Posted by: Aspie Noodle | May 3, 2013

How to change the texture of food for “picky eaters”.

When I was a kid I was a very bad eater. I had a wide range of food that I disliked so much I’d throw it back up before I could even swallow the bites, the instant gag reflex just would not allow it.

What were the problem foods?

I hated a lot of things, cooked or mashed potatoes, lentils, green beans, brusselsprouts, overcooked pasta, zucchini, eggplant, certain kinds of processed meat, asparagus, and the list goes on and on. I was skinny as a stick, and, as was custom back in those days, I was often made to sit at the table in front of a plate of half-chewed, cold food for what felt like ages to my kid self. Many tears were shed, and none of the food became any more attractive to me.

Needless to say, I had a messed up relationship with food. There were few things I did like eating, and when I was a teenager who cooked her own lunch after school, I pretty much ate fried ramen with cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise whenever I could.

I used to tell my parents that I really hated the “floury” texture of beans and cooked potatoes, I guess it’s the starchy stuff, really, but it did not sink in until I started to read about Asperger’s that this was an actual thing I was sensitive to. I wasn’t a difficult eater on purpose. I mean, my dad is a wonderful cook and he always made a lot of effort to get me to try and like things.

One thing he started doing in later years, was to mix all the veggies I refused to eat into cream soup. I guess my parents celebrated a small victory every time I’d eat the soup, and you know, it’s great, cause that way I at least started to eat a larger variety.

When I moved out, though, I quickly reverted back to fried ramen with ketchup, or simple sandwiches without substance or any green other than a sliced pickle.

It took me quite a few years to actually start cooking proper food, and I started to develop acceptable ways of preparing the foods I used to hate.

What did I change?

It’s all about how food is prepared, how long (or if) it is cooked, and what you combine it with. Now I’m very sure that everyone who is sensitive to textures, flavours and smells of foods has different preferences, so it’s all about trying things out, to find your own comfort zone (or that of your loved one whom you cook for).

For me, first of all, I still do not eat potatoes often, but when I do, I prefer to briefly cook them, and then put them in veggie oven dishes. That way they are not so floury, but more firm. Cutting smaller pieces also helps, little cubes, or thin slices instead of two-inch pieces. That way it’s less of a big floury chunk you have to chew on.

For beans, legumes and lentils the trick for me is to not overcook them, and most recently, I stopped cooking them altogether. My new favourite are soaked mungbeans. You know, those little green ones. You can soak them in a glass jar of water for eight or so hours and then just add them to salads, steamed rice, or burritos and the likes. They are nice and firm, but not hard to chew. They are just right.

Another thing that is a lifesaver for me is my rice cooker. It was always quite difficult for me to get rice just right in a normal pot, but my rice cooker makes it the exact same way every single time. I looooove it. Especially whole grain sushi rice, a big staple of my diet now, is absolutely perfect the way it turns out. Not squishy or floury, but exactly the right kind of chewy!

I cut off the stems from broccoli and then make very, very small slices of the stems (about fingernail size), so I don’t have to chew on a big chunk of stem which used to absolutely get the gag reflex going when I was a kid. When I prepare zucchini or cucumber, I remove the squishy inside bits and only use the harder parts of the vegetable. (This is actually how most chefs do it anyway).

I still don’t like corn, but that is a combination of flavour, texture and smell (smell, mostly). Then again, I’ve never had proper corn from the cob, and I do like polenta made from corn flour as well as corn bread (without actual pieces of corn, that is. :P) I stay away from popcorn, but that is another texture thing… those hard bits… ugh. Then again, popcorn is very, very unhealthy, so no big loss there. ūüôā

In general, I figured out that I prefer smaller amounts of many different things mixed together (like rice with other grains, small chopped veggies) over larger amounts of just one or two foods, but keep in mind that some people are the exact opposite and cannot handle when different foods mix (or even touch). I think the key is to take the person seriously (if you try to cook for someone else), and try to find acceptable alternatives together.

In case of a mix-no-foods person, maybe consider serving food not on one large plate, but instead do it the Japanese way and serve all small bits in separate little bowls.

Experiment with the way you cut fruits and veggies. Someone who cannot handle eating whole strawberries may have less of an issue when you thinly slice them, or cube them, or blend them into a smoothie. Sometimes removing the skin will already help, other times investing in a food processor that cuts finer, or more interesting shapes is worthwhile too.

Slow-juicing is another way to eliminate texture issues for very difficult eaters, and it still gives, maybe not the fibre, but the vitamins and minerals of greens and fruits. Combine vegetables with juicy, sweet fruit like apples, grapes or oranges.

The same goes for making soup. If soup is no problem, texture-wise, then it’s a great way to get someone to eat their veggies, their starches, their carbs.

It may sound like a lot of work, but eating healthy is pretty much the best way to prevent illness, and, as I wrote in another post before, it helps with some of my sensory issues. By figuring out acceptable ways to prepare food we can wean off unhealthy “feel-good” security foods, and I know that a lot of us have those foods, and they are barely ever of the healthy kind.

