Walking It Back

I bookmarked an article the other day, too long to read at the moment. I made it through enough of it, though, to find myself nodding.

I think of them as the first generation. My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s (now just referred to as high-functioning autism) nearly 20 years ago. It made sense, it explained a lot, it helped us to understand more and adjust our behavior, but it wasn’t, of course, something that could be fixed. He’s been on medications for all of those years, but not for autism. He had a constellation of diagnoses, as his pediatric psychiatrist referred to it.

And the medications helped, there’s no doubt in my mind, as troubling as the whole thing was to me. He’s now down to almost nothing, a tiny bit to help with anxiety. He remains a square peg in a world of circles, but those edges are starting to blur a little. It’s been remarkable.

But it’s a difficult path for these young people, as the article points out. I can speculate on why this is, why some of them manage to do fine in school with help, even college and graduate school, and others can’t even imagine it.

His path is brighter now. It’s always been bright in my mind, knowing that we just needed patience and persistence. His skill set is expanding and really amazing, all things considered, and his various job training stints have been generally positive. Most of the places he’s worked loved him.

I don’t write about him much anymore, but that’s mostly because he annoys me. It’s part of the process, and it helps if I think of him as a 17- or 18-year-old rather than the same age I was when I was hired to manage a small company. He’s becoming independent, and we have a few clashes. Mostly, though, we’re doing just fine.

As he is, and there’s a quick and obvious way to assess that, as has been noted by the healthcare and social services people who’ve been dealing with him for a few years now. That is, the tall kid (around 6’3”) whose weight jumped when he began taking a medication with that particular side effect and who tipped the scale at over 270 maybe a year ago looks very different now, in the low 230s. This is the result of changing his diet, mostly cooking his own food and cutting back on soda to nearly nothing, the occasional treat. And walking.

I’m sort of nervous about typing those last words. I’ve been approached in the past month or so by two different young entrepreneurs, running websites with health-related themes. They’ve scraped out old blog posts that relate in some way to the particular subject they specialize in, and they offer me thousands of readers if I’ll write about their sites and link to them.

The thing is, I have thousands of readers. Just not for this blog. Something I’m actually pleased about, and the reason I almost never promote anything I write here. I write for wanderers, stragglers, lurkers, strangers in this space, but mostly I just write for myself. Keep writing, and so on. It’s gym.

So, maybe. Maybe one day I’ll take a good look at their sites and decide to write about it, but my story is so entangled with exercise and weight loss and health—and I’ve told my story enough times—that I’d rather not be seen as a niche writer. Although not having a niche is why I’m pretty much a failure at this writing business. So far, anyway. You really should have a niche.

My son is the one who should be documenting this. Note to self.

It fascinates me, really. The reason these people contact me is that they’re interested in self improvement and transformation, and they’d like to share information and help others and, in the process, maybe win the jackpot. Or a piece of the jackpot. More power to them.

I completely understand the impulse, too, assuming they were the original subjects of this transformation. When I began to lose weight, having drawn up my own plan, not really expecting it to work the way I hoped it would but wanting to experiment, the urge to shout my success story was strong in this one. I’d broken the code, gotten back to basics and figured it all out. It worked almost exactly as I’d hoped.

But that was me, and this is you. Even if I believed today that much of what I did could work for anyone—and I do—there’s a lot more to the process.

It’s like my chocolate chip cookies. People really seem to like them, even if they’re hardly the most exotic cookie, but every time someone has asked for the recipe they’ve lost interest fairly quickly. There’s no secret ingredient. Good, quality ingredients, yeah, but nothing special.

What baking these cookies, and having them turn out the way they do, requires is mostly time. Patience, really. Some things that people don’t really want to do.

Same thing, then. My son wasn’t quite ready to do all the deep drilling down that my way of losing weight and getting fitter involved, but he took the basics to heart: Pay attention to what you eat, move more, and weigh yourself. A lot. Every day would be good, but he manages a few times a week.

And I believe this. If weight is your issue, if you want to weigh less (or, I suppose, more), then using the instrument that measures that weight might be useful, you think?

I get the frustration, the dread. The fear of plateaus, the boredom of discipline, the temptation of easy calories that come in the form of really good chocolate chip cookies. And then there’s that pesky metabolic syndrome, which can affect a lot of people and make weight loss even more of a challenge.

So, no. I’ve written enough on the subject, and I’ve read much more. I know people who are desperate to change their bodies, take the pressure off aging joints and just feel better about themselves, who completely reject the idea of tracking calories. I don’t blame them at all. It sounds like an awful way to eat, turning food into numbers.

But I’ve done it, every day. For almost 10 years. These days I tend to track the actual food itself, since there are more sophisticated apps and I can now get an idea of how I’m doing from a nutrition standpoint, but mostly it was just numbers. Guesswork, references, eyeballing; consistency is the key, and as I said, it’s been 10 years.

My weight hasn’t budged out of a range of 3 pounds since the fall, when I gained some of that weight back I’d lost the year before. And I can eat whatever I want, and I do. Just not every day, and I’m not all that interested in doing the same thing every day.

But, again: This is my story, not yours.

It’s just that it’s now my son’s story, and success is sweetest when it’s shared.

John these days; upper left corner was fall 2016.

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