Aspergers’/Autism and Eating

Today, I came across  a Article on the Autism Speaks Website through E-Mal as we are two weeks away from thanksgiving as AS community was providing resources to get through the holiday.

However, I came across a more interesting article of fascination, the need for specifically a individual to constantly eat, for one reason or another, medicines, inactivity, etc. you name it.

The opening of the article came across a statement of the parents of a 7 Year old with Asperger’s that ate constantly. When the parents tried to control what he ate or tried to get him outdoors, he would sneak food and it would be difficult to get him away from the television.”

I can relate for the majority of my life I did this. However I have changed the habit.

It is known that food control is challenging for individuals on the speectrum. I ate many times till I purged, I snuck food constantly when I lived with my parents, whatever you could imagine, and was bashed for doing so. I was always wanting to eat, constantly and not the right foods.

A suggestion the article provides includes having a regular schedule, of which I try with breakfast, depending on the day anywhere between 6 and 9 am, again depending on where I go. Lunch at 11:30 am, as I follow all three times at Day Program, School, and Home and it helps. Finally., dinner is prepped by myself daily between 5 and six and served after prep.

I was always know as a fast eater, however, this is no longer the case. And my insides know it too, as I am  not in a severe need for the necessity room directly after a meal, nor at risk of purging, as has happened many times in my life.

I am a segregated eater, oftentimes eating one food item before eating another.

Another suggestion in the article is to provide emphasis on physical activity. This has proven true for me and my brain thanks me for it, walking outside or walking at the treadmill help signifigantly to relieve stress and it is proven that I am doing much better in that area since moving more.

Healthier foods is a tip in the article that I have followed in the article for some time now. Eating more home cooked meals and dining out less along with replacing fresh food instead of processed food and trying at best to eliminate sugary beverages, especially those with caffiene help in many areas, including anxiety among other conditions.

With eliminating trigger foods such as vookies, chocolate and other sweet treats that can be harmful, I simply don’t bring them in. Ice Cream, a food I ate at my parent’s house, is never one I bring in my home unless it is a single serving under 220 calories. As for the soda, when I moved in my own home, I began with two liter bottles, then realizing that I was getting nowhere in my healthy lifestyle that I want, so I have for the last few months been limiting the drinks to caffiene free with at least one diet caffiene free beverage on hand, the ultimate goal is to eliminate the beverages all together, but for now I have realized the difference in cutting back just what I have cut back and it is showing on the scale for the better.

I also work with muliple people weekly for total holistic health of mind, body and spirit and it is improving. Some of the individiduals I encounter from a few minutes to a few hours on a weekly basis include a dietitican, personal trainer, psychotherapist, and countless other individuals that compose my support system, not to mention a weight loss support group called TOPS where I weigh in weekly. In fact this week, I have lost four pounds this week and 25 in 13 months, after attend this group for 12 years and gaining very close to sixty pounds after a few months of making some not so good food choices in a independent rebellion of being on my own for a few months and realizing I needed to reign in the controls and be the healthy person I have been longing to be for some time now.

 

 

Truth Hurts

Truth Hurts.

Oftentimes it’s coubteracted with a attack on the person who says the truth about the person’s issue. This especially comes into play if it is one about an addiction of any kind.

My name is Dustin, and my addiction is Soda.

For most of my adult years I would wake up in the morning, and at the first opportunity, would find the largest, coldest container of soda, oftentimes the worst variety.

I would use the excuse that my medication made me groggy, so I would NEED it to be normal.

Instead, it is extremely important that I DON’T have soda with my medicine.

Over the last 11 months, when I wasn’t medicating , it enhanced the symptoms to the point others took notice.

They called it to my attention several times, Today I’m proud to say I haven’t missed a dose of my medication in a little over a month.

Yet I was Still hitting the sauce.

I’ve heard the dangers, the addict in me kicked in and made excuses. 

I would get instantly mad at my parents as they would being it to my attention when I would consume it in front of them. Being immature the discussion would end in arguments that sometimes ended with hurtful words being said. 

I now know that they said it because they love me and don’t want to bury me before their time in this life is over.

Yet I just hid it.

