Note: Our conversation about weight and ADHD will take place over a few days this week. There really is too much to cover in one post.
Weight and ADHD
One of the lectures that I attended at the ADDA conference was about weight and ADHD. It was led by Dr. Roberto Olivardia, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School.
And while the main topic concerned obesity and ADHD, I still found it to be very educational.
It is fairly well known that when ADHD medication is first prescribed, there is usually some weight loss noted as a side effect. This is temporary and evens itself out after a few weeks.
It is less well known, however, that weight gain and difficulty losing weight can be affected by ADHD. This is not to say that any sort of weight problem is a symptom of ADHD, but they can be closely related.
Eating Disorders and Obesity
Just as you might see a higher incidence of alcoholism or substance abuse among people with ADHD, you also see a higher incidence of bulimia and anorexia within the same group. Obesity rates are also higher among the ADHD population than those without ADHD.
How ADHD Symptoms Affect Weight Loss
There are also many ADHD adults who struggle with their weight but do not fall into the extremes of eating disorders or obesity. Their efforts to maintain a healthy weight can be hampered by a number of their ADHD symptoms.
Today we will explore a few of those symptoms.
Cognitive symptoms involve the brain and it’s functioning. This would include things like poor organizational skills, poor planning skills, and a poor sense of time. In this case, time is defined as “now” and “not now”. If it’s not happening now, it’s not in your radar. That means that making dinner might not cross your mind until 20 or 30 minutes before you want to eat.
Poor planning and organizational skills might mean that you have difficulty planning out your meals for the week. This includes a number of brain functions, because after you plan the meals, you have to figure out what ingredients to purchase, do the shopping, and then allow enough time to actually prepare the meal (assuming you remember what you were going to make).
You can see that planning and making meals involves more brain functions than you were probably aware of, and that can lead to being overwhelmed and giving up. That usually means a trip to the fast food place for dinner in a hurry. And that can lead to weight gain.
Poor cognitive functioning also means that you have difficulty making decisions and are easily overwhelmed by all of the information out there about eating healthfully. In fact, many of us are somewhat OCD when it comes to researching something – looking for that one perfect thing.
What this means in terms of weight is that making a decision about what to eat or which diet to follow can lead to making poor or impulsive choices, causing us to choose foods high in carbs, fats or sugars. It also means that while we are trying to make a “good” decision about what to eat, we run the risk of waiting too long to eat, leading us to those same poor choices.
Next time we’ll explore how some of our other ADHD symptoms can affect our weight.