I still LOOOOOOVE to eat noodles. Ramen, Soba, Udon, Mie, Spaghetti… LOOOVE IT. I just don’t put cheese on top anymore, or use ketchup or mayonnaise. Now I finely chop veggies, make my own pesto, or use a lemon and soy sauce mix.

Fear of food.

Maybe the approach should be about eliminating fear of food. I was seriously terrified of certain foods when I was a kid. I would cry just from the smell coming from the kitchen. It was a trauma. The worst thing any parent can do when it comes to food is to force children to eat something they do not want.

Yes, figuring out the best way to prepare a large variety of food for a picky eater will take some work, but it’s definitely worth it. Just imagine no more tears at the dinner table. Picture yourself with your child (or other loved one with texture issues) cooking together in the kitchen. Maybe even put emphasis on buying the food together, and, if you have an Aspie child that loves to learn about biology, even go into details about what minerals and vitamins are in a food, how it’s grown, where it comes from, etc.

He/she may start to info-dump while cutting that tomato, but it will definitely build a healthy relationship with food that can only be beneficial for the rest of their lives. ūüôā

It has been almost three months since I gave up all animal products and it has been the same amount of time since I’ve had my last meltdown.

What do I eat these days?

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A plant-based, whole food way of eating is basically a vegan way of eating, minus the refined plant products. So, no processed junk food, and keeping everything as close to its natural state as possible.

I’m not eating 100% raw, I still cook some rice, quinoa and pasta, or fry some tofu and seitan every now and then, but at least half of my food intake is raw fruits and vegetables. I have become a bit of a banana fiend, my daily max so far being nine. Yes, nine bananas, spread over a day and mixed with other foods. And that’s nothing compared to true fruitarians out there who can eat nothing but up to seventy bananas in a day.

But I’m really quite moderate. I’m exploring, experimenting. I’m eating foods I’ve never even heard of before. The variety of foods I eat has probably gone up ten-fold. I cook every meal myself, and I know exactly what goes in it. ¬†I can still have all my favourite foods: noodles! sushi! Just a healthier variety. ūüôā

I’m staying away from typical vegan junk food like fries, cookies and vegan cakes, vegan ice cream or any other processed meat/dairy replacement food. This means I don’t eat refined sugar or refined flour.

My one vice: raw chocolate (low-temperature processed organic vegan cocoa) every now and then. After all, I’m still a woman. ūüėõ

How do I feel?

I feel fantastic. Absolutely incredibly fantastic. I’m not exaggerating. The change is absolutely amazing.

My BMI went from almost 24 down below 21, I have more energy than in years (I feel a bit like a springy teenager, actually), my skin is soft and clear, my sinuses are no longer swollen, the sclera of my eyes has become incredibly white and my head is no longer foggy.

I feel recovered, rebooted… reborn.

Of course the path wasn’t exactly smooth. I went cold-turkey, and I switched my food around 100% from one day to the next. Some pretty uncomfortable detoxing happened, which is especially due to the huge amount of dairy I consumed prior to becoming vegan.

But I made it, and I still felt better during the first few weeks than I had felt the months before making the switch.

Asperger’s symptoms.

Now first off, let me tell you, healthy food is no “cure”, because Asperger’s is not a disease. I am the way I am, and I am still the same person I was three months ago.

That said, a lot of the things I used to really struggle with, due to who I am, were very much amplified by my bad diet. Especially a high animal-protein diet, such as the low-carb diet I did in January.

Now I know that animal protein is bad. BAAAAD. Especially for us, people with sensitive bodies.

See, animal protein makes our body more acidic. Our blood turns sour. So our body takes a lot of energy and resources to combat that. It needs phosphorus to neutralise the¬†acidity, and where does it find it? In our bones. You see, our bones are phosphorus and calcium joined together. The phosphorus is needed to neutralise our blood… and the calcium. Well. We pee it out. (yes, this is why the countries with highest dairy consumption have highest number of¬†osteoporosis. For more info read The China Study)

That is only one of the many processes our body goes through to balance out the damage we do with animal products. Another one is the effort it takes to push rotting animal carcasses through our herbivore digestive system. Our intestines are far too long to be able to get rid of the meat we eat and cannot digest before it starts to rot.

All this means: a lot of extra stress on our body, on our immune system and on our senses.

A plant-based diet is, in contrast, very gentle to our system, because that is what our body is meant to use as fuel. It’s our natural, genetically destined diet.

The impact this lifestyle change has had on my Asperger’s symptoms was a real eye-opener.

I am so much more calm. I’m very relaxed. I don’t get worked up so easily anymore. I have a grip on panic situations, and I can handle larger crowds without freaking out. My skin is so much smoother that fabrics and textures irritate me less.

I mean, I still have all those things, but so, so much less.

I will always remain more…¬†susceptible¬†to certain things than an average person. But now, by no longer putting my system under¬†unnecessary¬†stress, I have a much larger tolerance range.

I’m sure that part of this change must also be¬†accredited¬†to my discovery of shiatsu and meridian stretching. I can seriously¬†recommend¬†shiatsu massages to anyone on the autism spectrum. I know the idea to have a stranger touch you is very scary, and it took me a while to have the courage and make an appointment. Luckily I found a person I instantly trusted, and it’s most definitely worth the effort to try and find someone you are¬†comfortable¬†with. Shiatsu¬†alleviates¬†a lot of the stress we feel on a daily basis and it returns balance to our body and mind.

