Asperger's,Autism Spectrum Disorder

Are You Aware of Eating?

People of all shapes and sizes eat, but it’s not always because we are hungry, but because it makes us feel good.

Right? You know what I’m talking about it.

I have done this a lot. I have had a lot of challenges when it comes to eating and food, some you have already heard about if you read my earlier posts. One thing I have only briefly mentioned before is that my appetite is definitively linked with my sense of well-being. When I feel stressed and frustrated, I cannot eat. Just because it is often about forcing myself to eat, though, it doesn’t mean I haven’t used food to try and fill the giant void I have felt inside most of my life. Because, when I’m sad, it’s a different story. When no one can see me and I’m sad, then I can hardly stop eating – even though I’m not hungry at all.

Food is such an odd thing. We have to eat to survive, but we also enjoy eating simply for the joy of eating in itself. It can get out of hand though, and I know just as well as everyone else how damaging food can be if we over-indulge or don’t eat enough. I’ve struggled with weight, even though most people don’t understand. Sure, I was never very overweight, but I was large enough for it to not only affect my self-image, but to affect the way I lived my life. It made it difficult to buy clothes that fit, and it made it difficult to physically do what I used to be able to do. What made it even worse was this great sense of failure I felt because of my inability to stabilize my weight – it went up and down like a yoyo in the wind.

I ate a lot of food that is bad for you; junk food, sugary drinks, sweets and cakes. I ate it all. I even continued eating things like that when I was told not to because I had to start avoiding lactose. I couldn’t just stop even though I wanted to. The void I felt inside was impossible to fill with anything else. Or, so I thought.

In time, I started focussing so much on my weight and my bad skin that I had to do something about it; I started counting calories and joined a gym. My training was intense, and my food crazy limited. In the end, it didn’t change much. Sure, I lost a lot of weight at first, but then it just stopped. I didn’t lose any more weight no matter what I did and trust me, I fought for it. My skin didn’t clear, and it wasn’t until I changed my diet to my current part-time vegan state, that it did. This is not about that, however, you can still check out my old post on this topic here.

No, this is about something else entirely.

It’s about before I started working out at the gym and before my skin started breaking out in acne. This is about when it all began a quite a few years back.

When I was young, I could eat anything and never gain weight. I got into this strange habit of creating my own safe space at home in bed, eating junk and watching TV series and movies. I didn’t have friends, not really, so I would sit and eat things and feel better. Very soon the eating and feeling better and safe started feeling like the same thing. I began eating more because simply eating made me feel happier.

Of course, this is not the whole story. When I feel really bad, I can’t eat. I can’t even keep it down if I force myself to eat. My body is physically rejecting anything that I eat and the mental side of it is even worse. I don’t even know how to describe just how bad eating feels when I’m like that. I can go days without eating much more than what I can occasionally force down. Most of the time, however, I don’t eat. Then I start to feel fatigued and get more sick.

This means that when I’m stressed and feel bad, I go from eating nothing at all to over-indulging, I swing between the two polar opposites for a long time until I start feeling better. Then my food intake stabilizes until something happens that throws my mental state off balance and the whole thing restarts.

It’s really not a great way to live.

These days I still struggle with eating, but I hardly ever over-indulge anymore. Now, I simply struggle to eat at all. Everyone can have a moment when they over-indulge in themselves a little, but it’s not a regular thing now. I also make sure to eat properly and stay away from junk food, sweets and sugary drinks.

Things changed for me, you know. I realised I was eating to fill a void inside of me and it changed me. Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course, I always knew, but I understood it differently somehow. I noticed because I started eating mindfully. I know, it can sound silly, but I did. I chewed and tasted and tried to feel what I felt when I ate. It’s hardly an easy thing to do. I used to just chew and watch TV, picking up more food or snacks before I’d even finished chewing what was in my mouth.

It felt, and sometimes still feels, like I eat without even thinking or tasting. Like it is a mechanical response to feeling empty. I feel empty and so I fill it with whatever I have available to me, be that tea, coffee, snacks, food or something else. The response, you’ll notice, is not a reaction to hunger. It’s a reaction to feeling empty.

