Autism is a neurological disorder that causes impaired social interaction, limited verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behavior. It is estimated to affect as many as 25 million people worldwide. While the condition manifests differently in everyone, it’s not uncommon for it to impact a person’s behaviors in a way that makes them susceptible to developing an eating disorder. As we tell the people we work with at our teen eating disorder recovery center, there are certain things people with autism can do to help ensure they make positive progress.
Tackling the Dual Challenge of Autism and an Eating Disorder
People who are on the “autism spectrum” and struggling with an eating disorder should keep these things in mind:
- Foods are not inherently good or bad. People with autism tend to view things as black or white. Consequently, you are inclined to label a particular food as good for you or bad for you. The truth you need to continually remind yourself of is that it’s all about how you approach a particular food. Even very healthy items can be bad for you if eaten in excess. And items without much nutritional value are probably fine to consume in moderation.
- You should avoid counting calories. People with autism can be highly analytical. As a result, you may become very rigid in how you track the calories you consume. This can lead to unhealthy behaviors. Work hard to see how your overall diet (not one particular meal) gets you the amount and kinds of food you need.
- Physical health isn’t all about appearance. It’s easy for a person with autism to see a particular type of body portrayed in the media as “ideal” and get fixated on achieving it. The real measure of healthy eating and a healthy body is how you feel not how you look.
- Create a meal plan. For many people with autism, decision making can be stressful. By taking the time to write down a meal plan in advance, you can avoid situations where you need to eat but can’t reach a decision on what to eat.
Clearing the Hurdles to Eating Disorder Recovery
People with autism can face an especially difficult road when it comes to beating an eating disorder. However, we reassure people at our teen eating disorder recovery center that better nutritional health is attainable. Call us at 916-784-1120 to learn more about our programs.