Autism, eating disorders, and weighing food

autism recovery
Autism, eating disorders, and weighing food

It’s no secret that autistic people with eating disorders tend to get hyper-fixated on numbers.

Some of the ways my autistic trait of number attachment morphed into rigid eating and movement routines:

  • Weighing and measuring food
  • Calorie and macro counting
  • Tracking minutes and reps exercised

There are countless other manifestations of this trait described in my memoir Rainbow Girl, but in this email, I’ll be focusing on weighing food.

More specifically, I’ll be answering the question: Why do autistic people with eating disorders become so obsessed with weighing food?

From a surface-level, purely-eating-disorder lens, weighing food is often considered a form of restriction.

You’re weighing your food in an effort to limit your intake! is the common argument.

And while this definitely can be a tactic to control one’s portions, weighing food (and other forms of number manipulation) can be a lot more nuanced in the context of autism.

For me personally, weighing my food was a way in which I turned something intangible – the abstract and incomprehensibly complex concept of bodily needs – into something tangible.

Weighing food helped me make sense of something that I didn’t feel I could make sense of in any other way.

If you’ve read Rainbow Girl, you know I was forced to smash my food scale on my last day of ED treatment.

Being the people-pleasing, perfect patient I was, I complied. But can you guess what I bought at Target the next day?

I continued to weigh my food all throughout recovery, and even after I was recovered. I felt an incredible amount of shame around this behavior – was a part of me still “disordered”?

It wasn’t until I discovered I’m autistic that I could slowly start to disentangle these presumed “ED behaviors” from autistic traits, that is to say, my inherent character traits.

To quote Rainbow Girl: “My autism discovery gave me the permission slip I needed to recover on my own terms. It allowed me to choose a life free of an eating disorder while simultaneously embracing my neurodiversity.”

As someone who is constantly attempting to turn this complex concept we call life into bits and pieces that I can comprehend, weighing food allowed me to nourish myself in a way that felt graspable.

In other words, it gave me the trust I needed to feed my body in a way that I was too afraid to do previously.

Over time, this self-trust grew more and more.

What went from weighing single carrot sticks πŸ₯• and cutting off bread crusts 🍞 to match the weight on the packaging, turned into being completely okay with eating an unmeasured meal out, turned into no longer needing to attach a tangible entity to what I put into my body.

It’s been a journey for sure, and I’m a lifelong learner.

I’m gaining new insights about myself everyday, and life can feel incredibly unbearable at times.

But I’ve beaten my eating disorder, and for that I am incredibly proud. This is possible for you too. Rainbow Girl teaches you how! Grab your copy HERE 🌈

Want to learn how to navigate ED recovery as an autistic person?

Listen toΒ my FREE TRAINING teaching you how to use your autistic traits to your advantage in ED recovery πŸ’ͺ