3 MORE "ED Behaviors" that are ACTUALLY Autistic Traits!
A while back, I shared a post called 3 "ED Behaviors" that are ACTUALLY Autistic Traits. In it, I mentioned that I originally came up with over thirteen different autistic traits often mistaken for eating disorder behaviors, but that there was absolutely NO WAY for me to share all of them in a single post! Coincidentally, that popular post was shared on my birthday in November 2022, so I decided to share 3 MORE "ED Behaviors" that are ACTUALLY Autistic Traits on another special day: my three-year Liv Label Free Anniversary!
It's crazy to look back from the middle of my eating disorder ten years ago to three years ago to today and it is truly remarkable how much I've grown in confidence. I always say that one of the most beautiful things in life is how we're always learning, and never is that more the case than the OTHER anniversary we’re celebrating: three years since my autism discovery!
So now is definitely the perfect time to share these 3 MORE “ED Behaviors” that Are ACTUALLY Autistic Traits! Without further ado, let’s get into them!
1. Smoothing out food
The first of these traits is one I assumed I was alone in for a very, very long time because I had never heard it discussed. That was until one of my clients mentioned that she ALSO was dealing with this. Upon asking my other neurodivergent clients if they also resonated with this, guess what? All of them said yes!
That trait is smoothing out of usually “smooth” food. What the heck do I mean by “smooth” food? I’m referring to those which don't have texture; nut butter, Nutella, yogurt, sauces, etc. Let’s say, I'm putting peanut butter on my toast, I can't just take the peanut butter from the jar and leave it all roughed up and messy inside. Oh, no, the jarred peanut butter HAS to be smooth with a satisfying visual appearance.
In treatment, this was seen as an “ED behavior,” because I would be so anal about how I left the nut butter jar or yogurt, spending up to five minutes trying to make sure it looked visually appealing. The staff grumbled, "Is your eating disorder TAKING OVER, Livia?” Telling me I couldn't make the food look a particular way to “soothe my anxiety."
No, this had NOTHING to do with my eating disorder - it just had to look a certain way! A common phenomenon in neurodivergents is there needing to be a “sense” to everything, including satisfying visual sense. In treatment centers, if you cannot recognize a patient has underlying autism and you're declaring unrelated traits a “behavior” the patient must “get rid of,” you're only making it WORSE. The urge only grew MORE compulsive as I tried to get rid of it.
To tell someone their autistic traits are disordered is not only gaslighting them but it's causing them to feel like they need to change themselves and achieve an intangible ideal of “normal,” often WORSENING their anxiety.
2. Adding spices, seasoning, and textures to food
Trait number two is adding spices, seasonings, and textures to food. I've seen this among so many neurodivergent people who DON’T even have eating disorders, yet so often it is mislabeled as an eating disorder behavior! I believe this trait is rooted in the fact that while I’m hypersensitive, I am also HYPOSENSITIVE.
Hypersensitivity means very low tolerance for specific stimuli. For example, I'm very hypersensitive to light or levels of noise. I cannot tolerate very bright light or loud tones. Hyposensitivity, on the other hand, is having a much HIGHER threshold for specific stimuli. In this case, certain flavors, such as being able to eat an entire tablespoon of wasabi despite others needing a fire extinguisher!
I'm SO not a person who can eat wasabi or take a bite out of hot pepper but I LOVE cinnamon. I will dump cinnamon on freakin’ everything! So imagine how flabbergasted I was one day in treatment when I simply wanted to put cinnamon on an apple. Oh no, I could not add CINNAMON of all things, only CINNAMON SUGAR. My desire for plain cinnamon was “most definitely” a fear of sugar and the extra calories.
I was so angry, ESPECIALLY over being accused that I wasn’t being “honest.” In my memoir, Rainbow Girl, I describe how I became conditioned to mask during treatment, understanding what the treatment providers wanted to hear, so I would go into every session and come up with some bullshit lie. They'd be oh so proud of me for being “honest,” and that taught me if it SEEMS I'm being honest, I would get out of there so much faster.
Sensory seeking, wanting certain textures, wanting to add spices, all this CAN be an eating disorder behavior - if you’re NOT autistic!
If you’re having trouble distinguishing your autistic traits, I recommend you read my post, Eating Disorder Behavior or Autistic Trait: How to Tell the Difference.
3. Microwaving food multiple times
My third and final autistic trait is microwaving food multiple times, or making sure that the temperature of the food is “just right.” Yes, I am TOTALLY Goldilocks in this sense! If I eat food served hot, like coffee, oatmeal, stew, soup, and so on, I cannot have it at room temperature or cooled down. Even though I can eat it, I get too focused on the fact that the temperature doesn’t “make sense” to enjoy it. And when you think about making food hot as quickly and efficiently as possible, well, that is the trusty microwave!
That apparatus is one of my kitchen gems - along with my Vitamix blender and my air fryer, of course. But the microwave I literally could not live without. Shoutout to you, microwave!
But using a microwave to ensure a good and comfortable temperature was, again, considered disordered in treatment. Sensing a pattern? Infamously, I attempted to microwave my food TWICE before a meal, causing a whole blow-up with the staff. I asked someone if I could microwave my food, which was allowed once. When I wanted to again, I couldn't find that same staff member, so I asked a different person. Assuming it was my first time microwaving, they gave me the go-ahead. But when that initial staff member saw me, they wanted to know who DARED allow me to microwave a SECOND TIME!
I was so, so confused as to why this was such a huge deal. I was accused of something called “staff splitting,” and they explained this weird ass terminology as “splitting between multiple staff” to allow an eating disorder behavior to creep in. How ridiculous does that term even sound!? What does it have to do with microwaving food!? According to them, needing very hot food is a “strong” eating disorder behavior. People, I’m telling you, while I'm sure they had some wacko reasoning, I couldn’t even begin to explain it to you. It just wasn’t. PERIOD.
I am FULLY recovered from my eating disorder, but I'm STILL autistic. I still have my autistic traits, like needing to microwave food multiple times, having certain textures and spices, and needing to smooth out foods, along with the three from my previous 3 Eating Disorder Behaviors That are Actually an Autistic Traits post.
So if ALL these traits were truly eating disorder behaviors, I'd still be struggling with an eating disorder, would I not? No, this is just how I enjoy consuming things, and isn't that what life is? Enjoying experiences you literally consume? As long as your habit or preference is not prohibiting you from living the happy and fulfilled life you want to live, one aligned with your values, there is NOTHING wrong with it!
My hope is you’ve gained insight into behaviors or traits that you are currently struggling with, permitting you to stop trying to fit a mold of what you or someone else believes recovery to be. Instead, embrace these traits and maybe even use them to your advantage to fully recover from an eating disorder!
And hey, if you need more help with that, I have FREE audiotraining called 3 Steps to Recovery from an Eating Disorder as an Autistic Person! And if you want to go even deeper with me and get that individualized guidance and support to tackle your eating disorder all while embracing your autism, you can always learn more about working with me via my coaching page.
If you have other “eating disorder behaviors” you believe could potentially be autistic traits, or wondering whether a behavior is eating disorder related, please reach out to me! Who knows, I may create content about it just for you <3
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