A few months ago, the program that provides me services daily lost their fleet in a flash flood. After utilizing rental vans for over a month, we were given a new fleet. As such a firm no eating or drinking policy was enforced and violators would be subject to disciplinary action 

Not wanting to lose a major source of transportation, I started limiting my consumption during work hours, however it would increase during my alone time.

Recently, I needed to use an ATM  on the way to somewhere, I use a convenience store near my employer because it’s doesn’t have a surcharge. While not riding in a van, I asked to stop so that I could get money although I was planning to get a drink.

I went in, the line was three deep for the ATM.

I went to get a fountain drink. I was planning to visit the ATM to get change. There was still people in line, so I got in line to checkout my drink with plans to visit the ATM after my purchase.

I didn’t.

The person driving me to my destination knew me well. The first thing out of their month was.

 “You have a problem with pop.”

 The fight reflex wanted to kick in, and I calmly explained what I have been doing doing over the last few months.

But they knew. 

They said they see me, they said nothing else.

I know that this person was having a rough day, so I let it go. 

I blocked the thought until I was riding alone again.

My feelings came in play. It was gym day and I was scheduled for drop off there.

I wanted to go home and have a pity party. However I knew I needed the gym.

I remained silent until I got there.

I went in and changed into my workout clothing.

I warned up, did a set of strength training.

I wanted to leave, but I didn’t I did my cardio, I kept going.

And thinking. Maybe this person said what they said for a reason.

Maybe because they’ve experience those with addictive personalities.

Or simply, like my family, they care ❤.

So while im I’m on the treadmill, I’m having a epiphany.

People aren’t saying I have a problem because they don’t like me.

It’s because they care. 

I’ve tried to give up many times, and it isn’t pretty.

I would say that I’ve cut back, but it to a healthy level.

When I attempt to go at it cold Turkey, I can’t stick with it.

I know I have to get there, put the thought in my mind.

For I know it’s the best thing for me.

365 days, 52 weeks

Note: This was abstracted from a post on Facebook that I wrote yesterday about my yearlong weight journey. Also looking for a series on holistic health (mind body and spirit) to be forthcoming.

365 days, 52 weeks

Same Shirt, froma TOPS Fall Rally in 2014.

Things have changed in those five years
Graduated College, Moved out from my parents.Got a driver’s license,

however
On October 8, 2018, nearly 12 years after I walked thru that meeting room door, I had gained 58 pounds, the largest weight I’ve been in my life. I had been on my own for a few months and lived in a sweet independent “I’ll do what I want to because I can” phase, but on that Monday night I learned that I had to make a change for the better because I wanted to be healthy for me and I have the tools and opportunities to do so. So I did.

I walked around my neighborhood, then my City, I bought a fit bit and tracked those steps, moving more.

Soda is my addiction, as oftentimes with my medicine it will make me hyper, however I had issues with that for some time, but because I was losing excessive amounts of weight I didn’t Care.

I joined a gym by a newspaper special for the summer and went full throttle, six days a week, started really not becoming myself, had more issues physically and not eating a balanced food plan.

On September 13, it was brought to my attention of what I needed to do and how to get back on track. In 11 months I dropped 34 pounds, I didn’t want to but followed the advice of the professionals because they knew best.

As expected I gained weight back to the present level but have the healthy balance of mind body and spirit. Through a benefit of my health insurance, I have returned to the gym but only a few days a week, I plan my meals when possible and track them.

at the event this weekend I learned it is best to take the pounds off slow as hen’s by the name of the TOPS acronym, Take Off Pounds Sensibly, therefore I was assured that I am now doing just that.

The sugary drinks, the realized effects

As mentioned in the last post just posted (read down) I had a bad Soda addiction and recently gave up diet soda, all shy of having three regular sodas and sweet tea, which I no longer plan to consume.

Tonight at my Weight loss meeting it will officially be 21 days of forgoing soda. I am proud of where I’ve come at this point, yet I’m disappointed that I have been using sweet tea as my new drug of choice and I realized that last week and cut back a good bit to no longer wanting it as of right now.

