The 3 Biggest Reasons Why People With ADHD Struggle with Their Weight


August 3rd, 2012

By Leslie Rouder, LCSW Cht.

There has been a lot of research lately on the relationship between ADHD and eating disorders, as well as problems with obesity that would indicate that having ADHD may predispose individuals to difficulties regulating their weight.  In fact, a study done in 2004, found that 10% of individuals with ADHD suffered from an eating disorder at some point in their life time compared to the general population of .6 to 4.5 %.  In another study done at an obesity clinic in 2005, 58% of overweight teenagers were diagnosed with ADHD as opposed to 35.7% of the general population.  In looking at these numbers one might ask, what are the reasons for these differences and what do we do about it? In answer to those questions, I have written the following article.

Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not act, but a habit.” However, when one has ADHD, developing healthy habits can be a big challenge due to problems with self-awareness, as well as self-regulation.  The 3 biggest problem areas facing individuals with ADHD that would affect one’s ability to maintain a healthy weight are the following;

  1.  Difficulty with Planning and Organization

 Eating healthy food requires planning, making the time to shop for the right foods, and making the time to prepare one’s meals.  This can be tricky for someone with ADHD, due to difficulties with executive functioning, that could impair one’s ability to plan and organize one’s meals as well as one’s time in shopping and preparing them.  Very often individuals are juggling work, family and other social obligations and find that it is just easier to eat on the run, which could lead to fast food and poor food choices.

2. Difficulty with Self Awareness and Regulation

Being able to identify when one is actually hungry as well as satiated means one must be mindful.  Paying attention to one’s internal messages can be a challenge in the face of the many distractions and responsibilities an individual may have.  In addition, some individuals with ADHD have a tendency to hyper- focus which may lead to skipping meals only to find themselves starving and later overeating or binge eating as a result.  Another difficulty for many individuals with ADHD is in the ability to regulate ones sleeping habits.  Since getting enough sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy weight, for those individuals with ADHD, who find it difficult to fall asleep or cannot regulate their sleeping patterns so that they are well rested, lack of sleep adds to the challenge in maintaining a healthy weight.  In addition, many individuals with ADHD will often eat while studying, watching TV, or doing some other activity, not even paying attention how much food they are eating or the amount of calories they are actually consuming.

3. The Use of  Food to Self-Medicate

Food is often an easy, fast way to alleviate stress, anger, sadness, loneliness or boredom, along with several other emotions that may come up in an individual’s life.  Since food is readily available, legal and provides immediate gratification, many individuals will reach for food to alleviate many of these emotions.  Sometimes individuals tell me that food helps them to stay focused and grounded while studying or before doing a boring or difficult task.  Boredom is a big problem for individuals with ADHD and can also add to the desire to use food to alleviate these feelings. Since individuals with ADHD have low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the reward center of the brain, many will use food to help elevate these levels, while providing them a sense of satisfaction and pleasure.

 How does one go about addressing the above issues that lead to problems with weight regulation?  Firstly, if you have an eating disorder, do seek help from an individual who is trained in treating this problem.  Make sure that this individual is also knowledgeable about ADHD and how that diagnosis may figure into the treatment protocol.  If you have an ongoing struggle to lose weight, work on developing good organizational and planning tools.  There are many great computer programs and APPS you can put on your iPhone or android to help with meal planning and shopping while out about.  Get in the habit of meditating and developing awareness around all your activities, as well as eating.  A great book on mindfulness is Dr. Lidia Zylowsak’s book entitled The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD.    It even comes with a CD that walks you through the meditation process.  Make a rule not to eat while doing other activities. If you have a tendency to hyper focus and skip meals, set an alarm to remind yourself that it is time to take a meal break.  If you are not on medication for your ADHD already, consider trying a medication regimen, which can be very helpful in keeping one’s attention and focus as well as lessen the tendency to be impulsive. If you are on medication, make sure you take it regularly and that it is working properly. Develop a daily exercise program including some form of cardio vascular exercise.  Work with an ADHD coach or counselor that can help you develop and stick with your routine and schedule. In seeking professional help, be sure that the clinician you are working with is knowledgeable about ADHD, since developing a treatment protocol without considering the specific challenges facing these individuals, can be detrimental to obtaining a successful treatment outcome.

If you want more help with ADHD, sign up for my free newsletter on my website and get your free tips to Overcoming Procrastination and Achieving Your Goals.  Go to: www.addadults.net


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The Great Inner Hoax: Are Those Stories We tell Ourselves Really True?


