Fit happens

by maximusaurus

Fitness surely has to be the blogosphere’s equivalent of zombie apocalypses, break-up songs, and vampires/werewolves; subjects so overused they’re like a tube of toothpaste rolled up and crushed to squeeze the last dregs of life from its mangled corpse.

I’ve had this theory since I was a kid though, that toothpaste tubes are actually a portal to another dimension of endless toothpaste, and that it’s not that they run out, it’s just that the amount of pressure needed to extract it gets higher and higher until it’s beyond human strength. So I thought I’d run a steamroller over this particular tube and see what happens.

While I see fitness blogs all the time, what I don’t see often is it’s discussion in relation to autism.

First off, some of the drugs used to manage the condition can have adverse metabolic effects. Risperidone, for example, can lead to weight gain, and in rare cases diabetes. That’s not to say I oppose its use; on the contrary, it has really helped take the edge off my panic attacks. But since I’ve been on it, keeping my weight in the healthy range has been a struggle.

Until I was 23, I had never had a problem with my weight. I was so hyperactive I could eat like a vacuum cleaner and stay thin. Then, I started taking Risperidone, and by November of 2012, I’d ballooned to 91kg. Over the next three months, while I was home at my Mum’s place for the holidays, a combination of a vegetarian diet and riding my bike to and from my brother’s house 12km away brought me plummeting to 77kg by February 2013.

Then I went back to University accommodation, with its catered food that made McDonalds look like clean eating, and by the time I graduated in July, I weighed 97kg; a startling all-time high.

It was time for desperate measures. I tried cutting as much fat from my diet as I could, but it turned out most “fat free” or “low fat” food has more sugar in it than the full fat stuff, and was actually worse for me, as my body was just converting half the sugar to fat anyway.

So I targeted sugar instead, swapping out low fat muesli for rolled oats and quitting juice and soft drinks, while upping my daily jogging regimen to four laps around my block. (Approximately 2.4km over hilly terrain)  As I write this, I’ve fought my way down to 88kg. My target weight is my ideal BMI of 83kg or less, and with Risperidone working against me its an uphill battle, but so far my new strategy seems to be working.

Fitness isn’t just important for physical health, but mental health as well. The challenges that can come with autism can have a severe impact of one’s self-esteem, so the last thing you need on top of that is feeling like crap about your weight.

What’s more, exercise releases endorphins that not only make you feel good, but can also boost your resistance to stress. It’s empowering too, because by getting out there and pushing yourself, you’re proving to yourself that you have the strength and will to take control of your life.

In my experience, regular exercise is one of the most effective tools for managing autism, and where a lot of other treatments come with a laundry list of negative side effects, exercise comes with a laundry list of positive ones.