Last Updated on November 9, 2023 | Published: November 9, 2023 published by Jenny Tomei
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Autism and Eating Disorders Discussion
Jenny Tomei [00:00:10]:
Hello, and welcome to the Jen Up Podcast, the series 3. I’m Jenny Tomei. I’m a qualified nutritional therapist, Eating disorder coach and personal trainer alongside Sam Woodfield, who is my cohost. So Sam is an excellent cyclist who has recovered Anorexia, orthorexia, and exercise addiction. So in this 3rd season, we’re going to be focusing on something a little bit different. So more mental health, physical health, alongside busting myths about eating disorders. So you want to ask us anything, You can find us at Jenup on Facebook and on Instagram and on my TikTok, Jentomei. So I’m going to pass over to Sam. He’s going to introduce our guest today.
Sam Woodfield [00:01:00]:
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to series 3 of the Jenup Podcast. It’s great to be back. Slightly new titles, slightly new theme. I got too carried away with everything being to do with cycling and sport, so we’ve we’ve reigned it in a little bit. Today we have Felix back on the, back on the podcast and we are going to discuss the links between autism and eating. Felix has worked in the NHS for just over 8 years now and has been working full time in private practice since 2007. Felix works with a variety of conditions and is all is also the most prolific practitioner for ARFID in the world today. Felix is a chartered counseling psychologist and clinical hypnotist.
Sam Woodfield [00:01:46]:
He has successfully treated hundreds of clients who have not benefited from their previous therapists or previous types of therapy. Felix has appeared on Freaky Eaters and Extreme Phobics alongside Japanese and German documentaries. Some good TV shows in there, Felix. Welcome back. Good to have you back in this series, series 3. We learned a lot last time. I worked out why I didn’t like tomatoes, but, anyway, let’s move on from that.
Felix Economakis [00:02:20]:
You’re not alone there. A lot of people don’t like raw tomatoes even though they love tomato soup, tomato ketchup. Raw tomatoes for some people are still a thing.
Sam Woodfield [00:02:28]:
It mate, it still is, but I can’t have them. I will not eat a raw tomato.
Felix Economakis [00:02:34]:
I love raw It’s a curious thing. It’s
Sam Woodfield [00:02:37]:
I love it.
Felix Economakis [00:02:38]:
Cherry tomatoes now. They’re quite sweet and everything. But, I respect that. Some people say, I saw you many years ago. I’ve eaten all these foods. Still don’t like tomatoes much. Yeah? That’s quite common. So,
Sam Woodfield [00:02:50]:
It was a traumatic experience at school being vegetarian And having to eat. You could only have the salad bar if you ate certain bits off the salad bar and there were tomatoes on there. And that was 1 item you had, Sweet. And I just could not do it. Nope.
Felix Economakis [00:03:08]:
Force never works. That’s a problem. We just sort of traumatizes us. Compels.
Sam Woodfield [00:03:15]:
Yeah. Anyway, we’re we’re trying to keep these podcasts shorter in series 3 and more to the point. So I think the best thing to do is let’s get started, Jenny, and let’s get started with the questions, and we’ll get straight into it.
Jenny Tomei [00:03:28]:
Yeah. Excellent. So, Felix, there’s been a lot of popularity around, autism, eating disorder. So firstly, Would you be able to explain what autism is and why it is on the rise, or perhaps it’s just being diagnosed more, or perhaps we’re getting better at diagnosing it?
Felix Economakis [00:03:47]:
Yes. I think so. I mean, this is a little bit tricky. Autism is a very broad spectrum. Every child or young person will present differently. It’s a little bit contentious to diagnose because there are behavioral features that make diagnosis more likely, but there’s also a lot of false positives. So in general, there are some clear criteria in the DSM five, the diagnostic, statistical manual. So in broad terms, autism can be, considered to include people who find it hard to communicate, interact with other people, but, again, not always, or find it hard to understand how other people think or feel.
Felix Economakis [00:04:27]:
There’s there’s a sensory element, so they may find things like bright lights or loud noses overwhelming or stressful or, uncomfortable. They can get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations or social events. They may take longer to understand certain types of information, And there’s also repetitive element of doing the same things over and over in some ways. There there are also rituals in other types of, conditions that I’m not, relevant, correlated with autism. They’re just so with Alfred, for example, there’s food safety rituals, but they’re not OCD, and they’re not autism based either. So I know it’s a bit confusing. One more thing to mention. There’s another misconception with, autism in girls, because many girls are very good at masking or camouflaging from very young age.
