Written with Katie Fields and Jamila Bey
First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign is doing a wonderful job at drawing attention to the need to encourage more activity amongst our youngsters -- and all Americans. Coupled with her partnership with Wall-Mart, veggie garden and call for making healthier dietary choices, it seems she's throwing a pretty good one-two punch at knocking out the factors that lead to overeating and obesity.
However, the First Lady's strategy might be open to an unexpected counterpunch: ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. While ADHD affects nearly 5% of Americans, an article from the January 2009 issue of the journal "Obesity" states that 26-61% of patients seeking weight loss treatment struggle with ADHD and obesity.
But what is it about ADHD that increases the chances of obesity?
People with ADHD tend to be impulsive and easily distracted and hyper-focus. As such, they make hasty eating choices and frequently use food to relieve boredom. Paradoxically, when people with ADHD hyper-focus they can become so engaged within an activity that they don't realize how much they've eaten, or they simply forget to eat. By the time they do eat, they are more likely to be starving and gorge themselves (and much less likely to make positive food choices).
Here are six weight loss tips that can help you beat obesity when you have ADHD:
1. Seek a professional diagnosis. Get a diagnosis to determine if you actually have ADHD. Also, find out if you have any co-existing conditions. For example, anxiety, depression, substance and/or alcohol problems can significantly undermine your weight loss efforts.
2. Schedule your meals the night before with plans to eat three good meals and a few healthy snacks. Packing your food will help you make healthier choices and eat smaller portions.
3. Pay attention to your body's signals that it's hungry, and schedule your meals throughout the day. These practices will help to avoid getting so wrapped up in an activity that you later make poor choices such as eating unhealthy snacks and overeating because you are hungry.
4. Recognize the first three letters of the word "diet" are D-I-E. We're talking about lifestyle changes, and not fad diets here. Fad dieters are more likely to lose muscle and fat; and unfortunately when they regain the weight they replace it with only fat -- and not muscle. As such, fad diets make us unhealthier and increase the chances of obesity.
5. Focus on being healthy instead of "skinny."
6. People with ADHD need to get more active. Rather than turning to food when bored or stressed, turn to more stimulating activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, cycling or paintball.
These suggestions should help people with ADHD to win Mrs. Obama's fight against America's obesity epidemic.