Exercise & Health

“My Amazing ADHD Weight Loss Story”

One woman shares her weight-loss struggle, and explains how finally getting an ADHD diagnosis and treatment helped her take control of her health — and shed 80 pounds to boot.

Bowl of salad with measuring tape and apple on table next to diet plan belonging to person with ADHD
Bowl of salad with measuring tape and apple on table next to diet plan belonging to person with ADHD

“I didn’t recognize you with your new hairstyle.”

Folks often don’t know what to say about my 80-pound ADHD weight loss story. 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 — and before I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) — 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.

[Are You “Chemically Wired” to Gain Weight?]

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.

[The Moment I Knew It Was ADHD]

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.

[The ADHD Exercise Solution]

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.

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  1. I love that Mary Lou Micheaels has had such success with her weight loss since discovering she has ADHD. But what about those who have been on medication forever and still cannot take off the weight? I was really hoping for a bit more.

  2. OMG! I read this and was shocked at the similarity in my story. Not 20 minutes ago I told my doctor that the only medication that has ever made me think “this is what normal must feel like” was phen-fen way back 20 yrs ago. He just prescribed Ritalin. Reading your story gives me hope that I might actually feel better soon. Thank you for sharing!

  3. This is an absolutely INSANE article. So this woman took a stimulant (likely mixed amphetamine salts) and started losing weight? NO KIDDING. She probably rarely eats. Are we seriously contextualizing the use of stimulants for adhd with weight loss? First of all – she probably doesn’t have “adhd”. Second she is obviously in her honeymoon phase. Wait until she’e walking around the same store so nervous and anxious that she has to leave. Then the drinking will start up to counter the stimulants…then, and believe me this will happen, you’ll wish you never touched the stuff. Its a stimulant….plain and simple….it would make anyone more focused…you’re not special and you dont have a special dysfunction.

    1. Have you taken these meds before? If you have or if you are a medical professional then you would already know that stimulants react very differently with people who have ADD vs ones who don’t. Stimulants DO NOT give everyone the ability to focus like you seem to think. If you do not have ADD, your going to be bouncing off the walls, people with ADD find that stimulants counteract with their inability to mentally calm down and focus. You would also know that it also helps you think more clearly and fill that empty spot in your brain that needs satisfaction, as with some , it could be eating, smoking, ocd or any other “need to satisfy” habit people have.

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