When it comes to health, why can’t we ‘Just do it’?

Society, culture, media- they all tell us how to lead healthier lives.  This advice can often be damaging and daunting to the general public.  For someone with ADHD it can be soul crushing and seem all but impossible.  

I have struggled with sleep all of my life, and I get told to form healthy night time rituals, get off my phone at night, get exercise during the day to help me be more tired, and/or just close my eyes and count to 100.

I have struggled to get enough exercise all of my life, and I get told to set a routine, start a habit.  You need to do it, so just do it. 

I have struggled with disordered eating all of my life, and I get told to control my calorie intake, log my food and water, do more meal planning, cook healthy foods from scratch, form healthy food habits, resist food temptations, and think of what the repercussions of my actions are.

These are the ways our society tells us to overcome our health issues.  Though most of the population has had a hard time following this kind of advice from time to time, for someone with ADHD, the barriers to following this guidance are much higher.  

I tend to keep my articles on the positive side, but in many cases, it’s important to know our challenges in order to figure out how to overcome or work around them.  Here are some aspects of ADHD that can impact our physical health:

  • We have low levels of dopamine and GABA which affect our satisfaction and inhibition
  • We exist on a spectrum from high-energy, can’t sit still (hyperactive type) to quieter, more daydreamy (inattentive type). Those of us on the inattentive side tend to have a harder time with physical activity than those of us on the hyperactive side.
  • We have a much higher incidence of sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep schedule issues
  • We are more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety and depression
  • We tend to be thrill seeking and impulsive (which sometimes leads to us downing that bag of cookies in the cupboard just because we’re bored)
  • We have a cruddy working memory which makes it hard to remember if we have tasks to do or goals to meet (meal planning and/or exercising)
  • Our working memory as well as a time-blindness make long-term rewards harder to strive for (losing weight is a long, slow process that requires much patience and in which developing healthy routines is essential)
  • We have a very hard time with executive functioning which inhibits us from doing unenjoyable tasks that don’t have some other sort of (short term) reward (like exercise and meal prep)
  • We tend to have oppositional brains – we don’t do well with people defining our goals for us or telling us what to do or how to live our lives (we are often even oppositional to ourselves!)
  • All of these issues combine to make obesity far more prevalent amongst those with ADHD – we are 4x more likely to be obese.  And, without the proper support, once we lose weight, it’s way harder for us to keep it off.  

Now please set that all aside.  These issues don’t define us; they are just things to keep in mind when finding systems that will work for us.  It’s so important to remember that with the proper strategies and support, we really can accomplish better health, and just about anything else we put our minds to!

First things first, it’s incredibly important for us to get to know our own brains.  With the right knowledge and support that takes into account our unique ADHD brains we can come up with individual systems that play to our strengths, our abilities, and help us overcome our obstacles.   Support can come in many ways:

  • Reading articles or listening to podcasts (please make sure they are well-sourced)  
  • Amazing things can happen with the right partner, the right accountabilibuddy (accountability partner), and/or the right program
  • If we are fortunate enough to be able to find and work with an ADHD coach, truly amazing things can happen.  We can find our strengths and with them the confidence to continue to try, even though past attempts had seemed disappointing.  
    • An ADHD coach can help us forgive ourselves for those disappointments
    • An ADHD coach can also help us find what we love, where our interests lie, and not just our goals, but the true meaning of our goals.  
  • Once we can see and remember our strengths, our true goals, and forgive ourselves for past and present transgressions (this is hard – more to come on this in future articles), we can tackle anything
  • We are so resilient and creative.  We can forge our own paths that both support our unique brains and healthier lifestyles!

I wish us all the best of luck on our health journeys.  

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