There can be lots of reasons to feel empty. We all know at least one, I should think.

Especially in today’s world, don’t you think?

The simplest way to fill that void inside of us is to eat. It can give us, or at least it could give me, some momentary satisfaction – even a brief burst of happiness.

When I changed my diet, I had to stop eating a lot of the things I loved the most, those things I had become so used to eating when I felt empty. Things like cheeseburgers, liquorice, coffee, cakes and other baked goods. Being part-time vegan meant I had to learn to really read what the ingredients were in the products I considered buying and eating. Not just pre-made food, because honestly, I always preferred cooking my own food, but the ingredients I used to cook with as well. Animal products are used in far more things than I ever thought, and since my mother can’t eat gluten, I pretty much had to make sure I didn’t have gluten in anything too.

The result was that I couldn’t just mindlessly eat to fill the void I felt inside of me. I had to think a lot about what I ate and as a result, I started thinking about how I ate too.

I started noticing the movement of my hand, diving into the bowl of crisps I had allowed myself to eat, before I had even chewed the crisps in my mouth. I started to notice it in others too. I remember the first time I ever realised how disgusting I could be when I just ate and ate without break.

I was on a train and across from me was this young girl. She was not a teenager, but still very young. She was sat with a bag of crunchy sweets while staring down at her smartphone. Her eyes glued to the screen, left hand moving as monotonously as her right, texting perhaps, all the while picking up a sweet and putting it in her mouth one after another. She was still chewing loudly as her hand moved to pick up the next one, and occasionally had to hold the sweet in an acceptable distance from her face briefly, while making room for more sweets in her mouth.

I was horrified staring at the mechanical movements and mindless eating, but it was not because of the girl herself, but because – even though I was not eating at that time – I felt that I was staring into a mirror. She was me, that young girl, eating mindlessly and most certainly not because she was hungry or needed food, but for a reason I could not yet grasp.

After that, I started to make an effort to notice how I felt when I was eating.

It didn’t make a difference at first, but at some point I realised that eating didn’t feel like filling a void – in fact, eating things to fill my inner void, even though it usually came with a brief burst of happiness, was almost always followed by an even greater period of sadness. It was strange, because I had been so blinded by the momentary lift in mood, that I hardly noticed the plummet into sadness that came after…. And worse, if I did, I would solve it by eating more only to fall further into unhappiness. It had become a spiral that I could only break by stopping to eat and dealing with the sadness that came after.

Now, I occasionally, and often more by habit than desire, eat when I feel sad. I’ll bake a cake or make a cheeseburger on the days I eat meat, I might even buy a bag of vegan liquorice during the week, but when I do, I always try to be aware of how I feel while eating it.

It doesn’t give me the same feeling of happiness. I don’t really know what changed, but something did. Maybe it’s because I know I can’t eat myself happy, maybe it’s because I stopped eating sugary things for as long as I did, maybe I’ll find a reason one day that I have not yet considered.

In a way, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that I no longer believe that I can eat myself happy. This might sound a bit strange to many of you, but to me what really matters is that I now eat more mindfully than ever before. Yes, mindful eating. I used to think people were silly when they talked about mindful eating, but honestly, being aware while I eat has made it easier for me to stop over-eating.

And it’s not just over-eating, it’s the opposite too. When I was happy, I would forget to eat and drink. I just would not remember, because eating was something that came to mind only when I was sad. Living like that is far from eating. Going days with hardly eating only to indulge oneself in eating far, far too much is the perfect way to break yourself and your body. Now, I try to eat when I need sustenance and abstain when I know I don’t really want or need food.

Again, I’m so not perfect. I still do things like eat too much or forget to eat, but I am more aware these days. Isn’t that the first step? Being aware of a problem so that you can change it. I think it is. If we don’t know we have a problem or a bad habit, we won’t even get the opportunity to change it. I may not always succeed, but that doesn’t make me give up. I just try again.


Life with Autism Spectrum Disorder is not always easy, but it doesn't have to be impossible. Since I was diagnosed myself, I have been trying to raise autism awareness and share my own experiences and thoughts about life as well as my search for a happy and fulfilling life.

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