Felix Economakis [00:05:16]:
And they also present differently than autistic boys. So many girls can get diagnosed with BPD or, borderline personality disorder or other conditions because the way they present. So there is a diagnostic gender bias as well, just for for, you know, by the by. And in terms of being on the rise, again, this is a little bit difficult. You know, are are the actual causes for autism increasing, or are people getting better at spotting it, diagnosing it, etcetera? It’s not It’s already clear to me, and I think there’s probably a lot of debates for people who work with autism, you know, out and out. So, yeah, it’s a little bit hard to give clear answers on those things, I’m afraid.
Jenny Tomei [00:05:58]:
No. No. No worries. I just thought I’d ask because I’m just seeing it spoken about a lot more now and, like, people saying that I’m I’ve been diagnosed with it, so I just thought I’d ask. But, no. Thank you so much that. And I think I wanna lead on from that saying, you know, how how does autism affect one’s sort of eating habits?
Felix Economakis [00:06:19]:
In my experience, I do a lot of work with the ARFID, binge eating, a little bit of work with anorexia as well, emetophobia, and things like that. And, When people also, are autistic, they the symptoms can be more, amplified In that, for example, repetitive ritual. So, earlier, more stronger safety behaviors, more criteria about this needs to be eaten this way, and also a sense of, I think, genuine sensory processing discomfort, distaste with certain flavors, for example. So I expect a lot of people can experience foods more intensely or certain types of foods more intensely. Having said that, I don’t know if sorry. This is gonna lead on to another question. But but I’ve I’ve gotta mention that when I work with people with with ARFID, So, avoid the restricted food intake disorders, so problem with textures, different kinds of foods. I wasn’t specifically trained to work with autistic clients, and, I was a little bit naive starting out.
Felix Economakis [00:07:25]:
I was just learning the ropes. And, someone came in and said, oh, oh, by the way, I forgot to mention, my son is autistic. And here’s me panicking thinking, oh, no. You know, my therapy is full of metaphors and analogies. And so these things that I heard, you know, autistic people are very bad at sort of understanding of your prehensile processing, And I didn’t really have a plan b, so I just did my usual therapy. And, you know, to my delight and surprise, the child ends up eating food. I think, well, maybe it’s not really autistic or a one off, but but I started doing this a lot more. And I actually, I found that sort of Low to moderate autistic clients were actually better clients than average when it came to work with with with ARFID, using my approach.
Felix Economakis [00:08:09]:
Because my approach is very sort of structured and logical, methodical in some ways, which, obviously, a lot of autistic people really like. And another chap I I trained in Australia, Glenn, he’s also seen by now a couple of 1,000 people. And and we we Talk sharp, and he says the same thing. You know? The if they’re willing and able to follow instructions, you actually have very good client. Yeah. So, you know, when people say to me, you know, my son or daughter is autistic, I say, you know, as long as it’s not sort of severely autistic, which would be a problem. But if if low to moderate, that’s actually good. You know? They tend to make better clients.
Felix Economakis [00:08:45]:
So, that that’s the thing I’ve noticed, much to my delight. Yeah. So, I’m sorry. I don’t know if that jumps the gun a bit.
Jenny Tomei [00:08:56]:
Yeah. No. No. No. No. I mean, I’ve definitely seen that with autism. I do work, no, with autism. They’re quite well, with their food, they tend to, like, just stick to the same thing.
Jenny Tomei [00:09:06]:
Like, just I eat the same feeds. Like, routine.
Felix Economakis [00:09:11]:
Yeah. Very repetitively. Yeah. Routine, rules. Yeah. For sure. And that that’s sort of exclusive to autism, by the way, because just for normal safety rules, if if the brain thinks only, you know, McDonald’s, only nuggets or fries are safe, Then it doesn’t consider the food safe. And it seems like the person wants those foods all the time, but it’s also because the brain’s afraid of trying something different.
Felix Economakis [00:09:33]:
Yeah. Whereas with autism, there’s much more sense of, rules across the board. You can have rules just with ARFID, but not outside of ARFID. Whereas with autism, there tends to be more rules just a blanket rules across the board.
Sam Woodfield [00:09:48]:
So that was going to be my quick question was, Obviously, everyone in the world is on a spectrum of some sort, and I know I’ve done tests for it because of how, routined, regimented, whatever you wanna call me, came into it. Yes. And then when my eating disorder took hold of me in the late Kinda 2000 sixteens. That routine went through the absolute roof. I mean, I ate the same breakfast and lunch for about Two and a half years straight, and really struggling tweets outside of that. So you were saying that’s an autistic trait or that’s more of a Of eating disorder half inch trait.
Felix Economakis [00:10:29]:
Well, the this is kind of interesting because I think, you know, men, for example, and I know because I’m a man, I understand more. I think we’re a little bit autistic anyway. Because my wife always says to me and she says, I don’t understand. You could literally have fish on a Monday, chicken on a Tuesday, passed on Wednesday and live like that forever. I said, yeah. You know? Because I love all these foods. He says, yeah. But I’ll get bored.