Nonetheless, all things aside I will mention some of what is bad about not only soda, but energy drinks. I have seen alot of individuals with mental health needs consume them and time and time again have seen some things it causes. Let me make it clear. I have NEVER consumed as much as a sip of that stuff. I know of the cheap ones for 99 cents and the more common ones like Rockstar and Red Bull. One time I saw what the drink actually looked like outside the can and was disgusted, that sold me on never consuming it, nonetheless seeing some of the side effects of consuming them.

In an article online regarding Caffeine and Autism, https://www.livestrong.com/article/519867-caffeine-autism/, the chemical can help improve memory and concentration, but may also worsen anxiety and interfere with sleep. Abnormal fears and increased anxiety are common in autistic patients and are likely a result of a dysfunctioning amygdala.

The article further notes To date, there’s little research to indicate that caffeine plays a significant role in autism treatment. At best, reducing caffeine intake could lessen anxiety and hyperactivity. To find out if caffeine has an impact on a patient with autism, experts suggest an elimination diet, which systematically eliminates foods that could trigger unwanted behaviors prior to gradually reintroducing each food one at a time to see if the patient has a reaction. “Several lines of investigation have shown that the chemistry and function of both the developing and the mature brain are influenced by diet,” writes J.D. Fernstrom of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the June 2000 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”.

In our community, many individuals on the spectrum are now becoming adults and as a result, parents in many cases can’t oversee every food or beverage choice they make. This became more evident in myself. Freedom can be a scary thing, yet it can be wild to the manner that you start exhibiting behaviors that are unusual for anyone, if it isn’t presented to the individual by someone they trust. Maybe at that point the individual will “get it” and realize that it is a danger to not only their well being, but it could be hurt those close to them.

Additionally this just doesn’t apply solely to those in the Autism spectrum, soda and especially energy drinks have a very adverse effect on those taking them to control their mental health or to prevent other neurological events, like seizures and for example. I know of many neurologist who highly recommend not drinking Soda, and if they must, regular. The stuff that sweetens diet sodas is dangerous sometimes to the touch, and you must be extremely careful in what you consume.

Over the last decade, I have had several sodas of choice such as Coke, Diet Coke, Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi and Coke Zero to name some, of which I don’t have The desire to ever consume again. I now realize that a former psychiatrist that had a good working relationship with my mom told me when I had a liter bottle of Diet Coke in my hand during a medication Management session that I needed to quit drinking Soda, especially diet immediately. Until recently I was under the impression that my mom was pressuring him to say this stuff. Now I realize years later that I should have done it then, and then when I had a meltdown the night after I was awarded the Leadership in Recovery award. But that was then and this is now.

Since forgoing soda in most cases three weeks ago, there has been a report by the
American Heart and Stroke associations that in having two or more diet sodas a day could result, especially in females over 50 in clot based strokes, heart attacks and even death. This risk is higher in women that are obese. as well as African American women. While this is only a association, nothing could be more fitting than to give it up.

In a way I’m excited to forgo tea too. It may seem odd and funny but I have been told by told by many TOPS members and leaders, including my mother when she held the leader title once that drinking water is an important function of life and it flushes you out. I know it’s for the best and the way I think about it is peculiar and odd, but it’s what I need to believe to do it. End of story.

The sugary drinks have been winding down the last few weeks and now I find more reason to give it up for Good

As promised, I am going to write that follow up on the detrimental effects on Soda that have affected me for many years. In fact, many of those years I was in denial about quitting pop although several family and friends as well as medical professionals said it wasn’t good for me. I continuously ignored their advice, and drank a lot of it anyway.

When I was living with my parents, my dad hasn’t drank any Soda in 72 years of his life and my mom who would go for a glass now and then would have to hide it from me because I would drink it in spite of it being hers, sometimes after she drank from the bottle. I know that is disgusting. I never knew how truly addicted I was to the Soda.

Soda was eminent when growing up. My extended family always had it in their fridges. Many times it was caffeine free, sometimes not. Being younger and on Ritalin in my early years, I didn’t want anything to eat or drink for that matter. It didn’t really start in excess until I went away after High School to vocational rehabilitation school. There was no one watching or judging me and what I consumed. The facility was barrier free and was connected under one roof, meaning accessing vending machines was no difficulty. There was a bank of them very close to my dorm wing available around the clock. Also at the school was a canteen that offers hot food and yet another bank of drinks for consumption. I constantly visited these places, especially after I began to have social security benefits, because I didn’t have to pay rent, just a cable bill and some other things, so money was no object at the time. Regardless, in the year I stayed there, my weight blossomed from 256 to 280.