What’s next?

That is the big question.

I’m dealing with A LOT of¬†resistance¬†to this lifestyle change in my¬†immediate¬†social circle. People can see I’m healthier and happier and yet they still criticise and attack me for the way I now eat. I’m trying to push through that, but it’s quite a struggle. Thankfully, I can handle it just fine, whereas before, I would have probably had several meltdowns due to dealing with all this hostility from people who were supposed to love me unconditionally.

I’m nearing a crossroads, and I think if I slow down enough, I may just have enough time to consider and make the right choices.

As to Asperger’s… I want to peel that label off me. It will not change who I am, but I have recently learned that giving things a name is restrictive, and keeps you from processing, growing and learning.

I won’t change the blog title or my handle, and I think a blog like this is one of the few places where such a label is warranted and actually useful. But in my daily life I am removing myself from such a simple designation, because I’m not “somebody who has Asperger’s Syndrome”. I’m just somebody. I’m me.

Posted by: Aspie Noodle | March 23, 2013

Changes.

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So, I started this blog at the very beginning of my journey of improving myself. At that point I had no direction, no clear expectations, not an idea of how to even walk.

I was only going to write about my Asperger’s Syndrome, but since then I have learned a lot. It actually feels like since then (and it was only a month or two ago) I have learned more than I have learned in all of my adult life combined.

I’m thinking about transitioning this blog, and incorporating these changes I’m going through. I will still write about Asperger’s since it’s a part of me, even if I aim to move away from that specific label. Any label, really, because I feel like labels restrict me. They are roadblocks on my path to feeling better about myself.

Around the same time I started this blog I discovered for myself the Taoist teachings of the Five Elements, and of Yin and Yang. It really transformed my view of a lot of things. Granted, the whole transition into a better way of life for me will take a long time, and I have the feeling I will often take one step back for every two steps I progress. Old habits die hard, as they say. It’s the truth. But I want to move away from the conditioning that made me but a shadow of who I really am.

So, since about a month now I’m eating a fully vegan diet, and I meditate, I practice Do-in as often as I can, I have Shiatsu treatments and I’m learning more and more about what foods to eat at what times. I’m not doing a hardcore detox yet, I’m not sure I’d benefit from hard and fast as opposed to slow and mild. Maybe once I’m more in-tune with my body I will know what to do.

I’ve had some blood tests done¬†parallel¬†to meridian treatments and both revealed that I am borderline¬†anaemic due to iron absorption problems. That does not help with my Asperger symptoms, obviously, so my main focus will be my spleen and restoring my blood quality.

I’m also thinking a lot about what Asperger’s and Autism really are. How much of the symptoms¬†are caused by the wrong foods? I do believe we, autistic persons, simply are a certain way, but maybe the things we struggle with are being amplified by a bad/misinformed diet, and toxins in our organs and blood.

So. Yes.

I want to continue with this blog. Once I can form some more coherent thoughts about my experiences I want to make more posts again. Right now I’m pretty much cleansing and learning. Eliminating harmful things from my life, and introducing good things instead.

All in all, looking back at those two months, I can say with certainty that a lot of my Aspie Symptoms have lessened. This is not about suppressing who I am. I am not talking about a cure or something silly like that. It’s more along the lines of finding peace and harmony within myself, so that the things that make me different will easier translate into strengths than into struggles.

Posted by: Aspie Noodle | March 3, 2013

A journey to a healthier life.

Two weeks ago I made a post about my discovery of the Blood-type diet, and since then a lot has changed in my life.

I have made a complete switch of the foods I eat, and although I’m not fully adhering to every single food assigned to my blood type (I’m still eating bananas! :P), I have fully eliminated all animal products and wheat from the things I eat.

And I feel wonderful.

I know it’s only two weeks down the line, and it will probably take another two weeks for my body to fully adjust, but this way of eating has completely changed how I feel, body, mind and soul.

Now, granted it’s not just the food that has changed, I’ve also started Do-in (meridian stretching and more) and a lot of my autism symptoms have been reduced.

I’m a lot more… well… zen.

As I’ve written before in my Martial Arts post, I’ve always been drawn to certain ideals in budŇć. Specifically the zen aspect, the meditation, the inner¬†peace. Well… Do-in is like that, and then without the violence of martial arts. There are a lot of similarities with yoga and the roots of the two, I think, go back¬†millennia¬†and meet at some point. It basically makes me listen to, and understand my own body and its reaction to the outside world.

After an hour of Do-in I feel incredibly calm. I feel at peace, and I can handle a LOT more of the things that trigger negative reactions, such as crowds, noise, lights. All those unpleasant things.

I’m still working on the “thoughts thing”, on controlling the amount of stuff swirling around in my brain, and proper meditation is one of those points I really need to learn from the beginning. But the physical aspect, the unwanted reception and internalisation of too many outside stimuli, and the subsequent blockages and anxiety due to overloading, has been severely lessened since I switched around my diet and started Do-in.