Felix Economakis [00:10:49]:
But why would you get bored? The food’s amazing. You know? So, You know? I don’t mind eating it. You know? So Yeah. My wife is willing for variety. She make the most fantastic recipe. So you write it down. Please note it down. We may never have the recipe again.
Felix Economakis [00:11:00]:
Now I think of something else Throw something together. Yeah. But I want that recipe. I want the certainty
Sam Woodfield [00:11:05]:
of that recipe.
Felix Economakis [00:11:05]:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So she’s much more into variety how she feels on the day, and you and I are much more like a sure thing. You know? But but and, also, there’s an element of convenience. I mean, I had the same breakfast forever because, I just it’s quick to do.
Felix Economakis [00:11:21]:
I know, you know, it’s convenience rather than if somebody offered me scrambled eggs with salmon, I’d eat that instead. But, you know, if if I have my, at the time cereal and the bananas on it and everything, it just it’s a done thing.
Sam Woodfield [00:11:33]:
Felix Economakis [00:11:34]:
I also like to wear similar clothes, you know, just because it takes the thinking out of it. So just wear duplicates of shirts and jeans and stuff.
Sam Woodfield [00:11:43]:
I think we need to hang out, Felix, because you sound like a spits in the water main. I mean I mean I I mean, genuinely, I can do this I work in the gym. I still work in the health and fitness industry. I can do a protein with rice, broccoli, and olive oil
Felix Economakis [00:11:59]:
Sam Woodfield [00:12:00]:
Twice a day. Yeah.
Felix Economakis [00:12:00]:
Twice a day.
Sam Woodfield [00:12:01]:
Yeah. Today’s a week.
Felix Economakis [00:12:01]:
Commit me to and as a student, I live like that.
Sam Woodfield [00:12:04]:
But that’s not a health thing. That’s just a convenience
Felix Economakis [00:12:09]:
A male thing.
Sam Woodfield [00:12:10]:
Felix Economakis [00:12:10]:
we’ll convenience thing, a male thing, on. I think, you know, when I was a student, I said, okay. Here’s tuna. Here’s this. All the major food groups are done. I’m eating this day in, day in, day out. So think about it. Yeah.
Felix Economakis [00:12:21]:
So, yeah. I think that’s it. If you offered me better food, I’ll take that. Yeah. Yeah.
Jenny Tomei [00:12:27]:
I can definitely relate to all
Sam Woodfield [00:12:28]:
Jenny Tomei [00:12:29]:
No. Just so I can definitely relate to all of that. I go through phases. So I’ll do that, and I’ll get sick of 1 feed.
Sam Woodfield [00:12:35]:
And I’ll be like, right. And I’ll go on
Jenny Tomei [00:12:36]:
to the next, and then I’ll do that for a few months. It’s like, I’m so, like, red the same breakfast. Like yeah. I mean, stand alone. I had a bit of an obsession going on with crumpets, But, like, I’ve stopped that now. I can’t touch them now. Like, really weird.
Sam Woodfield [00:12:49]:
Felix Economakis [00:12:50]:
Yeah. People do that. Did you ever, like you you know, you you come across a song, And you just play it like 50 times. You know, like, you know, just I’m I’m walking back home and I play I was such a good song. I wanna play again. I wanna relive those emotions that come with it. And I play constantly, and then I, like, get bored of it like that. So what is that? I don’t know.
Felix Economakis [00:13:08]:
Maybe some listeners can can tell us. But but yeah. And sometimes food, you, like, overdose on something that, you know, gives you a hit. And then you put some of
Sam Woodfield [00:13:18]:
your lines as I’ve overdosed to the song during trading, and I use it like a prerace ride because I know it makes me feel good. And I do a prerace ride box week at the minute. So, anyway, we this is really disturbing, Felix, because you always bring out more issues than Well, I had.
Felix Economakis [00:13:36]:
Sam Woodfield [00:13:38]:
I did. You might have to get
Jenny Tomei [00:13:40]:
a test on it. Anyway, On the next question I did have, the most interesting one that I I see a lot in autism is the the poor interoceptive awareness, especially, like, I think registering, like, hunger and fullness levels. That’s something that I’ve I’ve seen a lot.
Sam Woodfield [00:13:59]:
Jenny Tomei [00:14:00]:
just wondering if you could speak about that and how How we help, you know, someone with that, like or how you would help someone with that.