When I graduated, I came back home and joined a local gym, but with no real guidance and lack of proper diet, I never lost any weight. I continued to drink the soda in excess. My soda of choice when I first moved back was Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi. I loved it, I would usually buy a two liter bottle that would be short lived in my parents refrigerator. We had went to an amusement park later on and we visited the gift shop where it was the end of the season and merchandise was reduced. My mom bought a large blue plastic tumbler with a handle for 50 cents. From that time 12 years ago until I recently gave up pop. I would take that cup and fill it up with soda as far as I could possibly fill it without spilling it. My parents complained, sometimes excessively, but I acted like a jerk and did what I wanted anyway.

Also around that time, I joined the local TOPS chapter, yet still unwilling to make a full change, I would attempt at times to quit, but would relapse. One of the van drivers has for about five or six years would stop every morning at a local convince store so I could fill up on the sauce and this was later mixed with food that wasn’t healthy by any means.

Later I would have a change in transportation that I would no longer be able to get sodas in the morning, but the addiction continued. Everywhere I would go i would be looking for a vending machine so I could get my fix on sugar and caffeine. I kept ignoring the advice and guidance of my parents and others as I thought they were treating me like a child. However, I now realize this simply wasn’t the case, they were trying to look out for my best interest.

One of the days I remember my soda addiction got the best of me was April 21, 2017. I, along with my parents and co-workers made the journey to a hotel where I was awarded the Leadership in Recovery award by the local managed care organization for efforts in my mental health recovery. I knew were the soda spots were in the hotel and I wasn’t social that day alot. I just wanted my fix.

When the pomp and circumstance ended for the day and I was at my parents house. I requested for my mom to take me to the local store. She knew why and adamantly said no. For about twenty minutes I continued to ask again and again, and again and again the answer was NO! I ended that half hour screaming and yelling some pretty inappropriate stuff that someone who had a mother that would do anything in the best interest of her child should had no baseboard right doing. I realized how silly, yet so addicted to this stuff I was. And while my mom would then prohibit me from bringing it in the house from that point on, I had the van driver I currently have and he would stop pretty regularly for me to get my fix. It would be almost another two years before I would give the sauce up for good.

The next year I would have many changes as some of them are outlined here in this blog and some will be discussed later

While I got my learner’s permit early in 2018. One of the biggest hurdles of 2018 was that I began living independently, thus not being under the control of my parents. I began making rules like no Soda and the house. That lasted two days, if that.

Nonetheless, I became addicted more than ever to soda and at massive quantities. While I never took an exact inventory, I do recall instances of buying four liters at time on top of 44 or even 52 fluid ounces of diet Coke zero was my choice. This would be sometimes added with a half gallon of sweet tea.

Also I started learning how to drive at the end of 2018 and I do have to admit it was difficult to judge and stay focused. However over three weeks ago I passed my exam. It wasn’t until one week later at that TOPS meeting that I learned what was actually in diet soda. After drinking over 5 liters of soda within a 24 hours prior (conservative estimate) I gave up the pop, somewhat.

Now I can’t say I am perfect, but what I can assure you that I no longer drink any Diet soda. I have had two regular sodas and a ginger ale this past week. This is only because I was having sweet tea for about two weeks and I’ve gradually cut that back, using water, etc. There are so many affects of sugars. I’ll get into that and relating that with autism in another post.

As of right now, other than the few occasions I had a social soda, I have been free from Soda for 21 days at TOPS meeting tonight. As of today, I plan to go to mainly water as its effects are nothing but positive. I hope it works out for me. Stay tuned.

Body Image: Still An Everyday Struggle

2004-06-04_dustin-cahs-graduationContinued from Body Image, Yes I struggled during childhood and adolescence.