August 3rd, 2012

By Leslie Rouder, LCSW, Cht.

Today, while out walking, I came upon a beautiful white feather that reminded me of when I was a 4 year old child playing at the beach with my mother.  I remember picking up a beautiful feather on that day that happened to be lying in the sand.  I was delighted in my discovery of my treasure and anxious to bring it back to her. She was waiting on a nearby blanket with my lunch.   But to my shock and amazement, when I brought her my wonderful discovery, she became angry at seeing me carry a “filthy” feather from the sand.  She took the feather, threw it down into the sand, and told me to go wash my hands so that she could give me lunch.  I could not understand why she did not find this object of beauty as fascinating as I did.  Off I went to the ocean to wash my hands only to notice another, even more beautiful feather in the sand.  So, without being able to resist, I took this even more beautiful feather back to my mother, who (in her frustration) once again became angry, threw it into the sand and slapped my face telling me to go wash my hands again.

 

It’s not so much the events of our lives that shape us, as much as the meaning of those events as we remember them, while creating those self-limiting stories in our minds that we carry with us over the years.  The story that I made up about that event with my mother so many years ago was that I was not lovable or O.K. enough.  There must be something very wrong with me.

I did not pick up a feather again that day, after that slap to my face.  Nor can I remember ever picking up a feather again for about 50 years.  But in the past couple of years of my life, I have made a conscious decision to pick up every beautiful feather I see,  take the time to admire it, and sometimes even bring it home, where I place it with my other treasures of nature. 

In my bedroom, there is an alter in which I have a statue of Buddha.  In his hands I have strategically placed one of my favorite feathers.  Beside this statue sits a photo of a 4 year old girl standing alone on the beach, holding her gaze to the heavens.  That little girl in the photo is me. 

In the world of archetypes, which are universal patterns of behavior that are embedded in (what Carl Jung referred to as)  the “collective unconscious”, there are 2 universal archetypes that come to mind when remembering this story.  The first being the Magical Child, who sees the potential for sacred beauty in all things and holds on to the belief that anything is possible.  This is the child who sees the world through curious eyes while being both enchanted and enchanting to others.  She embodies the qualities of wisdom and courage. 

The second archetype is that of the Wounded Child, whose spiritual journey takes her through the path of forgiveness.   She is the child of compassion, in that through her painful experiences she awakens a desire to be of service to other wounded children.  She must learn to forgive so that she can arise from her wounds victorious.  If she doesn’t, she will never transcend her painful memories or fully emerge into her higher purpose. 

We all have memories that we create stories around.  I had to consciously re-write that old story to one that made more sense.  My mother was an ordinary mortal who was inpatient with her 4 year child that day on the beach.  It had nothing to do with my value as a person or my worthiness to be loved.

What old self-defeating stories might you be holding onto in your life?  If there are any, perhaps now is the time to re-write them for yourself and to consider paying tribute to the archetypes of the Wounded and Magical Child in you.  Guard and protect the part of yourself that sees life through the eyes of the curious Magical Child, the part that recognizes beauty and revels in the mystery of it all.

I am thankful that my own Wounded Child was able to heal through my ability to forgive, let go of the past and see my mother (who has long since passed away) through the eyes of compassion.  I am even more grateful for my Magical Child, who was able to remember and recapture a part of my childhood that allowed me to delight in the beauty of nature again and to use my life, in my work as a therapist, to help others embody the qualities of wisdom and courage in facing their own difficult memories and life adversities, while deeply honoring the gifts of these 2 wondrous archetypes. 

 

 Leslie is a transpersonal therapist working in the South Florida area.  For more information about her work or to read additional articles, you may visit her website at www.ADDadults.net 


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August Tip Of The Month


August 3rd, 2012

Make Sure Storage Areas are Convenient

If you are one of those people who have difficulty
putting things away, make sure that you set up
conveniently located (visible) storage areas that are
accessible.  I say visible because (for us folks with ADD)
if it is out of sight, it very often is out of mind and if you
must get up on a ladder to reach it or go to a different
room to access it, you may never actually use it.
Therefore, as professional organizer Julie Morgenstern
suggests, “Store things where you use them to make
them easily accessible. For example, if you do your
bills in the kitchen, store your financial files and
calculator there, not in the spare bedroom upstairs.
Look for where your piles are and create storage there.

—–

If you want more help with ADHD, sign up for my free newsletter on my website and get your free tips to Overcoming Procrastination and Achieving Your Goals.  Go to: www.addadults.net

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