Felix Economakis [00:14:07]:
Yeah. I mean, I don’t this is not, have have full disclosure, not really a matter of expertise. You know, I I look from the point of view of, with our fit, for example, if there’s low appetite, I’m coming from it thinking There is interoceptive awareness, which I’ll talk a little bit about. But but with with the other, non versions of that, There’s no point getting excited about food if you can’t if you’re bored with it. You only eat 2 or 3 foods. So I think the brain is saying, well, you know, dampen it down because It’s boring. I eat the same thing. I have no nerve.
Felix Economakis [00:14:40]:
I can’t get excited about it, so turn it down. I remember I saw this, girl, an American girl, 16 years old, over Zoom. And, she only eat 3 foods, and I do my therapy. And her mother has to test the foods at the end of session, and she just attacks them. You’re just chomping down on them. I look at my mother, like, great. You know? It’s it’s like suppressing that appetite all these years. So that’s but but the autistic back back to the artistic version.
Felix Economakis [00:15:06]:
So interoceptor awareness is what we describe as being able to accurately sense and probably describe in words the sensations that emerge and and change in the body. Poor interceptor awareness is common in autism and eating disorders where people are unaware disconnected from feelings of hunger, as you said. And, so this is difficult because knowing your own feelings in the way, if you if you’re not very connected to understand the feedback from your body, Yes. That could be a problem because, some people, you know, the oh, I haven’t eaten today or I haven’t, you know, rested enough, haven’t done this, enough or so your body’s gonna give back feedback signals saying, we need this, we need that. And if the manager’s somewhere else not quite listening, then, yeah, that that could cause some problems. And and definitely In the area of of feeling sated of of hunger cues. Yes. Actually, I have a colleague.
Felix Economakis [00:16:00]:
So I I will work with a sense of if there’s a fear in the way, If you’re not getting excited about food because you don’t trust it, that’s the approach I use. But I do have a colleague who teaches, how to recognize hunger more, using appetite awareness training. So maybe I can put some links afterwards Okay. For something like that. Yeah. But but that is, they they don’t feel the emotions in their body. They’re a bit tuned out of body signals Right. As well as maybe having some helpful beliefs.
Felix Economakis [00:16:31]:
Sam Woodfield [00:16:31]:
Those those links would be really useful, actually, Felix, because especially in the gym, I deal with a lot of people, but There are there are certain people that I I help and and guide and train that struggle to pick up their hunger cues.
Felix Economakis [00:16:47]:
Sam Woodfield [00:16:47]:
And then now I just don’t get hungry anymore. We all know the science why they’re not getting hungry anymore, and that is because they have a fear of calories, Food, etcetera. But they’re like Yeah. What I don’t wanna eat. Well, I’m like, we can’t just go off feelings. We need to go off the science. You have burnt x. Therefore, you need to put x back into the system plus more for the body to survive and reduce your cortisol by whatever it needs to.
Sam Woodfield [00:17:14]:
But these people can’t pick up those hunger cues. And then Yeah. Then the rolls of caffeine come in and, you know, I used to use fizzy drinks and and low calorie salad bags and and water and fizzy water and all that kind of loading process Because you’re hungry, but you don’t you don’t really want to eat. And and it’s really important that people are able to pick up these queues, and it must it must. Yeah. I’m guessing it comes into the thing of, you know, they’re they’re avoiding food for restriction purposes.
Felix Economakis [00:17:46]:
Yeah. Yeah. Yes. Yes. So there there are different reasons. 1, yeah, 1 is you don’t actually understand the cues, and the other is a dampening down because there’s point getting, you know, excited about it. So, different causes can lead to the same symptoms for sure. Yeah.
Jenny Tomei [00:18:03]:
Yeah. Yeah. I think anxiety is linked to, like, you know, your appetite as well, isn’t it? Because, like, I suffer with anxiety and still have it. So when I get very anxious, my appetite can just go Zonk out. It will just go immediately. And I think that was main cause of my anorexia as well. And, like, I think there’s a lot of anxiety and, like, autism as well, isn’t there? Like, They’re very highly anxious, like, people. Some are, I guess.
Felix Economakis [00:18:28]:
There there is. You know? There’s too much attention to detail, and that can be displaced all projected onto, you know, calories. So they’ll be very rigid and obsessive about the calories and the grape Yeah. Hypersensitive or the stimuli. Yeah. So this is where something like autism will will amplify, these these conditions because there there’s more rigidity. You know? Anorexia is very rigid kind of mindset. And anorexia would just boost that in a way.
Felix Economakis [00:18:57]:
So you can you can be anorexic without being, autistic, obviously. Yeah. But the autism would make that a bit harder.
Jenny Tomei [00:19:05]:
It makes it, yeah, it it makes it worse, doesn’t it? Like, anorexia and if you’re autistic as well, it it has a lot of complications, doesn’t it, in the recovery process for that?