As I entered adulthood, I became increasing aware of my body image. It was my senior year, PE was still adaptive, but was more active and required a shower near the end. This continued to be a challenge but couldn’t be helped as it is a state requirement. Nonetheless, I mustered the courage to trudge through this struggle among many others of body image like disclosing my weight at Cap & Gown Distribution where I was 256#. After graduation, I had the grand idea of going to a new, more expensive gym. This so I thought would be the new solution. However, it was an epic fail as I ate out continuously and spent my graduation savings to nothing. That fall, I would be accepted for an assessment period at the state vocational rehab institute 60 miles away. While square meals were provided, the snacks and other needs would need to be provided by myself.

This was a true test of independence. It was difficult to manage. Papa John’s visited the school weekly for $6 Pizzas, the dining hall food was subpar and the canteen was open several times a day. Nonetheless, I consistently visited the canteen and had a pizza, yes the whole thing, and nearly fell ill as a result. I got to stay an additional week and came home and had a transitional job landed through the support entity a few months later.

dustin_2006-04-16
Easter, Age 20 (Weight was around 280#)

The next spring, I learned in a letter that I was accepted in a year-long diploma program of study. That May, I went back to the studies there and struggled continually with the canteen visits and pizza offers. I also learned takeout and how to utilize public transportation  with access to McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Domino’s a local Pizza Place, Subway and 2 Chinese Restaurants that were good. I didn’t really go for a few months due to financial constraints. A few months later this was relieved and I went hog wild with not a care in the world. I had no idea what I weighed. I began to incorporate soda, especially liters of Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper into my diet. After that Christmas, I became a little bit aware and followed the up and coming fads of that time. The Dr. Phil book, the 7 under 6 grams of fat stuff. The list goes on and on. I graduated the following spring. I came home to live, totally unaware of what my weight was. I had gained the so-called Freshman 15 and then some to over 20 pounds.

Another serious attempt was undertaken yet again where I would opt to purchase a one-year contract at the local gym, however I would not stick with it and result in not monitoring my calories and sticking to the sweets such as soda and the junk. I gave up the gym and in the fall of that year, I joined TOPS, short for Take Off Pounds Sensibly. I weighed in at 271# right before Thanksgiving. I was very well-liked at TOPS, however the food plan is up to you which can be  difficult at times. I continued the soda until recently and as a result gained 58 Pounds until October of 2019 when I was at my highest of 329. Waist sizes have increased to a 46″ and a T-Shirt Size, of 3XL to 4X, depending.

img_20181001_165315
My Highest Weight (329#, 46″ Waist)

When I was at my highest on October 1, 2018. I realized that a initial photo of me in the same top needed to be taken before each weigh-in followed by a posting scheme on social media to garner support. As of this writing almost four months later, I have lost close to 15# from my highest weight at TOPS. During the last meeting we touched on the pros and cons on sugar and it was stated that aspartame is nothing but rat poison. This sickened me immediately as I drank over six liters of Coke Zero in just the past twenty-four hours alone. I got up and distracted the crowd by lifting the lid on the trash can and throwing the twenty-once bottle away. I no longer plan to drink any artificial sweetners and limiting true sugars. More will be coming in another post on my addiction and how bad it is and how I plan to overcome it.  Plans call for another charm at TOPS in seven weeks with 8 weeks no loss and to lose about 14 pounds in that time to have a weight around 300#.

Body Image, Yes I struggled during childhood and adolescence.

Recently, I was browsing many of the Autism groups of Facebook and came upon this BBC 3 clip on male body image. Many say individuals with autism don’t have this issue. However, I have to argue that for several points. This clip profiles men of all shapes, ethnicities, lifestyles and sizes. Some may have a eating disorder while other dudes may not. Nonetheless, I struggle day to day with this. Over the next paragraph, we will journey through  an almost 30 year history of my body images, and don’t worry there’s no graphic pictures, they’re clean, I promise.

Part I: The Ritalin and Misdiagnoses

1991_christmas_dustin-2By the time I entered first grade, I really didn’t know, but my parents knew something was not right mentally. They took me to a clinic at a regional hospital where I was prescribed the traditional drug of any kid in the 1990s with the ADHD label, Ritalin. This medicine made my very lethargic and not wanting to eat Throughout much of my elementary school years, I was forty pounds soaking wet. I wanted to eat, but I couldn’t, nor did I care if I did or not. I did not like a plethora of food choices. My main go to  was Hot Dogs, Mac & Cheese and the occasional McDonald’s.

