This tip is about food, meal routines, and weight gain over the holidays. This topic can be sensitive, especially for autistic women who have increased odds for developing eating disorders. As such, I’m giving a trigger warning for this tip.
The holidays are a tough time for food. ASD thrives in routine and structure. Food gets tossed into that, tangled up with schedules and comfort foods/textures. We resist change, and sometimes that change occurs in our bodies as weight gain. Waistlines feel slightly tighter, causing severe sensory pain. Bluntly, we can struggle with the shift from our typical food regimen to an array of sweets, savory platters, restaurants, alcohol toasts, and family holiday dinners.
In an attempt to counteract the change, many autistic people grasp onto the “controllable” things, like calories and exercise. We may begin to count each bite, using our phones to keep track in an attempt to measure days that somehow seem to always end in failure. We may vigorously exercise each night, leading to chronic pain and yet another tear in our daily schedules. We may try to fast throughout the day, saving our food intake for that “big meal,” only to find ourselves irritably waiting throughout each day for the food event. Then, the holidays end. Our exhaustion is twice as compounded by hypoglycemia, tarnished routines, and hyperfocused thoughts about eating habits.
I am not a licensed professional. I can’t pretend to solve these issues for us. I can say that I’ve fallen into this holiday trap before, and I am determined to bury it this year in the only way I know how. I’m using my regimented thinking as a tool this holiday season. My structure looks like this:
1) Stick to my normal eating routines. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. When the holidays are over, the routine will still be there.
2) Once snacks arrive, I eat them. Not as substitutes, but as something extra that I can enjoy without needing to make up for later.
3) If I drink alcohol, I eat too. Forget next-day guilt. I’m putting my health first.
4) When a clothing item doesn’t fit right, I wear it differently or save it for next month when my typical routines naturally return.