So, apparently I now eat vegan. (I do not see myself as ‘A Vegan’. Partly due to the fact that until two weeks ago I ate meat, and also because one of the other things I am working on is shedding labels, but that deserves its own¬†blogpost, because it’s also very much about the autism.)

My diet now basically consists of high protein seeds (such as quinoa) and grains (oatmeal made from whole oats, home-cut and soaked in water overnight!), pretty much all green vegetables and also other vegetables with low starch levels, and¬†occasional¬†lentils and beans (chick peas and red lentils are some of my faves!). A lot of fruit (mostly berries, but also pineapple, banana, pears, apples), seed oils (flax, sesame), olive oil and tofu and other soy products. I love eating spelt bread with a big layer of wasabi hummus, carrot slices and pumpkin seeds. ūüôā

I mostly focus on leaving out animal products and eating only wheat-free products, but of course I also try to stay away from processed sugar and any kind of additive. I cook fresh,¬†only¬†buy certified organic foods, and drink mostly green tea and water. ūüôā Sometimes I will put some maple syrup in my oatmeal, but that’s pretty much it.

I don’t go hungry, I don’t skip any meals, and after eating I feel¬†fulfilled¬†and happy. No cravings, or nervous¬†binging.

Since switching I’ve lost even more weight, but that is to be expected with such a drastic reduction of animal fats. I’ve spoken to my G.P. and I know what to watch out for, weight-wise, but there is nothing wrong with the foods I eat or my weight for now. The most important thing is to eat a large variety, which is why I am not limiting myself as fully as recommended in the blood-type diet book.

I have no idea whether the great way I feel now has anything to do with eating adequate for my blood type, or simply eating adequate for me. I’ve always felt really bad about eating meat, and I’ve been considering going vegetarian for a few months now. The¬†exclusion¬†of dairy and wheat isn’t that much of a step away from there.

All in all, I cannot say that this is the way to eat for someone on the spectrum. The only thing that makes sense to me, and that I’d want to pass on to everyone, whether it is someone with autism or not, is that we need to listen to our bodies. Reducing stress, especially in this busy life we lead, should be one of our biggest goals. The foods we eat have a huge influence on our energy. I’m only slowly understanding to what extend.

What we put inside our bodies is the fuel. If our body cannot metabolise it, or it even reacts badly to certain substances, we should eliminate those things and focus on that which makes us feel better.

Posted by: Aspie Noodle | February 27, 2013

I am autistic and I have too much emphathy.

I understand that every human is different, and also that every autistic person is different. We have certain traits in common, of course. Those really obvious ones. But our autism is not the only thing that shapes and defines us.

Maybe there are autistic individuals out there who “lack empathy”, or whose brains simply aren’t wired to process the information necessary to internalise what someone else is feeling.

But for me, I have too much empathy. I’m like a sponge when it comes to other people’s emotions, or rather… their energy. I can feel the vibes they exude down to my very bones. And it’s overwhelming and distracting. It hurts, but it can also feel wonderful, depending on what it is they are feeling.

Reading facial expressions, and interpreting them properly has always been very hard for me. Just like understanding tone of voice and sarcasm. My logical and analytical mind could never really match what society was telling me people meant and the actual vibes I got from someone. It took me a long time to figure out that the “problem” was that I apparently see past all the superficial, the acting, the mask (often not even realising it is there, like with sarcasm and joking) and I feel that what is truly there, behind it all.

And I don’t mean to say that I can read minds or anything like that. Not at all. Most of the time I don’t even understand what it is exactly that is coming off a person. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe. Sometimes it’s just not right. They pretend to be happy, but they are not. And somehow I can feel that something is skewed, even if I don’t understand the how and the why.

I’m one of those people who will cry reading books, watching anything on TV, or just hearing a story about something emotional. This is because I always think about everything, mostly focusing on how something makes people feel. One of the worst things for me is the sound of women crying over their dead children on the evening news. Now, I know some of it may be dramatised or staged even, mainstream news is never objective, but even just the idea of a mother losing a child to violence, it stabs me right in the heart. That kind of pain is absolutely horrible.

I’m not sure if this is a learned concept, or whether this is inherited. But putting myself in someone else’s shoes (now there’s a fun phrase) comes natural to me and I can’t actually turn it off. Maybe it’s down to the fact that reading faces and going by the clues we are taught as children doesn’t work for me. So I try to find other ways, in this case my logic, my thoughts, to find out what exactly goes on inside others. I cannot look inside their minds, but there is confusing, disturbing, or exhilarating energy coming from them and I don’t understand the regular signs, so I think my way towards an explanation. And that rouses a lot of emotions inside me as well. Happiness, sadness, anger… the whole spectrum.

And that’s all nice and good, and should make me a wonderful people person who can show compassion and love and all those things freely.

Except that I can’t.

I soak it all up. I feel it all. But. I cannot communicate it back to the outside. There is a huge barrier there. An invisible wall.

For example, when I sense that somebody is upset, but keeps up appearances and tries to smile and pretend everything is fine, I KNOW that there is something there. I can feel it. And I suffer with them. But I don’t say anything about it. I don’t approach them, although all I want to do is hug them. Yes, I have a huge urge to hug people. Tightly. The good pressure Aspie way. I don’t follow that urge though, no matter how much I want to.

