ADHD and Weight Loss: How to Stay Fit and Healthy
Disciplining yourself enough to lose weight consistently is hard for most people and is an even bigger problem for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
According to research, someone with ADHD is four times more likely to become obese than someone without ADHD. These weight problems often stem from unhealthy eating, largely due to poor impulse control, brain chemistry, and erratic sleeping habits, making it seem impossible to get fitter.
Although the condition is challenging to manage, it is possible for people with ADHD to lose weight. In addition to improving physical health, sustaining healthy habits may improve ADHD symptoms — cycling back to a healthier lifestyle. Getting started is the most difficult part, so here are some tips on how you can get fit and healthy if you have ADHD.
Set realistic goals
It can be tempting to set high goals to drive yourself towards weight loss quickly. But if you haven’t built healthy habits yet, it can be easy to lose motivation and set yourself up for failure. When combined with ADHD symptoms that often lead to disorganization, getting distracted, and poor time management, failure often leads to negative thoughts that contribute to poor self-esteem.
Rather than push yourself too hard, it’s important to stay kind and recognize that you’re capable — by being comfortable in your own skin, you can start moving in a more positive direction. This begins with setting realistic goals you can achieve. Instead of aiming to exercise an hour a day, you can start by staying physically active for 10-15 minutes a day, then gradually increase this time once you’ve become more consistent.
Manage your diet
As mentioned earlier, healthy eating can be difficult for people with ADHD to manage, especially when the condition overlaps with binge eating disorder (BED). Many researchers believe this arises from ADHD symptoms like impulsivity and inattention, making it tricky to eat mindfully. As such, doctor-recommended weight loss programs recommend food tracking. Nutritional and behavioral science found that food tracking is the biggest predictor of success — the more you track, the more weight you can lose.
But you don’t have to track everything perfectly, it’s better to be successful most days of the week in a way that works for you. To ensure consistency, it’s important to track your food once you start eating it. Building a connection between food and tracking can help you form a habit, allowing you to keep a better record of how much you’re consuming and how you can adjust your eating habits.
Incorporate exercise into your routine
Contrary to popular belief, many adults with ADHD don’t exercise, which is why they are prone to gaining weight. To speed up the weight loss process, it’s important to engage in physical activity to promote muscle growth that boosts metabolism. However, it can be hard when you already have a busy schedule. Instead of forcing exercise each day, try incorporating physical activity into your daily routine. For example, when commuting home from work, get off the bus or train early and walk the rest of the way home. You can also do certain activities that you enjoy, such as yoga or dance classes, to keep you motivated and on track with your weight loss goals.
Practice good sleep hygiene
People with ADHD, no matter what age, have an elevated risk for sleep-related problems. A study found that adults with ADHD went to bed 39 minutes late on average, were more likely to take an hour to fall asleep, and were more likely to experience daytime sleepiness than those without ADHD. Quality sleep can also be interrupted by ADHD medication, which can cause additional stress. To help yourself get better sleep, it’s essential to implement gradual changes and develop a sleep system that works for you. Some of these modifications include:
- Avoiding screen time an hour before bed
- Limiting sugar, coffee, and alcohol intake several hours before sleep
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
Weight loss takes time and discipline, so it’s important to adjust your expectations accordingly. By focusing on building healthy habits like diet tracking, exercise, and quality sleep, you will see success with time. You just have to be patient.
This article is written by Evan Gray
Have some tips of your own to share? Drop a comment below in the comment section.