View Full Version : Advice for my brother, please

04-24-2005, 03:35 PM
My older brother is 18 years old and autistic. He's also very overweight, at about 6'2" and almost 300 lbs. Because of his disability, it's difficult for him to do very rigorous exercise, but he has started a routine of running on the treadmill 20 minutes every day (around a mile). This is a vast improvement from his otherwise extremely sedentary lifestyle, but in combination with his diet (he most likely eats around 4000 calories if not more every day), it's far from a solution. It worries me because several health problems run in my family that are linked to obesity, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and though my family recognizes the problem, no one other than me is willing to take serious action about it. My mom's reasons for allowing him to overeat so much is that it is "one of the only things that he really, honestly enjoys", since he doesn't really have friends outside of his family and doesn't have many hobbies, she's let eating become one of them. I don't even know where to start dealing with this problem. If I could, I would become the dietician of my whole family, do lots of research and since I love to cook would shop and cook for my family, but I am a Junior in high school and my schedule makes this impossible. My parents work 12-hour jobs every day and while one of them is always home, they're usually exhausted and we eat out an average of 2 times a week for dinner, and 2 or 3 times a week for lunch. Since our schedules are so crazy, we don't get out to eat until after work on the weekends and even during our busy weekdays until after 9 PM, and then we're basically off to bed after that, which is another major problem. I'm sorry I'm writing so much but I'm just really concerned about the health of my whole family, especially my brother, and I need some advice on how I should go about changing this. Thanks.

04-24-2005, 11:41 PM
I am not any were near an expert, but I would say start by cutting calories in small incriments. I would start by cutting about 800 calories a day for a couple weeks, then cut another 800 for a few weeks. This way he does not get headaches or anything from the drastic cut. Also have him drink more water and try to work up to 30 minutes on the treadmill. Good Luck.

04-25-2005, 07:46 AM
hello, i completely know where you're coming from. i also have an autistic brother, and although he's never been overweight, he has the same sort of attiutude to food as your brother. he used to seriously eat like a horse. he's 23 now, and lives at a house with carers. i'm not too sure what his eatings like now, but when he lived at home my mum used to have to hide everything that he might get his hands on, like easter eggs that were mine or my sisters, or chocolates that were my parents.
the way my mum used to handle it was that she would allow him a treat, say two chocolate biscuits, after his meal if he ate the meal first. that way he was able to enjoy a treat but without it becoming a massive big deal for him. i guess we were lucky because my mums a very healthy cook, and so the meals he ate would be balanced and good for him. she used to give him large portions to satisfy his appetite, but they were of foods that would not make him put on weight, e.g a big portion of vegetables, or let him have brown bread with his meal to fill him up. i really feel for your situation, because it must be hard to be eating healthily if your forced to eat out all the time. i think all it takes is good planning, you seem to have a really positive attitude. maybe when you have some free time you could cook up some meals, and freeze them for the week. then you would have healthy meals to eat when you come home, without it taking long to prepare.
the tread mill sounds a really good start to his excercise anyway. my brother used to be very active, and really enjoyed it. we used to take him swimming alot, and he also took up cycling and found he really liked it and ended up taking part in some competitions. my advice is to try and find a sport he likes, and then he'll have a fun hobby that might take his mind off eating. rollerblading is a good one too. my parents take him out walking aswell, which keeps him active, and he also has a job in a garden centre which keeps him fit with all the lifting and digging.
I really do wish you all the luck in the world with your brother, because i know exactly how you must feel, and its hard to convey to someone just how difficult it is to teach people with autism how to control their eating, because it seems impossible sometimes.
for now, keep up the excercise, and try and plan your meals to avoid too much junk. also, don't keep junk food in the house. if its not there he wont be able to eat it. all the best :)

04-25-2005, 10:48 AM
Hi, Idigit :wave:

I think that Ding gave you some excellent suggestions about how you can help your brother. I just wanted to add that I am amazed that you're only a junior in highschool. You seem very mature and thoughtful for someone your age which I must commend you on.

