He likes it best straight out of the pot, watching YouTube videos in front of his computer.
Sometimes it’s Kraft Deluxe, maybe a four cheese on occasion or Annie’s. Bob Evans is pretty good too, he said.
But for 20-year-old Austin Davis, nine times out of 10 he goes to his “ride or die” brand of original Velveeta Shells and Cheese.
For nearly 17 years, Davis, a resident of Keystone Heights near Gainesville, has eaten nothing but macaroni and cheese.
Vice News published a short documentary featuring Davis earlier this week.
“I don’t want to say I’m addicted to mac and cheese, because it sounds so weird,” he said. “But my body won’t let me eat anything else. I didn’t choose to be like this.”
According to therapist Asley McHan, Davis has a selective eating disorder known as avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, a mental condition where new foods can trigger negative physical reactions. According to the Center for Discover, the condition is often linked to traumatic events.
When Austin was a child, he was removed from his home and diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being physically abused by his father. He now lives with his grandparents.
Davis said the disorder has had a negative impact on his social life. He doesn’t eat out and maintains few friendships. He wants that to change.
“It’s weird for me to think of eating anything that’s not yellow,” he said.
The choice is not voluntary. Davis said he’s actually sick of eating the same thing and has occasionally tried other foods. His body, however, will reject even something he thinks tastes good.
“As soon as it enters my mouth it’s like a sensory overload,” he said. “Even if I like what I’m trying, I’ll have an involuntary gag.”
Davis knows it’s bad for his health and has sought help in the past but said he had trouble finding a therapist who understood his disorder and would accept his insurance.
He now drives 90 minutes to visit McHan.
“He’s truly motivated to do this work,” she said.
He also works out four times a week, mostly boxing, to try to stay in as good of shape as he can.
“I definitely know that I have to maintain physical activity to keep myself fit,” Davis said. “It’s to counteract my terrible, awful carb-filled diet.”
His coach, Giovanni Cruz, has told him that he’d have to eat better if he truly wants to get in shape, but understands the struggle and the stigma of living with mental health issues.
“When it comes to mental health issues you, if you can’t talk about what’s going on, then you can’t get the help you need,” Cruz said. “I feel like a lot of men think that’s a weakness when it’s not. If there’s a problem, the weakness is ignoring it.”