1994-08-29
First Day of Third Grade, the turning point

I recall this one time at my first elementary school where I wouldn’t eat the food and I went to throw it away. The paraprofessional halted me and gave it to the hungry kids in the lunchroom, I felt so ashamed. Family get togethers were yet another difficulty with the ADHD blending in and not wanting to eat. I don’t realize it to just now, but I am sure I stressed my family out. As for body image at this point, I didn’t want to gain weight, but my parents were gravely concerned for several years. The medicine was being used until the 3rd grade when learning in the mainstream environment became increasingly difficult.

1996-04-14
Near the end of the Ritalin days, Easter in Sixth Grade

The behavior became so severe that it resulted in switching schools to an emotional support classroom, a smaller environment. With the new school being a huge change, the behaviors worn off and I began to receive my Ritalin from the pediatrician. Even with the adapted changes, eating and body image became a struggle that I wouldn’t eat certain foods. Now I realize years later that it could have been the sensory issues, however not yet having a official autism diagnosis, I thought these feelings were abnormal. I did family get togethers with little struggle, but didn’t eat as regularly as I should have for a growing child. Eventually, by the end of the elementary school years, I would end taking the Ritalin. However changes were necessary as I would begin the Junior High Years.

Part II: The “Official” Diagnosis and change in Meds

1998-10-25
Fall of 7th Grade, About 100-110 pounds

As the transition began from Elementary School to Junior High was difficult to the point that in-home services were required. One of the first professionals that visited my home made 16 phone calls on my behalf and began the process of getting in a research study at a local university medical center where I performed a battery of tests and was given the official diagnosis. As such, I was referred to their clinic for medication management and was  prescribed two of the three meds I still take twenty years later. I continue to take a mood stabilizer and a ant-agressant to maintain my mood and help me sleep. A anti anxiety med, that a true period of transition over the next seven years until I found the current one.

1999-06_dustin-in-challenger-league-uniform_crcsi-team
Me in My Challenger League Uniform during my 7th Grade Summer, about 140#

With Junior High came physical education, which is a state mandated class in Pennsylvania. With that came the bullying and teasing, the locker room banter, the physical fitness tests, the dreaded “mile”. I had a pitiful veteran gym teacher and adaptive PE was not offered to me at my school as I was classified as too “advanced” None the less beginning the end of seventh grade, the weight became to come on due to the side effects of weight gain and increased appetite of the two meds. I hated my body, I was continued to be bullied and bantered throughout the seventh grade. I hated the part of growing out of new clothes, etc. I knew puberty had a part in this effect but I had negative feelings about myself to the point that additional services were needed and it became increasingly difficult to control my emotions physically and mentally. To not help, my Junior High was in the process of renovation over 7th Grade to the start of 8th Grade, and as a result, the construction made us attend classes in multiple buildings, the bantering continued to the point that I was glad the year was over.

Part III: The Hospitalization Experiences

2000-04-08
Another successful day of Trout Season (Age 14, about 160#)

Beginning the following school term the school messed up my schedule placing me in total mainstreaming. This was increasingly difficult but could not be changed for several weeks, The bantering and Phys. Ed. issues continued, which made me eat and again struggle with body image. I didn’t feel complete. I couldn’t feel satisfied after a meal, the list goes on and on. None the less it got to the point that I acted out at home and required psychiatric hospitalization. This was my first time away from home ever without family.

As such, I learned new things and was released from the hospital a week later. The curricula at school was changed to a book study PE. However, the PE deal was renegicuated to include a modified PE. The school term ended badly, with me continuing to act out as well as the trauma from being restrained frequently. In addition, I began a regular weight lifting routine, thinking it would help. Decades later, I realized it would of helped if I would have ate better and managed better. But at this point I was just living day to day. Finally, I had a really bad episode that resulted me in returning to the same hospital just seven months after I left. I would not finish the school term successfully. I, along with family members continued to become increasingly concerned about my weight to a point. However, we were unsure if it was a part of puberty. We knew the meds had a part in this, but we thought it would play out with the semi-workout routine. This was the beginning of the struggle of the weight issues that I hold twenty years later.