What does one say? I know there are all sorts of standard phrases that you’re supposed to say, like “Oh I’m sure it will be fine,” or “I’m so sorry about that, but try to look at the bright side.” I mean, those things don’t actually help. At all. You know, in a rational sense. And to me they feel fake and condescending. Insincere. Maybe it won’t be fine at all. Maybe there is no bright side, or maybe if there is, me saying it won’t make it come any closer.

I want to communicate that I feel with them. That I feel their pain. But there seem to be no words that can honestly communicate that, so that the other person understands, but isn’t freaked out. Because communicating something like that is really quite intimate, much more so than a light pat on the shoulder and a noncommital “It’ll be fine!”. And the squishy Aspie hugs (you know, the kind that makes me feel so good when someone I really trust does it to me, tight pressure on the upper body, locking my arms to my sides) is not something most people find pleasant.

So. I suck up all their pain, confusion and anger, and it sits inside me and cannot come out. I want to help. I want to fix them. I want to make their hurting go away so that I will also not feel it any more. But I can’t. I don’t know a way. And meanwhile the person will think I am unmoved and unfeeling, because I do not say the standard phrases a supporting friend should say. And inside I’m dying, because I am unhelpful.

Looking people in the eyes. For me that absolutely amplifies the feelings that radiate off them. Enormously. It’s almost like an electrical shock to my system. People say that “the eyes are the windows to one’s soul”. Well, yes. I can feel that. It’s like having a root canal treatment. I feel exposed, bare, and it’s very, very painful. It hits you like a giant metal hammer.

And the connection is like that between two magnets. I find it very hard to pull my eyes away, when really that is what I really want. And when I finally manage to look away I can’t concentrate for a while. I feel invaded by the other person’s soul. And the thing is, they didn’t even notice.

So, when someone is hurting, and they pretend they are okay, but I can feel they are not, and then they look into my eyes it feels like my entire body is electrified. I will often go mute, or turn on my shallow small-talk defense mechanism routine. And then my thoughts are thrown into the mix. That they are feeling sad is already bad enough, but then the fact that they are hiding it, and pretending otherwise makes it even worse. Add to that the realisation that regardless of how much I want to fix things, I cannot help, and will most likely make them feel worse by not acting like a neuro-typical would.

People who know me well often describe me as an emotional conundrum. I will cry at the smallest things in a movie or book, but when bad things happen and people around me are truly upset, I lock up. I become an ice queen. At least outwardly. Inside it just burns.

I will then often avoid eye-contact, or try to change the subject while my mind is racing, trying to find a way to put order to the emotional chaos.

I don’t know if it is like this for other autistic individuals. I can be misunderstood as someone who has no empathy, because I do not show compassion in the way people expect. But I’m overflowing with it. I feel everything, even if I don’t understand what it might be that I’m feeling. But it’s there, resonating inside me, rushing through my lungs, my veins, and through my heart. And it makes me feel like I am very close to someone, but at the same time my inability to communicate that storm they cause inside me back to them, my failure to build a two-way connection, makes me feel painfully far away. Closed-off. Access denied.

Posted by: Aspie Noodle | February 15, 2013

Huh. So, my body is a vegetarian?

I’ve been eating meat all my life, and I’ve been eating lots of dairy products as well. When I was a kid I’m sure me and my sister consumed up to a litre of milk per day, since it was meant to make our bones stronger due to the calcium. It was supposedly good for our teeth too.

As an autistic individual I’ve had a lot of texture issues with food. I’ve always hated potatoes, and anything that had a similar texture. So, no beans, and no legumes of any kind. I was a very picky eater, but my parents (and that was one of their few mistakes they did regarding my unknown autism) forced me to eat. Literally making me sit at the table for hours, staring at the cold food on the plate until I’d be so exhausted from crying that I try a bite, and then throw it all up again.

I was very skinny and malnourished, until around age 11, when puberty kicked in and I started eating a lot of sugar and wheat products (pasta, pastries, bread) and I became pudgy.

I’ve had a short period of eating pescetarian (no meat, only fish) when I was 14, but that didn’t last long in a household so focused on eating meat-potatoes-vegetable meals.

In my adult life I’ve gone on low-carb diets about four or five times. Just to shed a few pounds, and to–as was advertised by so many advocates–feel better inside and out. Lots of body builders swear by low-carbing.

A low carb diet cuts out sugar (which truly is bad, for anyone) and grains, flour and anything bread-related, but increases animal protein and fat intake.

Those diets always worked well for me. Too well, actually. I always lost weight very fast to the point of looking unwell (according to others), but I never actually felt better physically. In fact, a lot of things became worse. I felt constantly hungry, sluggish, crampy, foggy-brained, extremely stressed and, well, unhappy and out of control.

But okay, a few others on this diet also felt that, and since I’ve also increased my vegetable intake and cut out sugar, I thought I can’t be doing anything wrong.

Well.

Turns out that I was.

I have blood type A, and according to research, people of this blood type have low amounts of stomach acid, and they have real trouble digesting animal proteins and fat. Go figure.

