5 Ways To Boost ADHD Diet Success (For Good!)

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Spoiler alert: I am fat. I really wanted to write about anything but this topic this week, but instead I’m going to talk about it. Because, let’s face it, the size issue is everywhere. And even when the best of us can feel body positive most of the time, a lot of us are really struggling with getting (and staying!) at a healthy weight.

But what if we used ADHD strategies to create our very own ADHD diet just for us?  For example, I followed these five steps to address a career challenge a couple of years ago:

  1. Get the best information out there and follow sound, professional advice.
  2. See the situation for what it is – serious. Take what’s fair out of the equation.
  3. Find the right tools to make it easier and track your progress.
  4. Give yourself a break, dammit! (But don’t stop the hustle.)
  5. Celebrate the wins – big and small

I spent some time this week thinking about what weight control would look like through the exact same lens. In other words, I asked myself “what if I treat weight just like my other ADHD problems?” Here are those five steps again, applied to losing weight.

Get the best information out there and follow sound, professional advice.

First, the science. What is the link between obesity and ADHD, if any? There appears to be some common threads that link the two, especially when it comes to impulsivity and dopamine.

5 steps button

In the 2009 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal titled “The obesity epidemic: the role of addiction,” researchers hypothesize that ADHD plays a critical role in eating behaviors, which contributes to obesity.

“Not everyone who is exposed to drugs becomes an addict, and, similarly, not everyone who is exposed to high-fat, high-calorie foods becomes a compulsive overeater. These differences in susceptibility can be attributed, in part, to a genetic predisposition and/or to brain adaptations to excessive use over time, specifically, downregulation of the dopamine D2 receptors linked to addictive behaviour,” the study reports.

Adds Dr. Rongwang Yang of the Zhejiang University Children’s Hospital, “There have been a few clinical investigations that suggest ADHD may be a comorbidity of obesity. … For the treatment of the subset with both ADHD and obesity, improvement of the ADHD symptoms may reduce weight.”

This is encouraging news for ADHD sufferers who feel like they may have compulsive eating issues and/or are eating for reasons outside of hunger. It’s helpful to know that treating your ADHD can actually help curb such episodes.

Aside from discussing ADHD’s relationship to obesity with your doctor, there are some behavioral modifications that you can start practicing now. Dr. John Fleming recommends in ADDitude to use your hyperactive brain to geek out about weight-loss activities like cooking or exercising. He (brilliantly) adds to avoid food temptations rather than rely on willpower.

“Don’t berate yourself when you make a mistake. If yelling at yourself were effective, wouldn’t you be perfect by now? Restart your diet and forget the past,” Dr. Fleming says.

See the situation for what it is – serious.

While beating myself up for failing doesn’t burn calories, I still want to make sure I don’t lose sight of the situation. And believe me, I know. And maybe that’s what makes some people feel like it’s okay to fat shame – because they think they’re doing it in the name of health. Sorry, still not okay. I fully understand the health risks of being obese and don’t need another voice thrown into the wind to lecturing me on what’s right for me – I know, I know, I know.

In fact, we’re ending this section right here because you know, too. We all KNOW.

Find the right tools to make it easier & track progress.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a professional yo-yo dieter. For now, I’ll go back to using my Weight Watchers app, which at the moment is paid for by my health insurance (so very grateful). Otherwise, the Lose It! app serves nearly the same purpose and is free. In fact, I’m starting to think that Lose It! would be more compatible for my ADHD because it’s just one number (calories) to watch out for, as opposed to the several numbers you must track to calculate Weight Watchers points. That said, I like that Weight Watchers assigns the points on foods based on carbs, sugars, protein, etc., rewarding me for eating that keep me full longer or have other health benefits. Plus, with their food database and in-app scanner, it’s really not all that difficult once you get the hang of it.

To track my exercise, I’m a big fan of the FitBit Charge. At this time since I’m basically starting from Ground Zero, so I’ll just plan on picking a conservative step goal (5,000 probably), then adding onto that weekly. A lot of people would jump in at this point and recommend all manner of high-impact exercise, longer sessions or more steps – but I know myself and I know I need to take this slowly or I will blow it. And, yes, I’ve tried it. I’ve tried it all and I can still say … not for me, please and thank-you! Keep your burpees to yourself!

But here’s the thing: It was never about lack of tools or knowledge of how to lose weight. I’ve had these resources forever, but it hasn’t mattered. And that’s what a lot of people don’t get. Well-meaning people drop knowledge on me all the time, thinking that’s what I need. I’m just gigantic and don’t know better, y’all!

But, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, there’s something going on between my ears that’s stopping me from achieving. And I think it has a lot to do with the stuff covered in the CMAJ study. I am going to heed those observations and Dr. Fleming’s advice as I move forward. And I’m also going to get better about journaling this stuff. As far as the unsolicited feedback goes … the proverbial mute button will have to do.

Give yourself a break, dammit!

Honestly, I’ve given myself far too many breaks. But I’ll keep this mind. Because, real talk, I’m too easy on myself. I’m too hard on myself, too, but I’m also too easy on myself. I still haven’t found the right balance. Stay tuned …

Celebrate the wins – big and small.

If I ever had a day where I stayed within my Weight Watchers points budget without dipping into (or maxing out) my weekly “flex points” … AND reached my step goal as well? I would call for a damn parade. If I could chain enough days like that together and live like that 80% of the time, I’d be working on a post about purging my closet for a new wardrobe.

Until then … Happy Adulting, readers and godspeed!

Have something you’d like to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!  Don’t forget to also sign up for the ADHD Quick Start Guide!

Image: Unsplash/Henrique Feliz

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