Raising Two Autistic Children and How It Has Affected My Weight

I have never been super model material and that hasn’t ever bothered me. Prior to having children I was a size 12 and my weight wasn’t anything I ever thought about.

I am not prepared to say what size clothes I wear now because I know I am over weight and now I think about it a lot!

At nine months pregnant with twins I weighted much less than I do now, ten years later. The years have not been kind to me that way sadly.

As a new mother my weight was the last thing on my mind. It went even lower on the list when I told the health visitor I had some concerns about my son’s development. At 20 months I took him to see a paediatrician.

That day the paediatrician first mentioned autism and I went home and ate chocolate…because we all know that HAS to make everything better don’t we?

I had secretly hoped my sons struggles with speech, his delay in reaching milestones, his need for routine, his lack of social skills and his continuing rocking was a ‘phase’ he would grow out of. I was struggling with him outside of the house(and inside too where he would scream for hours on end) so I slowly but surely stopped going to anything with him. No toddler groups to be embarrassed at with my screaming child, no rhyme time at the library to watch other kids his age singing when mine could not say a word, and certainly no church when he would never settle in crèche.

The isolation started to affect my weight.

If you are not going out and meeting people what does it matter what you look like? I coped with the isolation by making poor food and drink choices.

Neither of my children were great sleepers. My daughter would only sleep if nursed from the breast and my son could stay awake all night at 18 months and still have more energy that a Duracell battery!

The lack of sleep started to affect my weight.

When you are tired your whole body is lethargic. You haven’t got the energy to cook and wash up so calling a delivery from a take away felt so much easier. It seemed like one less stress to think about in the chaos of life with young twins who consumed me all day and night. Sleep deprivation also meant that if I did manage a supermarket shop I would always forget essentials out of exhaustion. It took less energy to open a can of fizzy juice to drink than to remember how to even make a cup of tea. I was that tired!

Then as the children started nursery speech and language therapists, early years workers and educational phycologists became involved. The thought of people coming into our lives and our home brought so much stress and anxiety that I would cry into my cup of tea while munching on a chocolate biscuit.

Stress started to affect my weight.

The stress of finding a nursery place able to meet the needs of a non verbal child in nappies at three who wasn’t yet walking. The stress of putting the children in transport when neither of them could say if they were being treated well. The stress of feeling like I was always being judged because my children were not like others would make me want to reach for cake and fizzy juice while the children were at nursery or school.

Outside of nursery or school I had no other child care. My son was still screaming at 6 and beyond and the children’s insistence on rigid routines meant I could never ever be away from them. Going to the bathroom caused my daughter to have a panic attack and my son to scream! Everyday was a repeat of the previous one and outside of school we never left the house. I felt I was letting my children down.

Guilt started to affect my weight.

I felt I must be to blame for my children’s struggles since I was their main carer. I would read about autism being genetic and cry myself to sleep. I would read about early intervention and courses and wonder if I was doing something wrong since my child was 7, then 8, now 9 and still not talking at all. I felt guilty asking the NHS for nappies for my child as if I was somehow stealing from them. I felt guilt I was unable to work and pay taxes. I felt guilt at not noticing the autism in my daughter until she too was diagnosed a week before her 5th birthday!

I coped with that guilt with more take always, hot chocolate and crisps.

Food became my comfort when my world was falling apart.

I lost my self esteem, self worth and pride.

It’s taken me years to accept my children’s autism. I have walked through the isolation, the lack of sleep, the stress and the guilt and though things are not without difficulties, I am in a much better place.

Then one day I realised: if I could accept my children’s autism then it was time to wake up and accept how overweight I really was and do something about it.

Now I am slowly trying to lose weight. It isn’t easy though as my children are just as autistic as they always have been. They still only accept me doing certain things, rely on rigid routines, require a very high level of personal care and still struggle with sleeping a lot. I still don’t have child care and we have an abundance of appointments.

But I am making better choices. I am exercising when I can and not ordering take always like I used to. Change isn’t something my children like and it was so easy to settle into our unhealthy rut and stay there.

But for the sake of my autistic children and for my own health I am now slowly taking control of my weight.

I don’t blame my children for my weight issue nor do I blame autism. It was MY reaction and MY choices combined with the social isolation, lack of sleep, stress and guilt that having autistic children brought that pushed me to seeking support in all the wrong places.

I know it’s not going to be easy but one thing having autistic children has taught me is that even when progress is slow it is so worthwhile.

11 thoughts on “Raising Two Autistic Children and How It Has Affected My Weight

  1. Brilliant post Miriam. You are so open n brave n your posts are a gr8 help to many, many others.
    Keep doin what your doin. You’re doing great.

    Dawn xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This came just when I needed to read it. I am not massively overweight but my tummy is bigger than it should be and I have, through caring responsibilities, developed physical health problems. I realised yesterday that my eating habits need to change. I need to nourish my body, not just feed it. Carers are often neglected by others and at the bottom of their own priority pile.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I so resonate with your post. I spent a year losing weight and have put it all back on as I do except I comfort eat my way out of stress. My sons autism and other stresses have been difficult and yes over the years the weight has grown thank you for sharing x

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m the other way. Underweight. No sleep and constantly on the go means I probably burn up as many calories as I go! I don’t comfort eat either, i go off food when depressed and stressed.
    Fortunately my husband can cook and will cook and makes me eat. Although we do have exhausted days where we get take out.
    He is a comfort eater and has gained weight steadily. Now he’s reached a point where he wants to start “fixing it” I wonder, after reading your post, if he is finally accepting the autism too.
    Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A post that really hits home…. When you are busy with the kids, and have no time left for you it’s easy to make ‘bad’ food choices…. Or even ‘no food choice…. Too tired can’t be bother (which was me last night!)
    One small step at a time…. My new regime I’d to allow myself enough time to chop up a peach or nectarine, and mix it in with raspberries and blueberries…. Light enough to not feel ice over eaten…. But at least I have eaten something 😎

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I can so relate to this. Even though my children are now teens (both ASD & ADHD), my youngest is a school refuser and has been at home for three years (apart from a couple of months at an ASD school which was a complete disaster). He won’t leave the house – which means I can’t. We have no family near and no friends in a position to help. It is so isolating. I have to lose weight but have failed every time. It’s so hard when you have so few comforts and things to look forward to in your life. Just another thing to feel guilty about. Thanks for making me feel as if I am not the only one who struggles.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for sharing this. My diet has been poor to say the least since having my little girl. Her likes verge on the unhealthy side too so you end up buying more rubbish ‘for them’ then eating it yourself when they only take one bite. I wish you every success in your journey you are truly wonder woman!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is amazingly well put, Miriam.When I look around at groups of us mummies, there seems to be a pattern.One group eat their stress, and on just stops, and starts manically exercising.It is so difficult to get a normal balance.Thank you for your honesty, and good luck!The bit about being too tired to even make a cup of tea!Yes!I hear you!I think we all do our best in circumstances that are far from ordinary.

    Liked by 1 person

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