Is Attention Deficit Disorder A Weight Loss Liability Or A Dieting Superpower?
First, not everyone who has ADD actually experiences hyperactivity, hence the fact that the H (hyperactivity) is only sometimes included in the disorder's name. Another subset of people have symptoms that are primarily inattentive—think more "sloth" than "roadrunner"—and some people experience a mixture of the two types.The primary deficits that characterize ADD are in a cognitive ability called executive function. This ability has nothing to do with intelligence and can often come with unique creative gifts—in fact, many of history's greatest geniuses have been hypothesized to have had the disorder and quite a few modern celebrities have revealed that they suffer from the condition.
However, executive function does encompass abilities like self-regulation, planning, organizing, prioritizing, controlling impulses, and maintaining an awareness of the future; all skills that are essential both for managing everyday life and following a diet!
ADD would also be more accurately characterized less as a "lack" of attention span than a dysregulated attention span. If a person with ADD finds something boring it is indeed almost impossible for them to pay attention to it. However, if they find something interesting, they can focus on it with an almost superhuman level of attention.
These symptoms are thought to result from chronic understimulation of the brain, which seems to be partially caused by lower levels of reward chemical dopamine. This is why people with more hyperactive forms of ADD can appear restless in their search for something stimulating and rewarding enough to "wake themselves up."Unfortunately, this puts them at a much higher risk for addiction of all types, including food addiction. Up to 30 percent of people with binge eating disorder also have ADD, and 11 percent of women with ADD, compared to 1 percent of women without, reported a history of bulimia nervosa. Highly palpable foods do indeed raise dopamine levels temporarily, but this is a quick-fix that only creates a cycle of overindulgence. People with ADD also tend to lack interoception, meaning that they are less aware of their hunger and fullness signals.
Together, these symptoms are a perfect storm for issues maintaining a healthy weight. A person with ADD, for example, may find themselves running late to work on a typical morning, so they only have time to grab a high-calorie pastry for breakfast. They also probably didn't have time to pack a lunch, and they're too behind on their emails to go get a healthy one, so downstairs to the closest fast food restaurant it is.
A few hours later, when someone puts out cupcakes at afternoon meeting, their poor impulse control means that they probably won't think twice about grabbing one, even if they weren't even that hungry. Then, they'll get so wrapped up in whatever project they're working on that by the time they notice they're hungry again, they're starving, so they forget the nice salad they have in their fridge and binge on some unhealthy takeout on their way home instead.
Once they've made it to the couch, they then might grab a box of cookies for a little snack and be so absorbed by their show that they'll have mindlessly eaten the whole package before they've even noticed. Finally, since people with ADD often have trouble regulating their sleep, they may choose to stay up late scrolling the internet instead of getting a good night's rest, all but ensuring that the day that follows will be just as dietarily disastrous.
None of these potential pitfalls mean that people with ADD can't lose weight. They may have to work a little harder at it, but if they can manage to channel their extreme hyperactive focus into weight loss, exercise, or nutrition, they could become bona-fide weight loss masters; if they choose to follow a moderate and consistent plan instead of, say, going all in on a crash diet or insane exercise regime for two weeks before burning themselves out and abandoning the whole endeavor.It's also worth noting that people with ADD are more likely to have allergies and intolerances to various unhealthy foods, like casein (a protein found in milk), gluten,and artifical food coloring, so a healthier and simplified diet might do them even more good than it would for someone neurotypical! Some foods can also help people with ADD naturally raise their levels of dopamine and other important neurotransmitters in a more sustainable way than unhealthy ones can.
Exercise can also help people with ADD with their dopamine levels as well as with weight loss, and provides a much healthier source of stimulation and endorphins than a box of chocolates. To avoid getting bored by their gym routine, they may want to try interval training, which works by alternating short bursts of intense exercise with longer rest periods. Or, since the procrastinatory tendencies of ADD sufferers mean that half the battle is just getting to the gym, they could try committing to a training session or exercise class in advance so they can't mentally argue their way out of going.
Getting proper treatment may also be necessary for a person with ADD to be able to organize their lives and resist impulses successfully enough to be able to stick to a diet. The most common treatment option, stimulants, also have the benefit of raising metabolism and suppressing appetite, so much so that some ADD drugs have also been prescribed specifically to treat binge eating. Luckily, 123Diet's metabolism-boosting drops are not known to interfere with these or with any other medications, so you're perfectly free to combine the two approaches.