED for 27 years and it leaves me washed
out like the sea can. Also, we make our own
evaluation of our worthlessness, nobody makes us hold
onto these feeling. In the air of hope, the tides can
always change, perhaps washing IN healing.
• Obsessive-compulsive Food Disorder
How many other disorders do you obsess over just the food. . .and almost nothing else?
• Food Dysmorphic Disorder
since we have a dysmorphia about the amount/type of food we put into our bodies.
• Food-focused Disempowerment Disorders

I shared these suggestions with several friends, both in and out of the eating disorders field. We all agreed that it is near impossible to find a single term to encompass conditions as different as anorexia and bulimia and binge eating disorders. It’s easy to see why they were lumped together around the single symptom of disordered eating, but this label does not even hint at the emotional, chemical, or genetic underpinnings of these conditions. Worse, this label has directly contributed to the trivialization of these illnesses by the general public, much of the medical establishment, and insurance carriers.

As one of you wrote to me:
“I hear young girls through grown women say, ‘I wish I was anorexic - just for a week.’ I remember being an adolescent and being obsessed with eating disorders. I would read everything about them at the library (we did not have the Internet), I would secretly read the ED section in our health books, and would read any magazine that had something about them on the cover. I wanted people to think I didn't eat (I did), and I thought it was symbolic of being good, in control. I wanted to be anorexic. Eventually it grabbed a hold of me and has not let go… Let's stop making it so glamorous.”

I heartily agree! That’s why I launched this contest.
Here, then, are the names that we believe most closely describe the underlying reality and internal experience of all eating disorders, whatever their shape, size, or duration. They do not wildly overlap with other broad conditions such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders, and yet they also do not fasten on abnormal eating as the sole common denominator:

1. Metabolic Manipulation Dis-order (MMD)
2. Starved Self Syndrome (SSS)
3. "Undeserving" complex
4. Deprivation addiction
5. Feast or Famine Defense

Again, thank you to all of you who submitted entries. I’ll be in touch with the winners to send them a copy of Gaining. And feel free to share these alternative names with any of your friends or acquaintances who ask why people with eating disorders don’t just “gain (or lose) a little weight”!

Have a healthy, pro-active, and power-full Eating Disorders Awareness Week!

below for more about Aimee's books & work.

Anthologies of fiction and nonfiction that Aimee has edited or contributed to.
a suspenseful novel of rescue and redemption set in Central Asia at the start of the Cold War, featuring two unforgettable heroines whose fates are irrevocably intertwined.
The unforgettable tale of star-crossed love that spans four decades and two continents.
A young photographer wrestles with her repressed past and identity as an Amerasian in New York's Chinatown. Now back in print after more than a decade, FACE is Aimee's first novel.
Work on Eating Disorders
While there are numerous memoirs available chronicling individual women’s struggles with anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, this is the first book to bring together many people’s stories to create a complete and candid picture of the recovery process. Aimee Liu has skillfully brought together firsthand accounts of recovery to create a realistic roadmap for the journey. This book also includes informational sidebars, written by professionals in the field, on topics including treatment options, choosing the right therapist, the pros and cons of medication, how parents and spouses can help, and much more.
How do anorexia and bulimia impact life AFTER recovery? GAINING is one of the first books about eating disorders to connect the latest scientific insights to the personal truth of life before, during, and especially after anorexia and bulimia.
America's first memoir of anorexia, and one of the earliest books about eating disorders, originally published in 1979
Craft & Criticism
Resources and suggestions for students and fellow writers
Aimee's latest book reviews