I truly hope that you are able to help your brother with his eating habits. Please keep us posted on how you're doing with this, and let us know what works, as I'm sure that there are others who are struggling with similar problems.


04-27-2005, 07:55 PM
croppingmom, thank you for the advice. You're right, the amount of calories he intakes has to be cut down, and I had no idea about the headaches, etc. that might result from anything too drastic, so thanks for letting me know about that. I'll try to get him to increase his exercise time each day. Thanks again.

04-27-2005, 08:06 PM
Thank you so much for all the advice and support. I really, really appreciate all the excellent advice. The thing about my brother is, the only reason that he has junk food or treats is because my parents give them to him, for dessert, snacks, etc. He is actually not a picky eater at all and loves veggies and fruit - he'd start a vegetarian style if my family decided to do it, and when my mom does have time to cook, she cooks really great meals that, although they're always well balanced and healthy, he just eats far too much of. It's just that he's so used to being offered food it's like a routine, and it's always there. I'm going to try and see if I can convince my parents to get rid of all the junk food in the house, starting with sodas (maybe replaced with fruit juice) and potato chips (pretzels? bagel chips? He always takes something of this sort for his school lunches... any more suggestions, guys?), and eventually ice cream, cookies, etc. Ideally there would only be a very few options of treats for him to have every once in a while. Also, your suggestion of walking is a great idea - we have a toy dog and although small dogs usually take care of their own exercise, too, he can use a few walks now and then. :) A dog-walking schedule would be a nice habit to get into.

Thank you SO MUCH for all your suggestions and support again, and I hope all the best for you and for your brother as well. I will try to keep his progress posted!

04-27-2005, 08:16 PM
Musical Muse-

Thanks for the support, and for the compliment, too! I just hope I'm able to talk to my parents about this and that they'll take me as seriously as you all do. Thank you again.

04-28-2005, 03:10 PM
don't mention it, glad you found it helpful :)
thats a good thing that you say he isn't a fussy eater, because i know alot of people with autism can be very narrow in their food choices. i think the real task lies in helping your whole family to change, like you said. i think you're wise to cut out soda, because thats often how the calories can shoot up in your diet. once you've gotten used to not drinking it, then try and cut out something else like cookies. the key to change is slow and steady alterations, so that you don't feel overwhelmed and it just becomes part of your everyday life.

how about nuts as snacks? they are very good for you, but also fill you up so he's less likely to go overboard, or rice cakes. they come in a variety of flavours nowadays, and taste pretty good whilst still being low in fat.
i think maybe a real sit down discussion with your family is in order, you really do have the right attitude and i hope for your brothers sake that everyone else will see that. best of luck :)

04-28-2005, 04:11 PM
I agree - you sound very mature and intelligent for your age. I think I can offer another perspective here. I am the mother of a special needs child who is physically handicapped. He is 3 years old and just the light of my life. My philosophy with raising him and trying to treat him as normally as possible is that overindulgence, of any kind, to try to "make up" for what he can't do is detrimental to him. Children with special needs - whether those needs be physical, psychological, emotional, educational - need empowerment, not pity. I would give my son perfect health in an instant if I could, but I can't, so I embrace what he can do and I try to empower him to do the same.

I can tell that what your mom is doing is overindulging your brother with food because that is one thing that he enjoys. I don't know how easy it would be to discuss this with your mom, but it may be worth a shot. Let her know that your brother enjoys other things, such as healthier foods and exercise, and that she should really consider not allowing him to have so much junk.

I wish you the best of luck!

off kilter
05-03-2005, 12:51 PM
I have no ideal where you live but can you look outside the house for activities for disabled individuals. Two of my 3 children are disabled one physically he's 25 the other one has Autism he is 7. Both of them have a super busy social life ,very active with different groups. My older son did special olympics for years and as a adult does alot of outward bound programs to keep fit. My son with Autism belongs to special olympics track and field ( with his severe Autism about the only command he understands is run and loves it, we just have to make sure someone is at the end to get him to stop) He also goes bowling with us once a week. Call around to local groups in your area, I wish you luck. Sometimes the first step in getting healthy is to increase activity if reducing calories is not very exciting.