The ADHD-Obesity Link — and How to Outsmart It
Mainstream eating habits just don’t cut it for people with ADHD. Our brains crave dopamine, which sugar and carbs deliver in spades (or rolls, as the case may be).
But that doesn’t mean we have to resign ourselves to a life of feeling chubby, overweight. To get healthy, we first have to get wise — and crafty, starting with these eight strategies to break the ADHD and obesity link.
The ADHD-Obesity Link
People with ADHD are “chemically wired” to seek more dopamine, the neurotransmitter lacking in ADHD brains.
Where is dopamine found most readily? Carbs and sugar.
“Eating carbohydrates triggers a rush of dopamine in the brain. It’s the drive for the feeling of satiety.” —John Ratey, M.D.
It’s no surprise, then, that ADHD is 5 to 10 times more common among obese people.
Fighting the neurological and biological urge to nosh on Cheez-Its is not easy, but these 8 strategies do help:
1. Regulate dopamine levels with medication.
Stimulants make it easier for people with ADHD to:
- Regulate behaviors
- Resist impulsive eating
- Follow diet and exercise plans
2. Graze throughout the day.
Eat several mini-meals to lessen feelings of restlessness and ravishing hunger. Avoid skipping meals.
3. Eliminate temptation.
Set up a healthy food environment free of sweet and salty snacks that encourage binging.
Stock up on hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, nuts, and fruit.
4. Don’t crash diet.
The boomerang effect of a crash diet can leave you weighing more than when you started.
Physical activity helps you naturally control symptoms by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
Try out interval training to keep things interesting.
6. Be realistic.
Unrealistic goals set the stage for discouragement and failure.
Instead, pick a reachable goal – like 15 minutes twice a week — and chances are you’ll exceed it.
7. Track your progress with a calendar or app that records each work out.
8. Stay motivated. Recruit a friend to keep you accountable when your enthusiasm starts to flag.