Food rituals are pretty common among individuals with eating disorders… cutting things into tiny pieces, chewing a certain number of time, mixing weird things, eating everything separate, picking food apart, etc. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been terribly successful in eliminating my own food rituals. As I was miserably failing my goal to “eat a bagel normally” this morning, I was thinking about what it was that seemed so necessary about the rituals.
I don’t think that cutting food up changes the calories. I don’t pick things apart because it makes me eat more slowly. I don’t think that eating food with a fork makes it safe. For some reason, though, being able to do the food ritual makes that food manageable. It’s a nervous energy. Not picking the food apart KILLS me (well, or so it feels). I just feel so driven to do it.
So, my question is — where do you draw the line between ED food ritual and obsessive compulsive behavior? Of course the two diagnoses cross paths, but not everyone with food rituals has OCD (and vice versa). Is it a food ritual if you think the action makes the food safe or unsafe? Or if you think that somehow it affects whether or not you gain weight? Or is it only an OCD behavior if you have other OCD behaviors (checking, counting, etc.)? Can you be diagnosed with OCD if you only have food rituals? Is that enough of an obsession/compulsion? And, if your food rituals are more of an OCD issue than an eating disorder issue, do you approach treatment for that differently?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!