In essence, meat is poison to my body, because I cannot digest it. Whereas someone with blood type O, who thrives on animal protein does beautifully, and will feel wonderful on a low carb diet. To me it’s torture.

I’ve only heard about this blood type related way of eating yesterday. Yes, one day ago. I’ve read a lot about it last night (but the actual book “Eat Right 4 your Type” is still on its way in the mail) and as of this morning I am cutting out all meat and most seafood, and will slowly wean myself off dairy. I’ve also started reintroducing carbohydrates again. Not slowly, as advised for low-carbers, but oat meal right this morning. And what do you know, I haven’t been hungry all day.

Now, according to the author of ER4YT, wheat is still bad, as is refined sugar. So not eating that was good. But the meat protein was apparently responsible for producing even more cortisol (as if people with autism need even more cortisol!), and I’ve had some pretty shitty weeks recently when it comes to stress and especially with having meltdowns. It hasn’t been this bad in a long time!

Another thing are menstrual cramps, which have been so bad I’ve fainted while eating low carb/high animal protein foods. I should have taken the hint!

Also, I used to do a lot of high energy sports (as I’ve mentioned in my Martial Arts post from a few days ago). I used to go to the gym too, and I had a personal trainer who measured my body fat and muscles. At some point during low-carbing, I had a body fat % of 17. That is way too low, especially for a woman who is not a professional athlete. Additionally, the muscle training I was doing, did not actually build up any muscles.

Well, since I was only eating animal proteins, and next to no plant proteins, my body was pretty much starving because it had no use for the proteins I was providing. It was eating all its own fat cells, plus actual muscle tissue. Huh. No wonder I felt so horrible.

It also advises people with blood type A to stay away from high energy sports and do things like yoga instead. Ha! At least I have come to that conclusion myself, albeit slowly and painfully. High energy sports need lots of protein, which I simply do not get from meat, because my body cannot extract it. It just sits there and rots in my gut. Nice. -_-

So, what now?

Well, big giant lifestyle change is going to happen. It’ll take a while until I get it right, and of course the list of foods I can and cannot eat according to the ER4YT plan will need to be carefully tested. Just because I have a genetic disposition toward certain foods does not mean it’s impossible other factors have been at play when it comes to food tolerances as well.

But it’s a great start.

Strangely enough the personality type description for Blood type A fits rather well with someone on the high end of the autism spectrum.

And since eating meat and dairy is pretty bad for an autistic individual with blood type A (poison to an already sensitive body & extra cortisol), this might actually seriously alleviate stress and immune system problems I have.

Well, so far, on day one I feel great. Since I am going to be flushing poison from my system I’m sure some not-so-great days will follow, but this is a long-term investment that will need time to fully go into effect. I will keep this blog updated about the effects changing the food I eat will have regarding my autism.

I’ve been on quite a long quest of finding the right nutrition plan for me. I’m already an organic foods shopper, having cut out preservatives and most additives (organic foods also have additives, but only a few). But I always felt that I was still doing something wrong. Eating so many vegetables and fresh dairy products along with free range organic meats still had me feeling crappy, when you’d expect me to feel so much better than on junk food. I had the ideal weight, but inside I still felt all wrong.

This might actually be it. The way to eat for me.

Posted by: Aspie Noodle | February 12, 2013

Martial Arts and My Autism.

Trying to find my Way.

When I was in my twenties I began going to shotokan karate lessons, and I was really drawn into the world of katas, and¬†etiquette¬†and all the rules. I loved the true budŇ欆aspect of it. The way. “Do”.¬†

I bought books upon books about philosophies (Gichin Funakoshi was my hero), and detailed, “authentic” (“non-westernised”) kata explanations. In hindsight, as an Aspie, being attracted to those things makes a lot of sense.

BudŇć gives a goal that you achieve on your own. Of course you will learn from your teachers and from other students along the way, but in essence budŇć is about you. The well-defined rules give a very clear structure that helps you not become lost in the anxiety a new place and new people will cause, and within a proper dojo there is a set¬†hierarchy¬†that is easy to understand. You have your place. In theory, this is Aspie heaven. A goal, set rules, and a set place, and your own path lies in your own hands, with guidance where needed.

kyoto

(Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, taken by me)

Now of course there are downsides; some not very Aspie-friendly aspects. In shape of physical contact. And you know… pain.

There are many different styles of karate, and Shotokan is one of the least aggressive and safest ones. Its focus is on kata and technique, rather than constant sparring. But the sparring is there, and you will get punched. It is NOT fun. I absolutely hated that part. Where I could spend hours practising a single kata, my tolerance for any kind of “partner-work” was extremely low. I do not exactly feel pain “the normal way”, and most of the horrible looking bruises I earned didn’t hurt that bad. But some guys (yes, mixed classes), hit so hard that my skin would break. Of course that wasn’t the goal. You’re not supposed to hurt each other, but tell that to some grown men and their egos. -_-

Other things that are not fun include the synchronised kiai (shout) of an entire class, and most importantly the karate gi (the outfit). It rubbed me all kinds of the wrong sensory way.

I quit karate after three years, deciding that whereas I loved the budŇć aspect, the “way of the hand” was not the way for me.

Then came the swords.

