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Smart Goals to Addressing Obesity in Autistic Adults

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent of autistic children are likely to be obese. Weir et al. (2021) found that compared to non-autistics, autistic adults were more likely to have an abnormal weight (i.e., Underweight, 6% vs. 3%; Overweight/Obese 64% vs.45%). This suggests a lower likelihood of following basic health recommendations for diet, exercise, and sleep, which affect a person’s quality of life. Some of the factors leading to abnormal weight in autistic adults are limited food selection, strong food dislikes, not eating enough food, constipation, and medication interactions. There is also a gap in the United States Healthy People 2020 guidelines on how to help adults on the autism spectrum.

I am technically obese based on BMI but not waist circumference, which I feel is more accurate to address obesity in the autism subpopulation. Men with a waist circumference of 43 in (110 cm) had a 50% chance of death than 37 in (94 cm) waist. Women with a 37 in (94 cm) had an 80% high risk of death than 27.5 in (70 cm) waist. Unlike other children with autism, I had a normal weight, belonged to boy scouts and in high school belonged to a fitness center. Sadly, when I went to college in my last two years my fitness center usage decreased, and my weight increased. However, in 2007 I worked at a bakery at a supermarket preparing items, which led me to decrease my weight temporarily. However, sinceI moved to a full-time position, I have been criticized for being overweight and not going to the fitness center. Recently, I am taking an increased emphasis on losing weight, due to my education journey coming to an end.

A recommendation to address losing weight, with the absence of national guidelines

is to make SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Specific goals need to be narrow for more effective planning. Measurable is to define what evidence will prove that progress is being made and to reevaluate when necessary. Attainable is to make sure you can reasonably accomplish the goal in a certain timeframe. Relevant goals should align with your values and long-term objectives. Finally, time-based goals must have a realistic ambitious end-date for task prioritization and motivation. Some advantages are that SMART goals incorporate your plans and provide a way to track your progress in a timely manner. If a small deadline within your overall deadline is missed it will give you time to get back on track. However, a strong disadvantage is that it could lead to becoming obsessed to completing your goal by a certain deadline, at the detriment of other activities, so they must be practical and flexible to adapt to changing circumstances, yet still be achievable.

Example: I will increase my daily activity by walking for 20–30 minutes at least 4 days each week. I will track my progress by using my Fitbit tracker and check my dashboard once each week. Increasing my activity level may help me to lose weight and reduce my risk for diabetes. It will also help me to move more comfortably when I go hiking with my friends. I will re-evaluate my goal in 8 weeks and increase my walking time or adjustments so that physical activity on most days of the week gradually becomes a lifestyle habit.

References Weir, E., Allison, C., Ong, K. K., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2021). An investigation of the diet, exercise, sleep, BMI, and health outcomes of autistic adults. Molecular Autism, 12(1), 1-14.


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