Weight management is difficult for everyone but like so many other things it is more difficult for individuals with ADHD.
First some overall perspective. Somewhere in the 80 to 90% off all attempts at weight loss end in failure. The rates of obesity have been climbing steadily over the past decade. A clear majority of Americans and Canadians are overweight
We live in a culture that discriminates against overweight people blaming them for their excess weight. Part of the general culture of shame and blame.
Rather than recognizing that there is a problem with dieting we tend to blame individuals and those individuals blame themselves.
We live in a toxic environment when it comes to the food choices that we are surrounded with. There is an abundance of highly desirable food that is temptingly present in advertising and availability. Food tends to be highly processed and high in fat, sugar, and simple carbohydrates. These foods provide an abundance of calories and little staying power.
Lastly and most importantly, our bodies have a damning tendency to regulate to our highest sustained weight. This means that once we have gained weight, our self-regulation circuits tend to reprogram in order to sustain this weight. Our feelings of hunger which direct most people’s eating behavior leaves us hungry unless we need an adequate quantity of food to sustain our highest weight.
What makes it harder with ADHD.
Starting with this element of regulation, we must remember that individuals with ADHD tend to operate on a reactive basis following their impulse to what feels right. As a result, their tendency to get locked into eating what they “feel” like is heightened.
Individuals with ADHD are typically feeling overwhelmed with the amount of things that they had to do. Eating well and exercising, the two cornerstones of solid weight management require at least 45 minutes to an 90 minutes each day dedicated to the task of sustaining activity and providing good food choices. This is time that most ADHD individuals simply don’t feel that they have.
Another aspect of feeling overwhelmed and having difficulty juggling all the aspects of life is that people with ADHD are much more often caught unprepared and end up grabbing available food. Food that is readily available tends to be unhealthy.
Impulse control – just – it’s hard to keep from saying things that simply crosses your mind is also incredibly difficult to resist the desire to eat things that are perceived as tasty.
Sleep. A fundamental cause of weight gain is chronic fatigue. While this is true of everyone it is terribly true individuals with ADHD for all the typical reasons that they have problems with self-regulation. Individuals respond fatigue in a way that is similar to their response to hunger. When one feels like their batteries need to be recharged it is incredibly easy to reach for an easily converted energy source such as some simple carbohydrate. These give her ready boost of energy and typically a crash shortly thereafter.
Regular eating is essential for appetite control. Also best single predictor of sustained weight loss. Anyone who goes too long without eating tends to take in excess calories. Ideally people should eat three square meals a day and at least a couple of snacks. Once again ADHD folks are caught short. Very frequently people with ADHD forget to eat when they are caught up with things or feel too pressured to take the amount of time necessary.
Restlessness, a frequent background hum when people with ADHD are not well engaged. Eating is one of those “easy” things to fill time and reduce the boredom.
So let’s talk about some of the basics of doing it right.
Don’t expect phenomenal results from exercise alone. Exercise does not demonstrate a lot of results for the expenditure of calories alone. So don’t think you can compensate for eating badly by spending a half hour exercising. It is important to balance your expectations appropriately so that you are dealing with excessive disappointment. Don’t expect prenominal results from balanced sustainable food restriction, Slow is the only thing sustainable
Make exercise easy and interesting. Try teaming up with someone else to keep you on track since being responsible for others is usually something ADHD folks do better than keeping themselves on track. Appreciate that establishing routine for ADHD is difficult. Don’t think you can nail it down quickly and easily. Daily exercise seems to work better than intermittent exercise. Try to make it a daily habit of walking at least 20 to 30 minutes. Without fun it becomes much more difficult to sustain.
Need clarity of what you are doing to lose weight. ADHD folks don’t do well when the objectives are unclear. Lots of room for personal negotiations and spinning into left field and ultimately leaves the person decide on the basis of what they fell like. Do what is sustainable. Only worth doing what you can live with the rest of your life. Don’t bother with short term unless you only have 5-10 lbs to lose.
Pay more attention to your eating. Deficit in recognizing feelings of hunger and fullness. Time your meals and try to keep distractions to a dull roar when you eating so you more likely to judge when you are full . Alternatively, eat premeasured quantities. Never sit down with the bag of chips and the tv. Mindful eating won’t make you thin but likely one of the best ways to prevent weight gain and deprogram auto-pilot eating
Stay effectively medicated. Effectively medicated adults much more likely to lose weight than those who are untreated. In our study the average medicated person sustained a 12% loss versus 3% gain with those who did not continue to receive medication.