I discovered kendo; the way (“do”) of the sword (“ken”). Steeped in a lot of tradition, and even more etiquette than karate, and most importantly requiring the usage of bŇćgu¬†(body¬†armour),¬†kendo quickly enthralled me. Here I could actually fight other people and feel safe. You wear a helmet, gauntlets and a big belly protector that can be polished all shiny. You fight each other using shinai, swords made from bamboo slats that give and bend.

There is a lot of ritual involved in taking care of your gear. It’s very zen, meditative, actually, and I enjoyed many quiet Sunday mornings sanding my swords and cleaning my armour. Kendo also has kata, but you can only do them with a partner. Still, I really enjoyed them, able to practise for long stretches repetitively without getting bored. As with other martial arts, respect, rules and general etiquette are central, and more so in kendo than in karate you do your own thing. I mean, you still do exercises together, but you walk your own way, you do what you can. At least that is the idea.

Finding a good dojo and nice people is quite a¬†challenge, and not everyone takes the history and budŇć aspect of martial arts to heart. There will always be people who see it as a sport, a competition, and will absolutely ruin it for the Aspie.

The downsides with kendo are fewer than with karate, but they are there. The clothing is slightly nicer. You wear hakama (“skirt pants”) and a gi that is softer than the rigid karate ones (the karate ones are so stiff in order to protect your skin), but it can be obstructive, especially for stumble-prone people. Also, kendo is very noisy (people will hit your helmet and although it doesn’t really hurt, it shakes up your entire body). And it’s VERY SMELLY. People who do not clean their armour (bŇćgu) will likely make you really sick. A smelly bŇćgu is also sometimes called a “secret weapon”, or a bŇćgu with ki (“spirit”; i.e. it has started to live its own life). And although while wearing the armour you are protected, when someone fails to hit you in the assigned places, it can still hurt. It’s a martial art after all. It’s not knitting class.

sakura_kyoto

(Cherry blossom in Kyoto; taken by me)

There is a certain special feeling when you hold a sword (albeit made from wood) in your hands, and you are facing an opponent. It gives a sense of control and power that I had never before felt in my life, and it helped me GREATLY with my self-esteem and with facing people in daily life.

Another aspect of kendo is eye contact. You’re looking at your opponent’s face, but not the eyes directly/exclusively. Especially when wearing the helmet it works very nicely for Aspies. I felt very safe, because nobody can really see you in that helmet.

There is screaming involved, so that can become quite noisy, especially with power training sessions when everyone screams with each and every practice hit. Bamboo sword on bamboo sword is a high-pitched clap, that is quite an unpleasant sound. I often had headaches after practice.

The biggest problem for me with kendo were the people (there were some bullies and a lot of dojo-drama–not very budŇć-like at all), and the realisation that although I really enjoy kendo itself, my body cannot handle the often harsh (3 hour without breaks) training sessions. I had a lot of injuries (not inflicted by others, but by over-usage of my muscles, etc), and after four years of ups and downs and a particularly persistent ankle injury, I quit.

What have I taken out of my martial arts experiences?

I love budŇć. I love, “the Way”. I love that aspect of self-exploration, discipline, of learning, of growth. Rules, respect and etiquette are my thing.

Maybe the violent side of martial arts isn’t so much for me. My body cannot handle high-impact situations, and my messed-up pain receptors had me often cross my outer limits without me noticing, which caused me to get some serious problems that I’m still dealing with now, two years later.

I know now, that I need peace and quiet, not hard and fast.

So, right now I’m looking into options of different yoga styles and other things such as shiatsu, tai-chi, qi-gong.

Flow Like Water.

That is one of my favourite titles from the Last Airbender soundtrack, by James Newton Howard. And I’m thinking that my Way might just be a small river instead of that rocky, torturous slope up a mountain.

A lot of treasures lie in the heart of martial arts for an Aspie. There is great wealth within the concept of budŇ欆that can really help us. I guess it’s just difficult to find the right one for you.

I’m still searching, still walking that path. But I get the feeling I have learned a lot about myself and about my body in the process. And really, that is the point.

The way itself is the goal.

Posted by: Aspie Noodle | February 12, 2013

“Excuse me.”

Why are those two words so hard to say? They play out in my head over and over, along with the simple scenario that could follow.

One of my daily challenges is to navigate public transport to get to and from work. I used to ride my bike to work, but traffic became too dangerous for me to still wear noise-cancelling earphones, and without them I cannot really handle the outside in a city. So tram travel it is.

I live in a smaller city, just over one million inhabitants if you count the adjacent towns as districts. It’s not Tokio, and I know, I’ve been in the Tokio subway during rush hour (magically, I survived). However it gets crowded here nonetheless, and one of the hardest things for me to do, is asking someone to step out of the way for me to get past.

I just cannot simply push someone aside (touching them) without saying anything, and somehow years of trying to blend in and disappearing has made me so quiet that people are often not aware I’m standing there. (I call those my “ninja skillz”). So all I can do in such a situation (let’s say I want to get off the tram at the next stop, but my path is blocked) is to say “excuse me” to get that person’s attention.

