December 20, 2016
The Balancing Act: Eating and Drinking “Enough”
Kate’s Story: Both my boys have been diagnosed autistic and I’m fairly certain my husband and I are too. One issue we all have is that we get so caught up in what we are doing, that all of a sudden it’s 8 o’clock and time for bed. No one had even thought about eating dinner yet.
Your body may not give you the usual signals of thirst and hunger and you may be so obsessed with something else so eating and drinking regularly may be a challenge for you. Once you get started on a meal, your body may not tell you to stop at a reasonable portion. You might eat the whole pizza or turkey instead.
Research is now also revealing that some autistic women may be obsessed with diet and be at a greater risk for eating disorders like anorexia.
Both remembering to eat and drink and maintaining healthy portions can be compounded during the holidays and if you also have an eating disorder, the constant exposure to holiday foods can add to your obsessive tendencies.
Water and food are the fuel for our bodies so when you are hungry or dehydrated (even if your body doesn’t send the signal) you are not able to think and function optimally.
Donovan’s Story: I read an article last year about how staying hydrated helps the body function properly so I started to pay attention to how much I drink and realized I am perpetually dehydrated. So I set a schedule and an alarm to drink water on a regular basis every day and noticed a big improvement in my ability to think straight and less headaches.
Screening Tool for Healthy Eating and Drinking: (you might want to further explore any questions below that you answer “yes” to with your medical professional or therapist). Download a printable checklist here, to print out and share with your doctor or therapist.
- I often lose track of time and realize I have gone for long periods (more that 4 hours) without eating and/or drinking
- Once I start eating, I don’t stop until I have eaten everything on my plate or in the serving dish (binge eating)
- My body does not usually signal that I am thirsty
- My body does not usually signal that I am hungry
- I don’t have a sense of what make a good single portion
- I crave sweets
- I crave carbohydrates
- I crave non-edibles (such as chalk, dirt, paper)
- I worry about eating too much
- I obsess about my body weight
- I do not eat even when I am hungry because I am worried about my weight
- I do not eat when I am hungry because I have a hard time processing my thoughts and knowing what to eat and/or how to access food
- I do not drink when I am thirsty because I have a hard time processing my thoughts and knowing what drink and/or how to access fluids.
- I eat things I don’t want to because I feel pressure from other people to do so
- I eat certain foods when I am upset to help myself feel better
- When I am upset I won’t eat
Being aware is often enough to create a new healthier eating and drinking pattern.
The following tips can help you establish a regular schedule to keep your body properly fueled:
- Set a timer to go off as a reminder to eat and/or drink regularly throughout the day
- Let a trusted friends or family member know of your specific eating and drinking challenges and ask them to help support you
- Make sure you have food and drink items that you enjoy available and easily accessible
- Plan out your menu a week in advance to that you don’t have to improvise from day to day
- If you tend to eat foods that are in front of you even when you shouldn’t avoid whenever possible, going to places where this food will be available (ex, if the office cafeteria is full of cookies and candy during the holidays, bring your own lunch and eat outside or in your office instead of exposing yourself to unnecessary temptation
- If portion sizes are hard for you, use a visual guide by printing out a picture of a serving size for types of food
- If you crave certain kinds of food like sweets or carbohydrates, be sure to fill up on nutritious foods before going to events or locations where cakes, candy and other “junk” food is available
- If you get overwhelmed reading a menu or eating out, eat nutritious food ahead of time or check the menu online and decide what you will have ahead of time
- Share your own tips below!