My Amazing ADHD Weight-Loss Story

One adult with ADHD shares the story behind her amazing 80-pound weight loss, and how it made her a happier person - inside and out.

ADDer Mary Lou Michaels lost 80 pounds after her ADHD diagnosis. ADDitude Magazine

Earlier, I had read "The South Beach Diet," bought all the stuff, made lists, followed it perfectly... until I lost interest....

Mary Lou Michaels, who lost 80 pounds after her ADHD diagnosis

"I didn't recognize you with your new hairstyle."

Folks often don't know what to say about my 80-pound weight loss. Even though my hair hasn't changed that much, just about everything else about the way I look and feel has. The attention feels a little misplaced, however, because what I found was even better than the perfect diet.

Before I had children, it was quick and painless to lose a few pounds here and there. It wasn't until I lost the structure of a workday and enjoyed the freedom of pregnancy weight gain that my weight really became a problem. For years I went back and forth - losing 40 pounds on a shake diet or another rigorous plan, and then gaining back even more.

When I finally decided to see a weight-loss counselor, two years ago, I told her that my most successful attempt at dieting had been with a combination of drugs known as fen-phen. (I didn't experience any adverse side effects, but one of the drugs, fenfluramine, was taken off the market in 1997.)

What I remembered more clearly than the seemingly effortless weight loss - I kept 64 pounds off for two years - was the dramatic difference in how I felt. It wasn't so much the appetite suppression, but the motivation it gave me.

At one point, while taking fen-phen, I remarked to my husband, "This must be what it feels like to be normal." The counselor researched fen-phen's composition: The fact that one of the components was a stimulant might mean something, but what?

I learned the reason later that year when my oldest son was diagnosed with ADHD. After perusing his diagnostic report, I sat in bewilderment. I had just read my story.

I made a doctor's appointment, got diagnosed, and began taking a stimulant. My "Aha! moment" came three days later at the pet store. I was wandering aimlessly around, even though I had already found the bones and new dog collar I needed. All of a sudden, I realized I was just wasting my time. I paid for my purchases and left the store. In my car, I actually said out loud, "Wow, the medicine is working! I really do have ADHD."

In an earlier attempt at losing weight, I had read The South Beach Diet. As with so many "great discoveries" in my life, I bought all the stuff, made lists, followed it perfectly... and lost interest. Now that I could plan and focus, I decided to apply the basics of what I had learned: I cut sugar, white flour, potatoes, white rice, and almost all alcohol out of my diet. I began eating more nuts, whole grains, and vegetables, and drinking more water.

I also committed to walking every day for 30 days. That was it - all I had to do was start. I carry water in a backpack and listen to my favorite tunes, and I make the six-mile loop around my neighborhood in no time.

Friends often ask me to call them the next time I go for a walk, but I seldom do. I like the time by myself - that's what makes it work. I do what I want, when I want. More than a year later, I'm still walking - not every day, but several times a week.

Eating well and exercising are pretty dramatic changes for me, but I find I don't have to work at them. They're just part of me now. People see and talk about my weight loss, but what they can't see is how I feel. Do I still procrastinate? Is my office still a mess two days after I clean it up? Am I still me? Of course! The difference is that I'm a happier, more controlled me, from the inside out.



This article comes from the December/January issue of ADDitude.
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