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ADD/ADHD and Obesity: Seven Tips That Will Help You Win the Battle

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ADD/ADHD and Obesity: Seven Tips That Will Help You Win the Battle
ADD/ADHD can boost your risk of being overweight or obese. Follow these suggestions for taking weight off and keeping it off.

By Gina Roberts-Grey Print Email Obesity and hyperactivity may not seem like a logical pair, but many Americans would beg to differ. And the connection is more than anecdotal. A recent study review found that adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)/attention deficit disorder (ADD) have a greater chance of being overweight or even obese than those without this disorder. Other research found that children with ADD/ADHD who aren't taking medication for the disorder were also at greater risk for being overweight.

Why? The relationship isn't yet understood, but there are theories. Simple distraction is likely a major factor that puts adults with ADD/ADHD at higher risk for overeating and carrying excessive weight, says Patricia Quinn, M.D., a developmental physician in Washington, D.C. who specializes in ADHD treatment.

"Having ADHD automatically predisposes you to being easily distracted," explains Dr. Quinn. That can make sticking to a fitness plan difficult; even though you're planning on heading to the gym, losing your focus can derail your workout plans.

While having ADD/ADHD can make maintaining a normal weight more difficult, it's not impossible. These seven tips can help take the weight off — and keep it off.

Understand why you're eating. Studies have found that having ADHD can significantly increase the odds a person will overeat. "Men and women with ADHD take the term 'comfort food' to heart," says Dr. Quinn, "and often eat to overcome the frustration associated with ADHD."

Keep a food diary. An effective way to prevent emotional eating is to write down what you eat. This is a great tip for anyone who wants to lose weight or keep it off, but it can be especially important for people with ADD/ADHD. Post a food diary on the refrigerator or take it with you to log what you eat throughout the day. "Having to take the time to jot down what they're eating is often the trigger that an adult with ADHD needs to make a conscious healthy decision about food," says Quinn. It can also dissuade impulse snacking and binging, she adds.

Always use a grocery list. Sticking to a written list when grocery shopping can help you avoid spontaneously tossing unhealthy foods into your cart. "And don't go to the grocery store on an impulse," says Dr. Quinn. "You'll reduce the chances of splurging on fattening treats you might otherwise not eat."

Use prods and reminders to exercise. Making a commitment to getting fit is an important step, but wanting to work out isn't enough, says Quinn. "Men and women with ADHD can rely on a host of tools to help keep their fitness goals in sight," she says. Set an alarm or timer to remind you when to go to the gym or for a run.

Lock in a workout schedule. Try to exercise at the same time every day.

Exercise with a friend. "Having someone who holds you accountable increases the odds you'll get to your workout, and make it all the way through," says Quinn.

Write it down. Use a gym journal or tuck a small cheat sheet in your pocket to keep track of the things you want to accomplish, Quinn advises. "This helps adults with ADHD stay on track and reduces the chances of their getting distracted or forgetting to work toward some of their fitness goals."

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