The rates for both ADHD and obesity have risen quite dramatically in the last several years. While the reasons for the increase in cases for each diagnosis vary, there nevertheless exists a connection between the two. For those of us with ADHD ourselves or with children who have ADHD, we really need to understand this connection better to ensure we live healthy lives.
We have already talked about the connection between ADHD and eating disorders and covered binge eating among other things. Obesity shares a connection with ADHD in a similar way as do other eating issues. The problem with obesity, though, is that it has also become a significant issue for much of the American population. While ADHD can contribute to the rise of obesity, nonetheless, all of us most likely struggle with obesity in some way in our lives.
In this article, we want to look closer at the causes linking ADHD and obesity together. From there, we want to provide some helpful strategies for addressing ADHD and obesity well. Though obesity continues to grow in our society, we don’t have to just let it win out in our lives. We can choose to fight back and get healthier. Read on to find ways to control obesity in your life.
What Causes ADHD and Obesity
The connection between ADHD and obesity can be varied. Still, to address the problem adequately we need to understand this link better. If you have ADHD and have struggled with maintaining a healthy weight, you more than likely know some of the connection points already.
For starters, ADHD and obesity share a connection in a lack of impulse control. Many people with ADHD act impulsively without thinking. For obesity to take hold in someone’s life, they most often simply eat impulsively without thinking of the consequences. ADHD simply makes impulse eating easier.
Furthermore, we tend to eat when we feel stressed or overwhelmed. Many people with ADHD experience higher levels of stress than others. They also tend to become easily overwhelmed and disorganized. As a result of these mental struggles, eating becomes an easy outlet to seek refuge. Resultantly many people experiencing ADHD and stress turn to overeating resulting in obesity.
Finally, many researchers believe that ADHD and obesity share a connection with dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine has a direct correlation to our pleasure center in our brain and affects how we feel pleasure or happiness. For many, eating helps to activate the release of dopamine. Additionally, people with ADHD tend to have lower dopamine levels and hence want to seek out ways to release more of the chemical. In the end then, a quick easy fix might result in turning to junk food to get the dopamine release those with ADHD crave.
How to Address ADHD and Obesity
Ok, so you might now have a better idea of the connection between ADHD and obesity, but what should you do about it? Well, for starters, you need to accept that even though ADHD affects your decision making, you can still work to manage the symptoms of ADHD. This means that with building a comprehensive ADHD treatment plan you can work to overcome the effects of ADHD driving obesity in your life.
To limit the effects of ADHD and obesity, you really need an overall game plan. This plan must impact all areas of your life that affect your eating habits. Primarily, this means that you need to consider your diet and your exercise habits along with anything else that leads you to overeat.
While the following list doesn’t include everything you need to address obesity, this happens to provide a good list of places to start. Read through the following tips. Then consider which one of these things you can start doing today to limit the effects of ADHD and obesity.
Clean Out the Pantry
One way to start addressing ADHD and obesity is to start right at the source: with the food you have at home. Obesity becomes a problem because oftentimes when we are bored or have nothing to do, we turn to food and to eating what we have at hand. Most of what we usually have at hand then just happens to include junk food.
Interestingly enough, we could easily solve much of our negative eating habits by getting rid of our easy access to junk. To start fighting back against ADHD and obesity, you need to eliminate the low hanging fruit: the junk food you have at home. You need to go to your pantry with a trash bag and just start throwing away anything processed or filled with sugar.
At first, this move might seem drastic. After all, just think of all the money you’re throwing away. In the long run, though, think of all the money you can save through not buying that food anymore. Additionally, think of the savings to your health and the benefits to your overall quality of life.
After you have cleaned out the pantry of the worst foods for ADHD, you need to start fresh with a commitment to stop buying the processed foods. To help you with this commitment, you need to get a friend who will go with you to be your accountable grocery shopper. This person will shop with you and make sure you only purchase healthy foods. Alternatively, you can shop at a retailer who will shop for you and bring your groceries to the curb. This way, you order your food online and avoid the temptation of being in the store.
Get Up and Get Active
Unhealthiness thrives on a sedentary lifestyle. If you plan to beat ADHD and obesity you absolutely must start getting active. Part of the issue surrounding the causes of ADHD and obesity includes our brain seeking out positive rewards. Our brain craves the release of endorphins and “feel good” chemicals. One way, we feed our brain’s pleasure receptors includes eating foods that taste good but usually happen to be bad for us. Another way, though, that we can get that endorphin rise in our brain involves exercising.
