Weight Loss Tips for ADHD Adults

For adults with ADHD, trying to losing weight can seem all but impossible. Either you plunge right in to a new diet and exercise routine — and quit three weeks later — or you lack the motivation for getting started. But if you're on board this time, this game plan will help you reach your goals and be healthier for life.

Here’s an  ADHD-friendly fitness program that will hold your attention. © Jupiter Images

Most people struggle to lose weight. But, according to some experts, it may be even more difficult for ADHD adults, who may struggle with their weight because they have difficulty interpreting what their body is trying to tell them — just as they have trouble understanding what others are trying to tell them in conversations and social settings. Adults with attention deficit may mistake feeling upset with being hungry, or they may overeat in a subconscious attempt to soothe negative feelings.

Another weight-loss challenge for ADHD adults is staying focused long enough to stick to a diet and an effective exercise routine. Being easily distracted and impulsive can make it difficult to stick to any sort of project — weight loss and exercise included.

The good news is that experts have found preliminary results that show, in many cases, patients can control their weight by treating their ADHD and related symptoms like depression. Combined with a healthy diet and exercise regime, overweight ADHD adults can be on their way to slimmer days.

Here are tips on how to tip the scale in your favor when it comes to weight loss.

Exercise

It's a simple equation: Energy Consumed - Energy Burned = Weight. Consuming energy (calories and carbohydrates) without burning it off is like continuing to fill your car's gas tank without ever turning on the motor. Eventually the tank will overflow. If it didn't spill out of the top, the tank would eventually burst.

Additionally, exercise can help control some ADHD symptoms by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These neurotransmitters play leading roles in regulating the attention system. With regular physical activity, ADD adults can raise the baseline levels of dopamine and norepinephrine by spurring the growth of new receptors in certain brain areas, further regulating attention.

If you've been sedentary for some time, you will need to gradually rebuild muscle tone, flexibility, and stamina. Talk with your doctor to make sure you can handle intense physical activity, but know that even just walking can be great exercise. As you lose weight, you'll be able to go for longer walks.

Treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes all offer great cardiovascular activity, but they can also get boring very quickly. Interval training is the perfect solution to keep your interest. Interval training alternates a short burst of high-intensity exercise with bouts of low-intensity activity, burning more fat in 20 minutes than longer workouts do.

Here's how to do it:

  • Warm up for five or 10 minutes on a stationary bike, treadmill, or on a run.
  • Then pedal, walk, or run as fast as you can, for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a minute or two of low-intensity activity.
  • Speed up again, then lay back. Do five or six alternations in 20 minutes.

Set Positive, Realistic Goals

You didn't put on 20, 30 or 100 extra pounds overnight, and it won't come off that quickly either. It takes time to reverse the effects of years of over eating and inactivity so talk with your doctor about setting realistic weight-loss goals.

When it comes to exercise, many adults with ADHD set goals that are unrealistically high - and unwittingly set the stage for failure. For instance, if you say that you'll work out for 30 minutes but manage only 15, you may feel so discouraged that you skip your next workout session.

Here's a better idea: First, decide upon the absolute minimum amount of exercise that you find acceptable - for example, working out for 15 minutes twice a week. Then set an easy maximum workout goal - maybe 30 minutes twice a week. Chances are, you'll have no trouble reaching your minimum goal - and there's a pretty good chance that you'll also exceed your maximum too.

Meeting your goals makes you feel good and encourages you to stick with your workouts. Also remember to increase your minimum and maximum goals periodically so you don't get in a rut.

Have a Plan

Like most ADHDers, you probably hate structure - especially when it comes to working out and doing other "chores." So feel free to add some flexibility to your structure by scheduling not one but several workouts during any given 24-hour period. For example, you might schedule your weekend workout for 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. Sunday. That's six chances. Odds are, you'll make one of them.

If you told yourself that you would exercise before the end of the day, don't allow yourself to bag it. Even if it's 11:30 p.m., you still have time. If it's impossible to go outside or make it to the gym, run in place or do some jumping jacks or pushups. Your goal is to end the day saying, "I did what I said I would do!"

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