Weight loss is surprisingly difficult for those with ADHD. Obesity is a common side effect that no one warns you about. Fighting the ugly small ways that ADHD might interfere with your healthy eating objectives is difficult.
To execute it successfully, you must have a sound plan in place for any problems that may arise. One that is good for us and helps us achieve our goals no matter what ADHD throws at us.
Here are 12 suggestions for balancing your diet, developing healthy eating habits, and losing weight if you have ADHD.
1. Use Intuitive Eating
Dieting has a detrimental association with weight loss, whether you have ADHD or not. The more we diet, the more likely it is that we will gain weight. Isn't it strange? Restriction may also raise our chances of developing an eating issue, which many people with ADHD already deal with.
Finally, we do best when we shift our focus from ADHD weight reduction to establishing balance, nourishing our bodies, and being conscious of what our bodies require.
Intuitive eating is a good method to start changing our connection with food and improving our health. It is based on ten principles that assist us in finding eating balance.
2. Exercise for Better Executive Function (and health)
Few natural ADHD treatments have studies supporting evidence of benefit on executive function or other related issues. The only exception is exercise.
We'll just add that to the long list of things exercise appears to aid with.
Moving more aids in the regulation of dopamine, which is especially beneficial in strengthening our sense of well-being, managing our impulses and emotions, and improving our concentration and attention.
If you have trouble motivating yourself to exercise, I've found that finding activities that I enjoy that need me to move has been beneficial.
I've always wanted to learn how to execute a handstand and a back walkover, and it turns out that doing so is excellent exercise! And it's enjoyable, so I keep doing it.
Walking with a buddy or studying yoga are two more activities that I can generally convince myself to do and enjoy.
The trick is to find techniques to make exercise more enjoyable. If everything else fails, try ways to get yourself moving while performing your favorite activities. That's where a yoga ball comes in handy!
If you want to try yoga but are apprehensive about being a total beginner, this session is for you.
3. Make it more difficult to eat compulsively
ADHD is characterized by impulsive eating, which makes weight loss challenging. Finding strategies to make it more difficult to eat compulsively has been a very effective tactic for me. Here are some things that have helped me.
Keep foods that you tend to overeat on out of the house.
If you must have it, try to limit yourself to a single serving. So, instead of buying an entire box of cookies, buy only one.
Get a little bag of chips instead of a large bag. It's difficult enough to resist temptations in the grocery store.
Keeping significant amounts of binge-worthy food in the house may be problematic given the continual temptation (at least, for me).
When your favorite meals are in the house, make eating them a multi-step procedure. I've never been able to keep cupcakes in the house because I devour them.
However, I've lately discovered that it helps if I don't frost the cupcakes ahead of time.
Instead of running into the kitchen and grabbing a delicious cupcake, I have to find the frosting, get a knife, whisk the icing, ice the cupcake, then put everything away….
That small bit of extra work makes it less impulsive.
Reduce Shopping on the spur of the moment.
Grocery stores are structured to make impulsive purchases a constant issue. Have you noticed the individual candy bars and sodas at the checkout? Going to the grocery store with ADHD makes losing weight a constant effort.
They're counting on your emotions to get the best of you.
One thing I've found is that paying a little extra to have someone else do my grocery shopping for me actually saves me money.
I'm less prone to impulse purchases.
Some grocery stores have their own personnel who will shop for you, saving you money. They don't mark up their food when you buy it online, and there's no need for a monthly subscription or tip…just an assembly charge.
Because Harris Teeter has this option, I frequently shop there.
If you prefer other stores that do not have this option, consider Instacart or Shipt.
If you aren't cautious, the extra expenses might pile up–food is slightly more expensive, there is a delivery fee, and your grocery shopper requires a tip–so make sure you weigh those extra prices to ensure it's worth it.
Depending on how expensive your impulse purchases are, this alternative may still be less expensive for you.
You may always bring a predetermined amount of cash to the store and leave your debit/credit cards at home. Because your funds are limited, you are pushed to buy only what is necessary and to think about what you take home.
4. Manage Your ADHD
It's exciting to see that the association between ADHD and fat is only found in unmedicated people.
When we are treated for ADHD, our chances of being obese decrease by at least 40%. In this trial, appetite suppression for stimulant medication disappeared after two months. Meanwhile, at the 15-month follow-up, individuals maintained their weight and healthy eating habits.
This demonstrates that ADHD medication helps us learn to regulate our weight rather than suppressing our hunger. Medication assists us in overcoming the barriers to developing executive function skills.
We still need to learn how to plan, organize, self-regulate, prioritize, and so on…but medication allows us to do so.
Aside from medication, appropriate therapy will entail putting effort into acquiring those skills we lack, such as getting organized (mentally and physically), being productive, and employing holistic tactics to make ADHD work for you.
This is yet another interesting advantage of treating ADHD. If you're on the fence about taking ADHD medication for yourself (or your children), read this.
5. Become acquainted with and practice meal planning
Meal planning reduces the number of times we eat out. Takeout food is frequently heavy in salt and fat, which can sabotage our weight loss efforts and impair our health.