With that being said, getting motivated to exercise sometimes feels almost impossible. Nonetheless, after you get moving, you nearly always feel better and more refreshed for being active. The reason for this feeling is that exercise activates your brain’s pleasure centers. This makes you feel better and more positive without having to resort to bad eating habits. Not only that, exercise then helps to burn calories and get rid of fat making you healthier overall.
The benefits of ADHD and exercise simply cannot be understated. In fact, for many kids with ADHD, changing their eating and exercise routine might produce significant results to help keep ADHD symptoms in check. Exercise really provides a powerful impact in your life. You need to utilize it to help keep ADHD and obesity under control.
If you don’t know where to begin with exercise, start small. You can start with walking down your street or around your block. You can take the stairs at work instead of the elevator. Start with something that you can easily incorporate into your schedule. After you have that task down, add something more and work up to something like joining a gym or a community walking club. After you start going you more than likely won’t want to stop.
Eat on a Regular Schedule
Just like exercise, we can never speak enough good things about an ADHD daily routine. Routine and regular rhythms in life help give structure and form to who you are. They help guide your day and help protect you from going off course and losing sight of your daily goals.
To help you address ADHD and obesity more effectively, you need to get your eating habits on a regular routine. You need to schedule when you eat during the day. Part of the problems that lead to overeating include eating as much as we can whenever we can.
We get bored or feel bad so we turn to eating because we can. You need to break this cycle. Breaking this cycle starts with instituting healthy eating rhythms.
An eating schedule might look a little different depending on your particular schedule. Generally, though, you ideally want to try to make sure that you eat every three hours or so. Experts believe eating regularly throughout the day will keep your metabolism active and continually burning calories. Also, with regular structured eating you won’t get as hungry between meals and then won’t subsequently overeat at meal time.
To make sure your meal schedule works for you, you need to remember that timing matters but so do the amounts and types of food you consume. You still want to consume as much healthy food as possible throughout the day. Also, while you want to eat every few hours, a few of these times should be smaller snacks. You then should maintain three larger meals but at a smaller portion size than you possibly have been used to because you now have healthy snacks between meals.
Cook to Your Portion Size
As we just mentioned, not only do you need to plan out when you eat, you also need to plan out how much you eat. We sometimes tend to overeat because we want to eat until we finish what we have. That means that if we cook a lot of food, chances are we will tend to eat more calories than we need.
Recent studies have shown one of the major reasons for the increase in the rate of obesity in America is simply that on average Americans simply eat too much. This primarily happens when eating out, but it can also present a problem at home. Researchers looked at data from a 20 year period between 1977 and 1996. They found that portion sizes have increased dramatically for almost all food categories and in all settings: restaurants, fast food, and at home.
Unfortunately, none of this is good news when it comes to managing ADHD and obesity. This doesn’t mean you have no hope. Rather, it just means the odds have been stacked against you.
To fight back against expanding portion sizes, you need to act proactively. This means that when you cook at home, you cook to your recommended portion size for the meal. In only cooking the amount of food you should eat, you eliminate the leftovers that tempt you to eat more.
You can also practice portion control when eating out. When you order your meal, go ahead and ask for a to go box when your meal comes out. Then separate your meal into correct portions and put anything extra in the box to take home. For some tips on where to get started on correct portion sizes read the information in this article and refer to the tips at this link.
Addressing ADHD and Obesity Starts with You Taking Action Today
The factors contributing to ADHD and obesity are complex. Unfortunately, this means that the solutions for addressing ADHD and obesity are also complex. What we mean here, though, is that addressing obesity entails reorienting your lifestyle around healthy living.
You can’t simply look at ADHD as a problem in one area of your life. Rather, you need to consider your whole person and how every habit you have affects ADHD and obesity. You should look at your diet, your exercise routine, and even your sleep routine. After looking at all these different areas in your life, you need to ask yourself are my rhythms helping my health or hurting it. If the answer you get tells you that they hurt your health, you need to start making changes.
ADHD and obesity don’t have to control your life. You can wrestle back control and get your healthy lifestyle back on track. Use the strategies and approaches outlined in this article to help you get started. After you get moving in the right direction, continue to seek out more ways to live healthier every day.