Exercise & Health

Focused Fitness

An ADHD-friendly shape-up program that holds your attention, from healthy eating to easy exercise tips to keep your fitness goals on track.

Diet and Exercise for Adults with ADHD
Diet and Exercise for Adults with ADHD

Losing weight using traditional diet plans is nearly impossible for someone with ADHD. Many of my clients who have tried, unsuccessfully, to drop weight have found that setbacks in other areas of their life — a cluttered living space or a hopeless checkbook — cause them to lose their focus and resolve. For others with ADHD, delaying gratification becomes an obstacle to staying slim. Cathy, for instance, eats a box of Oreos while cooking dinner. She can’t wait for the meal to be ready.

Impulsivity and high-intensity emotions are often the main culprits in preventing people with ADHD from losing weight. There is hope for the overweight and out of shape. Here is an ADHD-friendly approach that will keep you fit and trim.

Inspire Yourself.
If scattered emotions cause you to quit your weight-loss program, use the technique that helped my client, Barbara, slim down. Realizing that she often gave up about three weeks into an exercise program, she wrote a letter inspiring herself to stay the course. She gave it to one of her friends, and asked him to send it to her during the critical third week. This worked, so she continued the letter-writing campaign for the next six months — and stuck with her plan.

Go Public.
The key element to any shape-up program is regular exercise. My own motivation is a 3-by-4-foot poster in my kitchen, which reads, “Did you exercise today?” At the bottom of the poster is a chart where I enter the kind and amount of physical activity I engage in every day. The poster not only catches my eye, it prompts family members to ask, “Well, did you exercise today?”, which “guilts me” into doing something.

Cook Ahead.
Know and accept the fact that you’re impulsive, and plan for your inevitable binges! Stock up on pre-prepared healthy meals, or make some lower-cal dishes to store in the freezer. When you’re away from home, take along “slimmer” foods. One of my clients stashes nuts in her car’s glove compartment, keeps a couple of apples on her desk, and stuffs energy bars in her purse. When she feels impulsive, she has only healthy choices available to her.

[Free Download: Cook Up an ADHD-Friendly Diet]

Be Accountable.
Reporting to someone whom you don’t want to disappoint–a nutrition counselor, personal trainer, a coach at Weight Watchers — will increase the chance that you’ll stay on your diet. Remember, you have ADHD! At some point, you’ll forget your goal and make the spur-of-the-moment choices that got your waistline in trouble in the first place.

Keep It Simple.
Don’t expect to have the time, energy, or patience to cook healthy, complicated meals. Plan dishes that involve two or three steps. Store quick-cooking chicken breasts in the freezer. Add a few favorite spices, or stir in a little barbecue sauce, and you’ll have a tasty dinner on the table in minutes. Other choices include hard-boiled eggs, tuna, or tofu.

Speed It Up.
If exercise fails to hold your attention, interval training is the perfect solution. 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. You can do interval training on a stationary bike, treadmill, or on a run. Warm up for five or 10 minutes. 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. Talk with your doctor, to make sure you can handle intense physical activity.

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