Felix Economakis [00:19:16]:
It does. I mean, anorexia is the hardest condition of the eating disorders to treat for me, because of the disorders to treat for me, because of their rigidity. So of often, you’re working on the person, they agree they agree, but I still don’t wanna get fat. Well, I said, well, you won’t get fat. It’s not like you’re you’re you’re anorexic or you’re fat. There’s no in between, but but it’s hard to get out the black or white thinking. So we’ve gotta come at it from from many different ways of reframing. And the point of Xanorex is people can give themselves just impossible goals, which they’re not aware of again because of poor sort of, emotional, psychological mind.
Felix Economakis [00:19:53]:
So, I wanna eat as long as I don’t eat new food. You know? I wanna eat food as long as I don’t put any more calories and say, well, you know, what did we just said for half an hour? Where where I debunk that? So it’s it’s 1 if a person’s able to overcome that kind of rigidity, then they can actually have a breakthrough quite quickly. But, it depends where they’re on the cycle. Yeah.
Sam Woodfield [00:20:16]:
I’m not sure if you
Jenny Tomei [00:20:17]:
just wanna question this, but Is there any obviously, with autism, anorexia, and then the exercise involved, like, with the obsession with the exercise, like, how I assume that creates more complications, doesn’t it? Because the of the rigidity around the exercise routine.
Felix Economakis [00:20:32]:
And the sessions. Yeah. There’s also a, a tendency towards something called monomania, which is again a persistent overenthusiasm about exercise. And, you know, it’s I heard from my colleague some people claim to have recovered from anorexia but run marathons. And if they do things like that, they’re more likely to have sort of autistic traits about that. So, again, it’s it’s that sort of, obsessiveness about something without standing back from them saying, well, wait a minute. Is this is this actually accurate in any way? So It’s again, it’s that rigidity. Once you give an instruction to mind, you know, fat is the worst thing or calories are bad, then the mind can really follow it to the ultimate degree without any sense of proportion or context.
Felix Economakis [00:21:22]:
So, again, some people can do that in special mental health issues, But not in other areas of the life, much. But, again, with autism, that’s just more amplified, with anorexia. Yeah. Yeah. Or exercise. Yeah. Yeah.
Jenny Tomei [00:21:38]:
So how would you, I guess, how would you work with that then? It’s just getting them to, like, Like, establish more flexible thinking instead of more black and white thinking.
Felix Economakis [00:21:51]:
Yes. So what I do is, I mean, I try and reframe things in a way, and strangely enough using analogies and metaphors, which which some people can really get. Some people can really click, because there’s a logic to using certain metaphors, analogies that people can really sort of import and say, oh, that makes complete sense. I tried to get that. And if that’s true here, then it can be true there. So, this is my approach. Instead, I have a colleague who uses appetite when there’s training and some other issues, but I use my protocol that I’ve designed for. I use it across the board for other things, and it’s just reframing things in a way that they don’t you know, never really thought about.
Sam Woodfield [00:22:29]:
Felix Economakis [00:22:30]:
Because the thing is if you’re in a state of anxiety, you’re quite impressionable, quite susceptible. If you give your brain instruction that this is bad, this is dangerous, Your brain will never say, well, is it really? Let’s take a moment to consider that. I mean, how dangerous are we talking? You know, it’ll just agree with whatever you say, and it’ll act it out to its best ability. And people are so focused on acting that thing out, they never take that step back and say, wait a minute. You know? How much of this is true? So, you know, when I work with OCD people that check doors, for example, you know, I’m saying, okay. Let me get this straight. So checking the door twice isn’t enough. You gotta check it more.
Felix Economakis [00:23:08]:
Would a 100 times be enough? I mean, that’s excessive, but not 2 times. So between 2 to a 100, there’s a magic figure. What is that magic fit? What’s there between 29 and 30? You know, 29 times is now I still feel, it’s not safe. 30, oh, I feel it’s safe now. So it’s not really about the number. It’s chasing some magic number that will make me feel safe. There is no magic number that makes you feel safe. It’s not about checking the door A set amount of times.
Felix Economakis [00:23:34]:
So you get people thinking, oh, yeah. You know, I never really thought about that. You’re you’re chasing a feeling of safety with a quantity Rather than stepping back and saying the whole premises are flawed here, there is no magic number, it’s not about the door. If I checked it once properly or twice, Then I’d only check it again. So it’s getting people think in another way, saying, so what’s really going on? What’s your mind really want? Your mind wants to feel safe, But it’s not gonna get it from something that doesn’t deliver. So let’s find a way that really does deliver. Yeah. It’s the plan.