Don't get me wrong: it's challenging for those of us with ADHD. We frequently struggle to make decisions, and we already know that ADHD and planning do not mix well.
Begin by making a list of dishes that you appreciate. Meals you've prepared or meals you enjoy eating out.
Make a list of as many as you can think of. If you dislike cooking, cross anything off the list that will take more than 30-60 minutes to make or will involve complicated processes.
Try to come up with enough supper ideas to last 10 days. This prevents you from eating the same thing repeatedly.
Now for suggestions for breakfast and lunch. If you need or desire a lot of variation in your diet, repeat the processes outlined above for identifying supper options.
This is a little easier if you're like me and don't mind repetition with these meals. I normally stick to simple lunches like sandwiches, soups, or salads. This makes it easier to prepare and plan.
Make Meal Preparation Easier
Breakfast might be as simple as oatmeal, eggs, cereal, or whatever you choose. Just make sure you have enough breakfast/lunch foods to last until your next shopping trip.
If you still can't decide what to create from the meal suggestions, make it a game.
Make a list of them on index cards and turn them over, face down. Choose the number you'll require until your next shopping trip. Whatever random options you wind up with are your week's supper.
Every day, you can “choose a card, any card” to determine what you'll eat that night.
Use my ADHD Meal Planning Made Easy Printable instead, as I do. It provides structure to help you prepare meals and get them on the table instead of going to McDonald's down the block.
6. Look for healthy forms of stimulation.
We often eat out of boredom, and the natural cure is to get yourself involved in activities that you are interested in and enthused about.
Participate in that creative endeavor you've been putting off. Learn a new skill or engage in a new interest. Look for activities that you'd enjoy doing and pursue them.
This provides your brain with the dopamine boost it requires without consuming unnecessary food.
It all begins with a question. What would you do if you could do anything without any obstacles? Begin doing or working toward doing that now.
The temptation to eat too rapidly has been the most difficult obstacle in my eating habits.
7. Do not eat too soon.
When we eat too quickly, we are more likely to miss our bodies' cue that we've had enough. We're usually miserable by the time it catches up with us since we've eaten too much.
Between mouthful, chew thoroughly and rest your fork. Because I was impatient before I was medicated, I found this practice frustrating. But it's now easier to do; all it needs is practice to be consistent. Some people can practice eating slowly by counting how many times they chew each bite. It may be inconvenient, but it can be beneficial.
8. Drink a lot of water.
We are frequently thirsty while we believe we are hungry. Many people with ADHD fail to drink enough water (I'm certainly guilty of this).
Choose a water bottle that you adore. Or one that is enjoyable to drink from. When you have ADHD, it makes drinking water more likely.
If you've eaten but still feel hungry, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see if it was thirst masquerading as hunger.
9. Engage in Mindful Eating.
It seems elaborate and complicated, but it's actually rather simple.
As you eat, pay attention to every detail of your food. Take note of the fragrance, texture, and subtle flavors you encounter.
I like to see if I can isolate the flavor of different spices. If I wasn't the one who created it, I prefer to guess what ingredients the chef used.
Mindful eating is difficult, but a workshop like this one can help.
It is much easier to perceive your body's message that it is content when you eat slowly and attentively. I once tried eating a fast restaurant french fry attentively. It's amazing what you notice when you slow down your eating.
I adore fries. I mean, I adore french fries. But when I slowed down and ate one carefully, it was DISGUSTING. Isn't it strange? Mindful eating allows us to appreciate our food more, recognize when we are full, and can be an effective weight management technique for those with ADHD.
10. Get plenty of rest.
Overeating results from a failure to prioritize appropriate sleeping patterns. It also makes living with ADHD significantly more difficult. So make sure you get enough rest. Most people with ADHD struggle with this and may require assistance. That's something you should always address with your doctor, and this guide to increasing your sleep using excellent behavioural strategies can also assist.
11. Tackle Any Other Physical or Emotional Issues
If you have physical pain or unexplainable symptoms, or if your emotions are causing problems in your life, make sure you treat them.
It is not only beneficial to your quality of life, but it also reduces our vulnerability to acting on impulses, which is one of the ways ADHD interferes with weight reduction.
If you suspect you have additional anxiety, sadness, a health problem, or any other associated concern, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss it.
12. Take care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself and not constantly overextending yourself helps minimize stress, which makes us more susceptible to compulsive eating. Learn to express your emotions in healthy, non-food ways.
Get Eating Disorder Treatment
If you've noticed that your connection with food fits one of the illnesses we discussed earlier, or if food feels out of your control, begin working with an eating disorder therapist.
People frequently believe that they “aren't sick enough” to seek care, but this is simply not true.
Eating disorders are serious issues that require immediate attention from a clinician. Early intervention has the potential to save lives.
If you're looking for a therapist, I usually recommend starting with Psychology Today. You can look for eating disorders in your location, using your insurance, or by speciality. Get the assistance you require and deserve.