Shortly after the second hospitalization, I came back and returned again and spent my 15th birthday in the inpatient unit. I got out one more time, only to return again after a very bad episode. I stayed longer this time, but I got out. I continued to live, but with a struggle, body image had a play in this I thought I wasn’t good enough to live, stuff like that. The time came when I lashed out in the university clinic where I was admitted to the university psych hospital. My parents gave a ultimatum. I was not to return to their residence until I was through a residential treatment facility, and due diligence, my mother aggressively fought the system’s idea of first having me placed in a place in New England, then a counter offer of a facility on the other side of the state. My mother successfully placed me in treatment 30 miles from my house.

2000-12-25-jamie
A home visit for Christmas (About 185#)

While there was an abundance of activity that nine months I was placed, my parents wanted to level me out on my meds and give me a baseline. As such, the weight creped over the holidays. I did have an opportunity to attend a different public school that was totally opposite of the Junior High the year prior. It was a success, but it had nearly five times the students the Junior High had. Being a High School, it had a expansive food court, that included a salad bar, that I rarely visited, however I did visit the Ala carte line regularly. Near the point I completed my goals in residential, I got on the scale, just for kicks. I knew the pants size went up from a 36:” to when I was admitted to a 38″ and a weight of 187#. I was appalled.  I again knew that I had to make a change for the better. To my mother’s agreement , when I came home, in home services would need to occur for the transition to become successful. I agreed and came home. The next day, I went to the gym and weighed myself on the scale, I weighed 200 # I was ready for a change. Little did I know, I had to yet transition to yet another school in my home school district, but this would be completed easier. I still had days of which I would require to be restrained due to lashing out. Things seemed to not get better. I was groomed with unhealthy food choices like Chinese Buffets, Soda (caffeine free, but calorie), and weekly pizzas, sometimes twice a week.

2001-06-23-2
Sophomore Summer when I was 16 (Approx. 225#)

I was associating with other peers, many of them younger in a wilderness setting. As the weight increased due to the increased usage of meds, as the psychiatrist didn’t want to “rock the boat,” the dosage continued. One Friday night at the gym, I was all alone in the locker room and I decided to have my own true weight session. Since May of that year, I gained 25 pounds. I was too ashamed to ask for guidance as I was lifting weights on a regular basis, however the continuance of the fatty foods would not help, nor did the continuance of meds, although I realize that it is a necessary element in my recovery. I knew that the weight had to be managed in some form. Many thought that going to they gym was helping. Ironically, it did not. In fact, I was increasingly stressed and experienced trauma from it and other social outings, that were increasingly difficult. However as Asperger’s was new and new territory and many professionals were unaware of the sensory issues.

dustin-christmastree-2001
Christmas at Age 16, 2 weeks after eye surgery and weighing around 230#

The body image issue continued over the holidays and into the summer of the following year into my 17th birthday. I felt extremely conscious of myself. Being in the Senior High offered me the opportunity to have adaptive PE. of which my Sophomore year the instructor was nearing retirement and resulted in playing computer games. I continued with the weekly dining out from Mexican Chinese to Buffets added with the calories sodas, it became increasingly difficult for me to pursue the dream that seemed to have no light at  the end of  the tunnel. I continued to be on the meds, which again, I knew I needed. That fall I “graduated” into a 40′ waist. I thought, this has got to stop. I had felt as puberty was over, but the weight was growing outward from this point forward. I had a hard time seeing the need for a change to be made, I, nor my family members wanted to be serious. about it.  I continued to workout on a regular basis until thanksgiving break my junior year as I joined the swim team as a statistician and the weight crept even more. I broke away from the events that caused trauma in my life, my life seemed to get better.

dustin_2004_seniorportrait_sitting
One of my senior portraits taken just after I turned 18. I weighed around 245# at the time.

That spring, I remember going to Macy’s to try on a pair of 40″ shorts, sadly, I couldn’t get them to zip nor button. I cried as I asked my mom for the next size. Also that year, a recruiter called me for the Selective Service a turned 18. They asked my height and weight. I was so embarrassed to state my weight over the phone of 243, yet again I was in torn to tears. Nonetheless, I began the senior pictures that summer as I looked delighted but it was only the beginning of the increasingly climb to adulthood.