And that is hard. I often end up saying it so quietly that they don’t hear me at all, so I have to repeat it, which is quite embarrassing. On some occasions I have said it too loudly and actually startled the person, which I then felt really bad about for the rest of the day.

Sometimes I feel bold and then it just comes out the right loudness, the person will step a side and let me past. Just like that. problem solved. So I know I can do it, and it shouldn’t be an issue. But there are bad days where a couple of stops before I need to step off the tram I already “practice” saying it in my head when I see someone obstructing the exit. And it adds extra stress, and really, how stupid is that? Why would I think about this ahead of time?!

But yeah. Some days are like that. I get hung up on it, and the more I think about it, the harder it becomes to say. Such simple words, and text-book polite, too. Nobody will think of me as rude for saying those words. It’s etiquette. I know that. And still. Even after all these years, it’s still a burden.

Posted by: Aspie Noodle | February 8, 2013

Through Aspie Eyes

“Why do you always take photos of boring things?” – neuro-typical friends

Boring things.

Things.

cup

I did not fully understand why I did this, or that it wasn’t the “norm”, until a few months ago.

All my life my eyes have zoomed in on all the little details. Everywhere. My parents are active people and I grew up in a big city, half of which used to be closed off from us until 1989. Every weekend we would go on exploration trips through streets and neighbourhoods that were new to us. And every time I saw so many things. I would often trail behind (“stop dreaming and keep up!”), and I would soak up a lot of little details that would nestle in my mind and make me think. “Who put this there?” “Did they lose it?” “Why do traffic lights have yellow numbers on them?”

By the end of the trip I’d have so many disjointed questions about things that I had been the only one to notice to begin with. My parents were really patient, but they still didn’t have most of the answers. Although I was occasionally praised for my attention to details, it never sunk in that what comes so easy to me, or rather, what I get bombarded with on a daily basis–whether I can handle it or not–isn’t something other people experience the way I do.

pedestrians

When I travel, or walk anywhere, I still look at all the details. Numbers, logos, aligning shapes, parallel lines, birds, tags and rogue ad stickers, posters that have been glued crookedly, street art.

I don’t take in my surroundings as a whole. I can walk down a street every day for five years and will still not be able to visualise how many stories the houses consist of. But I’d know that the second house on the left always has daffodils in their front garden in spring, and there is a white cat with one blue and one green eye at the house with the many bicycles under their windows.

Of course I’ve always been sort of aware that the kind of data I gathered and stored in my mind was generally considered… “quirky”. I had pretty much figured out early on that people thought I was a bit weird, but those who mattered did not seem to love me any less. I thought that what set me slightly apart was was what I do with the information once it is inside my head, but it did not cross my mind that the difference was in my actual perception.

ropesLast year, after I was official diagnosed, and after a short period of final denial, I began reading and watching anything I could find about Asperger’s. I came across a German documentary by a popular science TV program where a man with Asperger’s was interviewed about how he sees the world. They gave him a video camera and let him walk through the city to film the things he noticed. He filmed numbers, licence plates, street art, leaves, litter. All the things I would also instantly notice, stare at, and ponder about. Then they went on to compare his footage with what “normal” people would see instead.

That was when I realised that how I see things is truly different.

I think one of my biggest discoveries, or realisations, with all this is that people’s brains work differently. I never thought about that during the previous three decades of my life, always just assuming that the way I experienced things was how everybody else did as well. Therapists seem to like blaming that on a “lack of empathy”, but I have yet to meet a neuro-typical who is automatically aware of other people’s ways of thinking. They assume just as much. We simply cannot look into each others’ heads. None of us can. We go by what we know, and we know what is inside our own heads.

Now that I understand that my constant observation of details has to do with how my brain is wired, and that it’s a different viewpoint to how other people see things, I have embraced all the things. I will stare at licence plates (and, when in trusty company, read them out loud to a point of annoyance–but that’s for another blog post >_>) , and I will take photos of everything I find interesting. As a result, when my significant other and I go on vacation and we both bring our own camera, we have a very interesting, and complementary mix of panorama shots and well… details.

It works nicely.

ladybug

It also helps us to see each other’s point of view, and going through vacation pictures can be quite a discovery.

“Where was that?”

“Next to the blue mailbox. When we had ice cream.”

“You mean in front of the big department store?”

“There was a department store?”

Fun times. ūüėÄ

Taking pictures of what I notice helps me give it a place and reduces the chaos inside my head. There is, of course, the obstacle of drawing attention from strangers when I squat down to take a photo of a piece of gum wrapper in the gutter, but I’m working on perfecting that wall, that armour that will shield me from others in situations like that. Why should I care what they think of me? Especially since they probably think nothing of me to begin with. They might not even notice me, because chances are their brain does not work like mine.

So I’ve been brave enough to bring my camera along a lot more often, and that threshold to take it out of my bag and snap a few photos is much easier to overcome. My diagnosis has really helped me understand and love myself a lot more. I no longer struggle with these “quirks”, this nonconformity.

I’m slowly learning to embrace it.

daisies

(all photos by Aspie Noodle)

Posted by: Aspie Noodle | February 7, 2013

So, I created a blog.

Now what?

I will probably spend ages on customising it, but the goal is that this will be an outlet for my experiences with my Asperger’s.

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