Why do so many autistic people develop eating disorders?

autism recovery
Why Do So Many Autistic People Develop Eating Disorders?

The link between autism and eating disorders is undeniable. Yet there is an incredible lack of understanding for why autistic people are more likely to develop food-related issues. This post explains three autistic traits that can turn into eating disorder behaviors.

1. Obsessive interests

Autistic people tend to view the world in a polarized way. When we’re interested in something, we immerse ourselves in the experience.

But when we’re not interested, well then we just go into shutdown mode!

For me, health and nutrition started out as a special interest. It gave me such a sense of purpose and meaning that it pulled me into the spiral of an eating disorder.

My all-or-nothing thinking (at the time, it’s gotten WAY better now!), saw no other way to eat than through the lens of disorder.

2. Interoceptive difficulties

Interoception, also known as the eighth sense, helps you monitor the inner state of your body.

It helps you understand whether you’re hungry, thirsty, in pain, too hot, too cold, or any other sensation within your body.

Autistic people tend to lack interoceptive awareness. This can lead to difficulty sensing hunger and fullness cues, resulting in altered eating behaviors.

3. Sensory preferences

You’ve likely heard of someone being “hypersensitive,” but are you also familiar with the term hyposensitive?

HYPERsensitivity refers to a heightened response to stimuli that would otherwise be easily tolerated, leading to discomfort or adverse reactions.

HYPOsensitivity, on the other hand, involves a diminished or under-responsive reaction to stimuli, making it difficult to detect or be affected by inputs that would typically elicit a response.

Autistic people tend to have lots of sensitivities around food and the body.

For example, someone may be hypersensitive to the tightness of their clothes. This can make weight gain scary, because they will be accutely aware of the bodily changes occurring.

Putting lots of spices and seasonings on food is an excellent example of hyposensitivity. In this case, the individual needs more than a typical amount of the spice to obtain pleasure from the food. (I dump cinnamon on everything!).

If you want to learn about more factors that influence disordered eating in autistic people, grab a copy of my book Rainbow Girl here!

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 💪