A bunch of people on here have been posting really good stuff on food shaming, orthorexia, etc. I haven’t really been actively participating in the discussion but I’ve been reading it and I wanted to say thanks to the people (youneedacat, twocentsormore, josiahd, clatterbane, and others I’m not remembering) who have commented. Because it’s made me do a serious double-take about my eating practices.
Eating consistently has always been a challenge for me. Mainly because of stuff like:
- not remembering food exists when my brain is busy with other things
- not perceiving food when I can’t see it
- not automatically perceiving “ingredients” as “food” even if I have them on hand
- not eating stuff when I do have it because there are too many steps between “see thing” and “eat thing”. (And yes, sometimes microwaving is “too many steps”).
And so on. I’ve known about those issues for a while, though, and have at least made some headway in finding hacks for them.
E.g., I have a ton of alarms set in my phone for things like eating and hydration. I don’t always heed them right away but they at least increase the chances that I will avoid starving or dehydrating on a given day.
And I’ve learned that when I’m at work, I CANNOT rely on microwaveable meals, even when they’re just a burrito or something. If I keep a protein bar on my desk next to my keyboard, though, or in the one drawer I open frequently throughout the day, I will at least generally eat that.
The thing is, though…it has only occurred to me very very recently that sometimes I actually miss opportunities to eat stuff because I’m looking at it as “the wrong stuff”. When in reality, eating that would still be better than eating nothing.
Case in point: I’m working from home today and my breakfast is…a strawberry toaster pastry (generic pop-tart, basically) with whipped cream on top.
There is no way I would have considered this an acceptable breakfast even a month ago. Because I would have been thinking “well, toaster pastries aren’t REAL food, they don’t have enough of this nutrient or that nutrient, and they’re mainly carbohydrate, and not balanced…etc., etc.” And I’ll still concede that they’re not something I’d want to eat every day.
But seriously…if, on some days, they’re the only thing I can conceive of actually “preparing” and consuming when I get up? It makes no sense at all for me to instead eat NOTHING. That’s just warped. And apparently I’ve been maintaining this level of perception-warpage for such a long time it had begin to feel totally normal until I started reading all the orthorexia posts, etc., recently.
Mind you, there are definitely a few situations where it IS better for me to delay eating until I can find or get something other than what is immediately available. I.e., anything that really IS just “pure sugar” or simple carbs. Not because it’s inherently wrong to eat that stuff, but because if I eat that sort of thing on an empty stomach I’m liable to feel like utter crap an hour or two later. Once at my last job, for instance, I had a piece of molasses cake for breakfast. I felt fine at first, but then in the middle of testing a circuit board later that morning I suddenly felt AWFUL (nauseous, clammy, dizzy, etc.). I don’t even remember how I got back to my desk but luckily I had a small packet of trail mix there, and felt 100% better after eating some of that.
So stuff like that has taught me at least that if I DO consume something very sugary, I need to combine it with some level of fat and protein, etc., otherwise (despite not being remotely diabetic) I will crash hard later on and feel dreadful. And THAT is a major reason I put whipped cream on my toaster pastry: even though the ones I get aren’t as sugary as “brand name” Pop-Tarts, I figure it’s not a bad idea to throw in a bit of additional fat/protein (which are present in cream). But it would still be okay if I added the cream solely because I liked it. :P And I feel much much better throughout the morning if I eat something before I have coffee, even if (again), it’s “just” a toaster pastry. Because they are, you know, actually food.
Like, if you’re verbal and more-or-less employable, you’re High Functioning and must therefore be similar to iconic High Functioning Autistics.
Even if there is emphatic and obvious evidence to the contrary.
Randomly, the first “famous”-ish autistic person I remember identifying with was Jessica Park:
…who is a really awesome artist, among other things. I saw a documentary about her (or a documentary that she was in part of, at least) at some point as a kid. Can’t remember how old I was…maybe 11ish? But I didn’t know I was autistic at the time. I didn’t even have a concept of what “autism” was.
So it wasn’t a matter of watching the documentary and thinking “hmm, maybe I have [Some Condition] like this person does”.
Rather, it was a matter of finding the supposedly “weird” things Jessica did as a child perfectly comprehensible (e.g., like drawing rows of different-colored objects described as “flavor tubes”.)
The viewpoint of the documentary seemed to be that this was a sign of something being “wrong” or bizarre. Which confused me, because I did stuff like that all the time. I probably still have childhood drawings somewhere of “objects of similar shape but varying in color and being organized according to some system I made up”.
Other stuff was familiar too, including the way people describing her general demeanor as a child would go “she kept doing [thing], and we were so worried”. Because even without an Official Childhood Diagnosis, I overheard a lot of the same stuff being said about me, and it weirded me the heck out because I couldn’t ever predict what would “worry” people and it seemed like what they worried about was totally arbitrary.
So that was my first experience with recognizing-autistic-similarity between self and someone else. And it’s that sort of thing (combined, of course, with having gotten to know more autistic people as an adult, a couple of whom I’ve ended up having massive amounts of stuff in common with) that compels me to figure that (a) autism is a real thing (as in, it’s a type of brain development that has genuine implications for a person’s experience of existing, not just some meaningless “label”) and (b) the things that ‘make people autistic’ can run at very deep levels, to the point where we can often recognize each other, and ourselves, without knowing the first thing about diagnostic criteria.