Felix Economakis [00:24:07]:
Jenny Tomei [00:24:07]:
No. That’s really interesting. Thank you for that. I’m sure that’s gonna help a lot of people. So
Felix Economakis [00:24:12]:
Jenny Tomei [00:24:14]:
So no. Thank you so much for that. Sam, do you wanna go on to about Yeah.
Felix Economakis [00:24:17]:
Jenny Tomei [00:24:17]:
Notions on autism?
Sam Woodfield [00:24:21]:
Yeah. So, obviously, within autism, eating disorders, mental health, people catastrophize.
Felix Economakis [00:24:30]:
Sam Woodfield [00:24:30]:
I’m sure Jenny and I will both agree that at certain points we have done that over training and food. And, You know Yeah. One of the best ones I ever had to work through is I can’t eat pasta. My nutritionist would say, eat a bowl of pasta. If I don’t speak to you tomorrow. It’s gone very wrong, but I’m sure we will speak tomorrow. So, you know and it was you know, a bowl of pasta was gonna kill me. That that’s how I viewed pasta at the time.
Sam Woodfield [00:24:55]:
So, you know, on on those aspects so what techniques have you got To help someone come out of that catastrophization around certain types of food, a particular food or even, you know, Let’s say that, the person doesn’t train, so therefore that person doesn’t deserve Or they think to themselves, right, I can’t have carbs tonight. I can’t have pasta tonight, because I haven’t done x amount of training.
Felix Economakis [00:25:28]:
So a lot of this is driven by black or white thinking. And that in turn is driven by sort of high anxiety or just The habit of anxiety about a thing that’s never really been questioned. So, you know, I work within conceptual shifts myself. You know? You talk to A thousand other therapists, they all do some different process. So we go to what we like and what resonates with us. So I I like the idea of firstly calming a person down so they’re not just jumping to the, you know, anxiety trigger. When you’re calming down, your thinking brain is more You can take that step back and say, okay. Let’s let’s just check this out for a second.
Felix Economakis [00:26:06]:
Yeah. Let let’s, let’s explore this. You you know when you see a TV program with a court case, everyone assumes, oh, you know, the the person who was murdered this way, and someone does a forensic reenactment says, well, wait a minute. You know, they couldn’t reach this, They couldn’t reach out and they couldn’t see this. And people go, oh, yeah. You know? That’s kinda what I’m thinking a little bit. When someone gives me a belief, I explore that belief in every way. And as I do, it becomes more and more absurd.
Felix Economakis [00:26:31]:
So people go, oh, yeah. I never thought about it that way. You know? So, You know, I I had this lady I mentioned at TED Talk, and she says I can’t stand mushy food, only Crispoles, crackers, crunchy stuff. Even have mushy food in the same room, me, I’ll gag strongly. That’s the belief, but the reality is different. And she just believed this because, you know, in the past, she saw mushy food, she vomited or gagged, and believed Mushy food makes me gag, but I’m saying, okay. What’s the missing let let’s let’s let’s take this let’s exploit for a second. So mushy food makes you gag.
Felix Economakis [00:27:02]:
Right? But then what happens when you take your crunchy food? You chew 15 times. Yeah. It’s saliva. It becomes mushy. You’ve actually only ever eaten mushy food. And she just does this double take like, I never thought about it that way. Right. Because you never questioned it.
Felix Economakis [00:27:14]:
You’ve just gone on with anxiety. Like, mushy food made me gag once. Mushy food is bad. But hold on a second. You know? There’s a whole context around that. Which mushy food? How old were you? What else is going on? You know? Is there any exception to that rule? So this is how you start to reframe something and get people thinking, what I believed in cannot be true. Yeah? So, it’s it’s just dismantling a belief. And, you know, it’s how you do it as well.
Felix Economakis [00:27:40]:
You do it, you know, do it in the sort of Colombo way. Like, Let me get this straight. So this happened this time? What the hell does that work? You know, you you kind of you have your own way of doing it without being rude or confrontational, when people start feeling safe and go, oh, yeah. Nobody really thought about it that way before. So whatever a person says to me, Never take it as a given. You always say, well, one second. For this to be true, let’s act it out to see if it holds up to scrutiny, if it’s robust. And as you do that, you end up finding flaws in it.
Felix Economakis [00:28:10]:
Yeah? And, yeah, the the gentle way is is people say, You know, I’ve I’ve got this organizing belief. I organized my life around everything. Oh, then you must have some great evidence because it’s taken over your life. So tell them the evidence. What’s the Specific problem. What’s the actual fear or damage or harmful? Oh, I don’t really know. And then they start squirming. Here’s the thing.
