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Many people with Asperger's syndrome have a problematic relationship with food. Some people lack hunger and satiety, and they eat just out of common sense or at specific times. For others, symptoms of an eating disorder may be the start of an underlying autism spectrum disorder.

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This is some of what emerges in an insightful guest post written by Gustav Koi. He himself has Asperger's Syndrome and he has published several books on this subject. 


Children today have many choices 

Although I do not remember that I was difficult to eat when I was a boy, I think this is due in large part to the time I grew up in. We did not have much to choose from, and we were relatively poor, so we just had to be nice and eat what we got, otherwise we would have to starve.

We were not asked what we wanted to eath; we did not watch commersials; and we were not taken to places where delicious food odors came hovering over us, like it is many places today. There was often bread with cheese and raspberry jam for lunch at school, and we had one specific dinner every day.

Today, parents may ask their children more about what they want to eat.


The lack of hunger

I could go a long time without feeling any kind of hunger before, but it has improved in recent years. One thing, is that I better understand the logic for why you need to eat. Another thing is that if I smell that something is fried, grilled, or similar, then I feel like I want to eat, and this is probably rather normal, I guess. But if things taste great and smell great, then I can eat quite a lot.

Then the problem is that I also do not feel a typical sense of satiety, and I may have difficulty stopping.

On the other hand, you quickly feel full of some food, such as porridge, or something you don't like very much, but meat and sausages are worse.


The importance of inner stress

I can come stressed to a restaurant, and do not feel any hunger, but when the plate comes on the table, and I take the first bite, well, then it's done. If my wife does not eat all her food, then I will consume this also, almost as fast as the other. Yes, I basically eat very fast, many will probably say, and I am unable to really sit quietly and enjoying the food completely. In some situations, where I am completely relaxed, I can have a certain peace while eating. 

So I also think that a lot of inner stress is also contributing to not feeling an urge to eat.

But as I said, I think it has gotten better over the years anyway.


The connection between head and stomach

Otherwise, I have been worried about, and probably still am worried about, eating healthy and nutritious food; especially that which has to do with "food for the brain". I eat pretty much everything that can be called food, but I put more emphasis on what I think is important to me. I take a daily vitamin and mineral pill, and Omega 3. Otherwise, I try to eat seeds such as sunflower seeds and linseeds.

I love chocolate and sweet things too much, so I have to be careful, but I have to have dark chocolate almost every day. Sweet things become more like a craving, a desire in a way.

The lack of the typical feeling of hunger, I think is a disturbance in the connection between head and stomach, that the brain does not give the signals to the stomach that tell me that my body needs some food.


Eating based on common sense - not hunger

So it has made a lot of sense to eat for me. 

I have a good appetite, and I enjoy the food when I eat, but as I said, I have very little hunger when there is no food in front of me. I have sometimes wondered how long I could go without food and water, if I did not in any way stimulate this need.

Maybe when it has been at its worst, I could have starved to death, if I were to follow the feelings. I remember that in my family it was noted about me, that when I was asked if I was hungry, I looked at my clock to see when I last ate. But I have heard that also people without an Asperger's syndrome diagnosis can have it like this.


What do parents say?

Furthermore, I will refer a little from my research regarding food and Asperger's syndrome. A little about what mothers have discovered:


  1. A mother says of her son that he has a very narrow food intake.
  2. Another mother says that his son is very picky. He can try new things, but does not want a knife with a water stain on it.
  3. Other mothers say they have no difficulty with their children and adolescents when it comes to food. 
  4. Another mother mentions that it is important for her boys to be able to distinguish between the different things that are on the plate, the food should preferably not be mixed. It does not help to force them to do anything.
  5. The children of another mother have been preoccupied with food all their lives and it is strange, she says. They have very special things they like and do not like, but none of them have ever had gastrointestinal problems that she experiences that many on the spectrum have.
  6. Another mother mentions that her daughter has very fine tuned taste senses, and does not like anything sour or bitter. Salt and sweet, on the other hand, are great.
  7. Another mother says that as a little girl, her daughter had problems with food. But when she started on school, this problem disappeared.


What do they say about Asperger's syndrome themselves?

What do the diagnosed themselves say about their relationship to food?

Here are several who have a difficult relationship with food.

A girl thinks that she should eat regularly to lose weight, but she has such a poor appetite, so then it is not easy to lose weight in this manner. Some adults are preoccupied with taking supplements so as not to run a deficit. An adult mentions that he stays away from food with cartilage and bones, but is happy to try something new from different cultures.


What do professionals say?

What professionals have experienced about food and Asperger's syndrome:


  1. It is mentioned that children with Asperger's syndrome can react strongly to the consistency, smell and other properties of food that adults do not always understand (adults without a diagnosis). 
  2. Many people have a very narrow repertoir of what they can eat.
  3. Some say they do not feel hungry and find eating uncomfortable. 
  4. Some eat only food that is almost without taste and smell, some eat only food with a soft texture.
  5. Many people do not like that ingredients are mixed together.
  6. Many people have a special relationship with food, but that this changes as you get older. 
  7. Some people with autism traits may have eating disorders or strange eating habits - which gives the suspicion that they are also struggling in other areas.
  8. It must probably just be admitted, that someone has a special relationship with food. Although some people are preoccupied with special foods when they are children and adolescents, I know that when it comes to adults, they may lack the typical feeling of hunger that we have experienced in the past. Lack of hunger and satiety affects many of those with autism.
  9. A woman with autism who seemed reflective and with good self-awareness (I would rather think she could have Asperger's syndrome, but she only mentioned autism herself) said that she lacked just this, that is, feeling hungry and full, and that she ate merely out of common sense. Yes, this was the reason that governed feed intake, she said. She looked healthy and fresh, neither too thin nor thick, so she had probably figured out what and how much to eat.



My conclusion:

There is great variety here. Some can be very picky, while others eat much. Age also comes into play here. Another thing is that some people do not have the feeling of hunger that is normal, and one theory is that maybe it is the brain that controls this, or does not give the stomach the signals it needs. Or it could simply be a stressed brain and stomach.

This article is partly taken from my latest book "Asperger's Landscape".

- Written by Gustav Koi - Private researcher and communicator.

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