Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Other Epidemic

Sweet M is very, very round, and I haven't known what to do.

We are told that there is an epidemic of autism. The other epidemic that we hear a a lot about is rising childhood obesity. If one believes that fatness is a disease, and not just another difference, then Sweet M is among the obese.

Of course there are a lot of smart people out there who think fat is just fat, not a disease. But most of them are not tween-age girls.

As for me, I'm not sure what I think, but I know it's hard to be fat.

I've been fat. I've been thin. I've been fat again, and thin again, and fat again.

What has never stopped amazing me is the unadulterated prejudice against fat people that abounds. When I'm fat people make all kinds of assumptions (need I say "none positive"?) about me: about my intelligence, my fitness, my energy level, my work habits, my education level, my sexuality, and my socioeconomic status. It's simply amazing.

So I wish Sweet M weren't fat.

It is hard to be fat. And it's hard to be autie. And it's hard to be a fat autie tween. Awfully hard.

Sweet M didn't used to be fat. She used to be a beanpole like her slender father.

One of my undergraduate students last semester told me that he'd worked the previous summer at a weight reduction camp for kids. Many of the kids who were struggling with their weight, he told me, were taking psychotropic meds: antidepressants or atypical neuroleptics. Paxil, Prozax, Risperdal, Abilify, Effexor, etc.

That makes sense to me. Ever since Sweet M started taking Paxil five years ago, she's been piling on the pounds. I think of MOM-NOS's descriptions of Bud ravenously hungry after starting a particular medication, and I think, wow, these medications do change the way they perceive and metabolize food.

Of course Sweet M's carb-centric diet and aversion to running around haven't helped. She prefers television, the computer, videogames, and drawing to almost any other activities. Except -- get this -- horseback riding. Horseback riding! Not exactly the ideal sport selection for a girl living in lower Manhattan. Wish she'd picked something a little more convenient and less extravagant, like shooting hoops or riding a bike. But she picked.

So in July, we started hippotherapy, horseback riding for kids with developmental differences. It's awesome. Sweet M is loving it, and she's learning to sit tall, to post and trot, with 1,800 pounds of horse underneath her.

Sweet M meets Thunder.

And now we're going all out: we're taking her off of Paxil. To tell you the truth, I'm scared. It's a medication that has saved our lives. It almost completely eliminated Sweet M's obsessive-compulsive symptoms within two weeks of starting. But that was nearly six years ago, and now we're trying for something new.

Slowly, surely, carefully, we're taking her off; making tiny incremental drops while substituting another medication that her doctor says is weight neutral in children. Apparently coming off of Paxil can cause excruciating withdrawal symptoms, so we're taking it very, very slowly, and introducing a different SSRI.

So far, so good. We're galloping along in week two of the switch.

If Sweet M can manage 1,800 pounds of equine Thunder, I hope I can manage one sweet autie tween switching meds.


kristina said...

So great to M horseback riding! Jim's niece also did this for awhile at Chelsea Piers I think.

What a big step to go off Paxil---SSRI's did not seem to affect Charlie's appetite, but the (infamous) Risperdal did at first. Then this summer we upped his dose slightly and he's been eating less?!?

What other sports/exercise has M tried? Maybe even just regular short walks every day>

Liz Ditz said...

It's funny -- I read the first copule of lines of your post in RSS and thought -- "I bet it's the meds".

And good for Sweet M for starting to ride. It is a sport she can do life-long, and if she wants to compete, she can. Or not.

My darling neurotypical daughter (a lifelong equestrian -- I was riding while pregnant) also took up martial arts, first so she could ride better, then because she loved it.

That's a hint for some other activity that Sweet M might enjoy.

Frogs' mom said...

M looks good on that horse, so confident.

We've been considering medication and hippo therapy for Frog. I'll be watching your posts about M closely.

Has M tried playing games on the wii?

Anonymous said...

Hello, This is my first time reading your blog. Loved this post- it is both honest and sensitive. My younger sister has always struggled with obesity. It was painful to watch her struggle with her identity as a teen and amazing to see her bloom into a gorgeous young woman. I am also the mom of a 7 year old boy with autism. I just wanted to mention (and I apologize if you've heard or tried this already) that high doses of B6/magnesium (200mg/400mg) and 5htp have helped us out so much with the OCD and anxiety. My son is a different boy without these supps.
Anyways, you sound like a great mom and congrats to Sweet M for taking up riding. It's such a beautiful sport.

mama edge said...

My son Rocky went through a heavy phase as a tween, then grew six inches. Despite his aversion to moving and eating vegetables, he's much leaner now. I'm hoping the same happens for my now-tween Taz, whose weight seems directly correlated to his mental health. I fear that when he's finally stabilized, he'll be enormous.

MothersVox said...

Kristina, Hi! I didn't know they had horseback riding at Chelsea Piers! I'll check that out! The other day I was wishing Jim would come into town and work his magic to teach M to bike ride!

Hi Liz, Yes, martial arts are good, but M didn't really go for that. We tried that two summers ago. Maybe we'll try it again because it's really good for balance, coordination and concentration.

Hello Frog's Mom -- The games on the Wii might be really good . . . we don't have a Wii yet. We are so last century in our household, as M is prone to tell me!

Welcome Naomi! Come back again. I think I will be posting more frequently in the next months . . . many changes are afoot!

Mama Mara, Welcome. That is reassuring about the growth spurts! Maybe there is one on the horizon for M.

Anonymous said...

Your girl is beautiful, large or small. Almost no one will tell you that, because body size issues evoke deep, deep fear, even in communities that pride themselves on diversity and acceptance of differences. When you post about your sadness regarding your large child's experience in the world, you will not receive support, but only suggestions for the causes and elimination of your child's larger size. You will receive no acknowledgement that ill-treatment of a child for being large is no different than any other kind of ill-treatment of a child.

Sweet M's (or any other child's) acceptability remains intact, no matter her size. Any comments, in whatever setting, that do not originate OVERTLY from that fact are discountable.

If you'd like to communicate off-blog about this, I'd love to hear from you:

teh4 said...

Just came across this blog and wanted to tell you that Prozac has almost no side effects, perhaps weight loss, but definitely not weigh gain.