Friday, 3 May 2013

Is there a link between obesity and autism?

I'm fat.

And I'm not alone - some number crunching from the US has shown that kids on the spectrum are more likely to be overweight than the general population of kids their age, although the research didn't go into reasons why that might be.

In my defence, I'm wearing heavy jeans and had just had lunch and a 2L bottle of water.  Also in my defence, it's my body and I love it, so screw you.
There are quite a few reasons for my own circumference, most completely unrelated to having Aspergers.  I have diagnosed but untreated polycystic ovary syndrome, which can play merry hell with your weight.  The particular antidepressants I'm on are known to cause weight gain.  Until last week I worked full time in an office, so spent vast slabs of time sitting in front of a computer.

But there are three more potential reasons, which I think are related to Aspergers.

I'm not saying autism causes obesity (or that obesity causes autism!) or that all people on the spectrum will be overweight.  As it happens, some of the Aspies I know are in very good shape and fearsomely fit, and a surprising number are underweight.  What I am saying is that, personally, I think some of the ways having Aspergers affects my life do have an unfortunate affect on my waistline.
  • Sensory sensitivity and food, meaning a lot of healthy foods like raw fruit and vegetables I just can't eat because the taste or texture literally makes me gag.
  • Trouble telling hunger from anxiety, meaning I tend to overeat because I think I'm hungry, when I'm actually anxious.
  • A bad history with exercise, because having undiagnosed motor skills and body awareness issues isn't exactly a perk in the primary school PE class.
These are all worth blog posts of their own, so rather than trying to cram it all into this post I'll come back to these issues over the next few weeks.

There are also some issues which don't personally affect me to a great extent but are experienced by other Aspies, which may play into gaining weight.  For instance some people, either through a need for stability and routine or as a defence against sensory bombardment, have quite restricted diets and eat the same thing day in day out.  That can cause problems if it means they aren't getting the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and other complicated dietary things they need to stay healthy - especially if they have a love of bland carbs like I do.  I think I could live quite happily on things like pasta cabonara and chicken flavoured potato chips if I could do so and stay healthy.