Felix Economakis [00:28:31]:
So, wait, you you told me that, you know, you’re really in invested in this belief, but it’s really vague at the moment. You know? You’re you’re sort of doing a little bit of just messing with the, old belief system a bit until they think, oh, yeah. Maybe I’m not so certain about my belief anymore because even with a bit of challenging, it starts to fall apart. And that’s what I want to do to introduce doubts with their old belief. So that’s that’s the way I do it. And it’s also I try and do it in a fun way, you know, sort of make it a little bit absurd. So, and and and joke them sometimes, tease with them to think, oh, yeah. That that makes sense.
Felix Economakis [00:29:03]:
Never thought about that way. Because a lot of therapy is too validating for my liking. You know? How does it make you feel? How does it make you feel? Like, what is it’s so relevant to me. I’m thinking, you know, this belief is is inaccurate and let me poke holes with it in a way that, you know, I feel you feel safe looking at it and having a bit of fun. And, And we poke so many holes in it. People don’t believe their belief anymore. That’s one of the ways I go about it. Yeah.
Felix Economakis [00:29:30]:
Jenny Tomei [00:29:33]:
No. Thank you for that.
Felix Economakis [00:29:34]:
So yeah. Sorry. You had some other questions, but I forgot.
Jenny Tomei [00:29:37]:
Sam Woodfield [00:29:37]:
I think we’ve kind of quite still got.
Jenny Tomei [00:29:40]:
I think we’ve kind of answered about some that like, they’ve kind of, like, come together, I think, like, as we’ve been talking. I mean, I know one of my other questions was about, like, how to prevent sort of eating disorders within autistic people. And that’s, I assume more early intervention needed there and more education, I guess.
Felix Economakis [00:30:00]:
Yes. Yes. So it it depends on the type of autism. You Some some my colleague would work with, being aware of, appetite awareness. I’d work with the belief side more And any trauma, detraumatizing people like that. Some of the more experienced with autism may work with with other ways as well. So we’ll work to our abilities, for sure. And, you know, if if I find that, for example, some Child has has more or adult has more sensory aspects and more this.
Felix Economakis [00:30:30]:
They might say you might need to start I’m afraid a more longer route where there’s, you know, colleagues of mine who work that way. I work in changing the concepts very quickly. So if your particular presenting problem is based on a conceptual, problem, like like like an inaccurate false belief, then I’m your man. But if it’s based on something else, then I might need to outsource. Yeah.
Jenny Tomei [00:30:51]:
Okay. So if it’s more of like a sensory issue, you go to a person who specialize in, like, helping with the sensory kind of training and everything.
Felix Economakis [00:30:59]:
Yeah. Having said that, there is again a spectrum with everything where fear will amplify sensory, experiences. So, you know, use the example. If we’re in a dark room, we can’t see, and we hear as if rats or something. You know, a sense of hearing improves, sense of smell, everything improves because you’re on high alert. I imagine a lot of people on permanent high alert because of some trauma in the past. It’s possible that when you detraumatize, you know, that starts to go down. So it’s not always clear.
Felix Economakis [00:31:28]:
Oh, you know, my son or daughter has sensory processing because they choke or gag or vomit. Well, that could be the fear doing it. It’s a fear placebo effect rather than a genuine sensory processing. So I say the first point of call is let’s get rid of as much trauma and fear in the background, then let’s see what happens. And if you say, I feel calm around food. I don’t mind tasting it. I just don’t like any of it. I still feel it taste taste like this.
Felix Economakis [00:31:50]:
Now that sensory. But let’s see what happens first. Because often people go, it’s actually quite nice. I thought I never liked that. I tried it a while ago. Tastes different now. Yeah. Because your perception was distorted by fear.
Felix Economakis [00:32:02]:
So Okay. It’s always worth seeing the psychological element. It it psychology fear will amplify everything like autism amplifies. Fear amplifies everything as well. Yeah.
Jenny Tomei [00:32:13]:
Okay. No. That’s really in and if someone needed just to say, so people know, like, where to go to, if someone needed, like, a sensory sort of, What would they be called? Is that, like, any name for them at all? Like, what sort of specialist would that be for
Felix Economakis [00:32:30]:
I I’m not sure if there’s an actual name. I think you’d have to just search for, like, specialist or expert in treating the sensory processing disorders, science side of things rather than something, yeah, informal. Yeah.
Jenny Tomei [00:32:45]:
Okay. No. Yeah. Because I think that’ll be helpful for a lot of people listening. So, yeah.
Felix Economakis [00:32:51]:
I mean, I I generally I’d look for somebody and and ask around because There’s a lot of institutions that claim we have experience with this and that. When it comes down to they don’t, they use very old outdated methods. So the best thing starts with people who’ve been there, a spread of people who’ve been there, and say, you know, what was your experience? So these are where forums are quite handy.
