Mindful Eating? Popular ED Recovery Advice That Does NOT Work For Autistic People

autism recovery
Mindful Eating? Does It Work For Autistic People?

The term “mindful eating” is often used in the context of nourishing your body and comes up a lot as a tool in the eating disorder space. Whereas many people swear by this approach to food, it is not always accessible to neurodivergent individuals in recovery from disordered eating. This post explains why and elaborates on a more neurodiversity-affirming approach.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating can be defined as being fully attentive to your food. This means using all your senses to achieve a state of full presence with your experiences, cravings, and physical cues around eating.

When you Google Search “how to eat mindfully,” you’ll get a laundry list of “tips” including:

  • eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full
  • eating without distractions
  • eating in silence
  • focusing on how food makes you feel

Neurodivergence and the senses

Neurodivergent people experience the world differently from neurotypicals. That is to say, we have a different way of processing sensory stimuli. This doesn’t just apply to the five well-known senses including touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing, but also the three lesser known senses: interoception, proprioception, and the vestibular sense.

In the context of mindful eating…

…a neurotypical person may enjoy being alone with food and immersing themselves in the experience of eating. Their interoceptive awareness clearly communicates hunger and fullness, making the event one of full presence.

For a neurodivergent person, eating without distractions can be overwhelming. In other words, neurodivergent people are more likely to experience sensory overload from all the aspects involving food. Neurodivergent people also tend to lack interoceptive awareness, which makes it difficult to recognize and interpret inner feelings such as hunger and fullness.

What if you also have an eating disorder?

Many neurodivergent people experience feeding and eating difficulties. These can be as “simple” as having strong taste & texture preferences and as “complex” as having full-blown eating disorders.

When you are already hyper-aware of your food intake, the last thing you need to focus on is “chewing slowly” and “putting your fork down between bites”!

Eat with distractions!

In contrast to the “mindful eating” approach, eating with distractions can be a wonderful tool for neurodivergent individuals in ED recovery. Not only does immersing yourself in an external stimulus (such as watching a movie/show, playing a game, listening to an audiobook, etc) lessen the overwhelm of the eating experience, it also calms your nervous system so you can get into rest-and-digest mode.

Want more ways to accommodate your neurodivergence in ED recovery? Listen to my FREE audiotraining 3 Steps to Recovery From An Eating Disorder As An Autistic Person!

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

Listen to my FREE TRAINING teaching you how to use your autistic traits to your advantage in ED recovery 💪