National Eating Disorders Association
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I used to go to birthday parties just for the cake. No, really, I did. I always found the social aspects of birthday parties to be incredibly difficult. Too many people, who was I supposed to talk to, would the birthday girl or birthday boy like the gift, and the food. Oh, the food. What was I supposed to do? 

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Many Autistic people have openly shared their struggles with body image and eating disorders (take a look at our Autism Acceptance Month #NEDAchat recap for reference), but their unique issues around food still tend to be misunderstood or outright dismissed by professionals. 

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As a teenager, I’d often be in a group with other girls when the subject of our bodies would come up. My friends traded anecdotes on which aspects of their body they loved least, and what was wrong with them. Because I didn’t chime in, most people assumed I had fantastic self-confidence.

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In the beginning of April, I participated in a NEDA chat about eating disorders, body image issues, and how they affect me as an autistic woman. After the chat, I had so many thoughts swirling around in my brain. The questions and answers brought forth memories long forgotten. 

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People often say that an eating disorder is about control and not about weight. They say it is about anxiety, not body image. I don’t know what my eating disorder is about. It’s about so many things and nothing at the same time. I do not have anorexia or bulimia, I have autism. 

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While autistic self-advocates have created significant change, stigma and misinformation around autism and eating disorders still exist. With that in mind, the National Eating Disorders Association hosted an Autism Acceptance Month #NEDAchat, which explored common misconceptions about autism, barriers to treatment for eating disorders, and how those in the field can best serve those in the autistic community. 

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When I was younger, I knew I was different from other people. I never understood why, and this led me to try to amend myself to “fit in.” I mirrored appropriate reactions and behaviors and ended up trying to “look like” everybody else. I changed my appearance in ways involving weight and style, becoming obsessed to a level where I made myself sick, counted calories extensively, and exhibited restrictive behaviors. 

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A recurring theme of this season’s fashion shows and reviews has been the inclusion of “plus-size” models like Ashley Graham and Candice Huffine, who walked Michael Kors and Prabal Gurung respectively. Inasmuch as it signifies a positive change within the fashion industry, I think we need to think deeper about it before getting too excited. 

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There are a variety of myths surrounding eating disorders—myths that can make people unaware of the seriousness of the disease or even prevent people from reaching out for help.

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Many people don’t realize that living as a disabled person can be especially difficult, not because of the disability itself, but because abled individuals discriminate against us. Although I often like to forget I have cerebral palsy and live life like any other person, abled people have tried to place limitations on me due to my disability.

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