Jenny Tomei [00:33:11]:
Okay. Yeah. No. Definitely. Oh, that’s honestly, Felix, you’ve been absolutely amazed. I mean, I’m I don’t know if, Sam, if you wanna ask anything, but think we’ve pretty much gone for a reason, really, today.
Sam Woodfield [00:33:24]:
I think yeah. I mean, I always find this. Well, I just kinda sit back and listen to this one, so I find this one Just fascinating. I try and resonate with kind of some of the patterns and routines that you said people get stuck into. Yeah. What I went through in kind of my my mid to late twenties, which we covered in series 2 when we also covered Yeah. In an episode where we did grief and loss, and then Yeah. Time kind of put that together with some Autistic traits maybe and the fact that clearly being male makes us, you know, slightly more on the spectrum than that one of things starts to make sense, and we’re trying to Help people not not get stuck in in parts that Jenny and I both got stuck in in in our twenties.
Sam Woodfield [00:34:11]:
And it’s really important that people can kind of See the early warning signs, the early symptoms, and potentially people that might be more vulnerable to to developing I Yeah. Either disordered eating, an eating disorder or you or even exercise addiction, and I’m still very open that from day to day. I I do still struggle with my Yeah. With the with the door feed addiction, I like to call it.
Felix Economakis [00:34:34]:
Yeah. I mean, we we should also, at some point, talk about the benefits of these trace. Because in order for something to exist, it must have an evolutionary payoff. So you’re a top cyclist, I believe. Right? It’ll be a soft top cyclist, Sam. You’ve gotta be a little bit regimented. You know, you gotta train at this point, eat this way, then train again. You know, I was watching the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Bio.
Felix Economakis [00:34:57]:
And you can see training here, training here. You’re gonna have a bit of artistic or kind of rigid traits in order to be a success in that way as well.
Sam Woodfield [00:35:06]:
Felix Economakis [00:35:07]:
You know, this was a spin off.
Sam Woodfield [00:35:09]:
And and and people will say how horrible I am To be around when it’s 2 weeks, 3 weeks out from a big gold race, it’s like, yeah. You’re not getting a single thing at me. Don’t speak to me before trading. Don’t speak to Me after trading and let me nap when I get back. You know, it’s just things like that. And, you know, when it’s 3 days out from a race, it’s like, Yeah. You’re not getting much talking out of me and and that there are those traits, and they do have huge positive traits. It also Exactly.
Sam Woodfield [00:35:38]:
Requires a very understanding Family, work environment Yeah. You know, potential partner if you’re with someone to to be able to understand those traits. I’d love to do the the benefits of it for sure.
Felix Economakis [00:35:52]:
Yeah. Yeah. That
Sam Woodfield [00:35:53]:
would be that would be the
Felix Economakis [00:35:54]:
thing because I’ve I’ve got some sort of mild OCD, but that obsessiveness helped me the best therapist I could be because I was thinking courses after courses. And if you say, aren’t you good enough already? What about all these results? Why are you doing more courses? Oh, because I kept obsessive about them. You know? So, that’s the that’s the Oh
Jenny Tomei [00:36:10]:
my god. Yeah. That’s like that. Anyway
Felix Economakis [00:36:13]:
Yeah. What So?
Jenny Tomei [00:36:16]:
I’m gonna let Sam to
Felix Economakis [00:36:18]:
Jenny Tomei [00:36:18]:
Do the outplay.
Sam Woodfield [00:36:20]:
Just want to say thank you very much for everyone Tuning in to the, 3rd series of the Jenup Podcast today. Huge thanks to Jenny Tomei. She has been your main host. I have sat here and mainly listened today and listened to The fantastic Felix talk about everything to do with autism, disordered eating, eating disorders, and how we can Learn and understand the relationships between it all. You can find out more about the Jenny To May Facebook group. Wow. This has been a long time. You can find out more about Ask Jen Up on Facebook and Instagram, And you can head over to her website at genup.com.
Sam Woodfield [00:37:00]:
If you head over to the website, you’ll find loads of different resources available there That will take you through many different things to do around eating disorder, disordered eating, and the early intervention of all of the above plus exercise addiction. Please make sure you give this podcast a like, a subscribe, and a share to everyone that you know or anyone that you might might think is being affected by any of the topics covered. Please remember, guys, if you do decide to reach out to any of us, Jenny and Felix are the most qualified people to speak to out of the 3. I just sit here, listen, and talk, and clearly can’t speak much today or even deliver the correct outro. So, you know, it’s been good to be back. Thank you very much for tuning in today, guys.
Felix Economakis [00:37:44]:
How to get help?
Jenny Tomei is a Nutritional Therapist and Eating Disorder coach. See all her credentials on her About Jen page and then should you need help then make contact with her today. Your road to recovery can start now!
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