Sunday, August 2, 2009


Ta Da! I found some articles on the internet that confirmed that my ADHD definitely is a contributing factor in my compulsive overeating and that it makes it particularly hard to treat. People with ADHD do not do well with food plans, counting carbs or calories or points. Expecting them to remember to pack a lunch everyday is an excercise in futility. ADHD affects the organizational part of the brain. In addition, people with ADHD have poor impulse control, which is why so many of us are on the see-food diet. We see food, we eat food.

Many of us feel tremendous shame over our poor impulse control and focus. Its affected our ability to be "successful" with a lot of jobs, with our marriages, and even with friendship. And it helps make us fat and makes it hard to lose the fat. Double shame. We do not have the organizational and focus skills to be successful on a long-term diet or life-style change. Our failures feed our shame and shame leads to more eating.

People with ADHD, especially women, are prone to anxiety and depression, because we are the proverbial square pegs trying to force ourselves into round holes--societal expectations for our roles as women into which we just don't fit. Anxiety and depression are known contributors to overeating. They're a form of self-medication.

It's also hard for women because we've been socialized not to do the stimulating, adventurous things we need to do that would keep us busy and out of the food--especially at night when we're expected to keep the home fires burning. We use food to calm us down so we can sit or do the boring, tedious housework expected of us. We use food to stimulate ourselves when we're bored, which we easily are. Of course, stimulants (caffeine and carbs) calm our brains and help us focus. We eat a lot of chocolate and drink a lot of coffee.

In addition, we really don't have an off switch with food. ADHD people can have poor self-awareness. We don't know we're full until we're stuffed. Conversely, when we're really busy with something that interests us, we go into hyperfocus, and we have no clue that we're hungry and we don't eat till we're done with the project, which helps set up the ravenous hunger we get later. With poor impulse control and no off switch we eat till we're stuffed.

ADD/ADHD women would be voted least likely to succeed on a diet by those scientists who are studying them. Actually, the effects of chronic pain mimic ADHD and lead to similar difficulties with diets. Ding-ding-ding. I'm a two-for-one winner. Two causes for one disease. (I'm not even going to talk about codependency here.) And I would add that chronic pain limits the physical activity and stimulation and adventuring that would allow me to self-medicate my ADHD without food. I eat to sit still so I don't hurt.

I'm blessed to have a husband who has made it his mission to see to it that I can fulfill my mission as a teacher to at-risk children. (Many of you saw the video I posted in a previous blog that highlighted one of my students.) Ken keeps me organized, acts as my social secretary (unless I forget to tell him about an event), does all the paperwork, researches things for me, does all the housework, laundry, and grocery shopping, makes sure my car has gas, etc. At school my assistant also takes care of the paperwork and keeps the room organized and efficient. She's become my chief consultant as I constantly bounce ideas of her. She has a son who's ADHD and she knows just how to be helpful, leaving me free to be creative and flexible and good at my job.
I've had a lot of affirmations and successes at my job. I've earned a lot of respect and even a certain amount of influence. People know I'm ADHD but, frankly, teachers are an eccentric bunch, and none more so than at my school, so, basically, I fit right in. In many ways, God has pulled my life together and made it work.
That leaves the food and the obesity. And now I've got a tool for that. A tool that works with my ADHD instead of against it. As long as I keep plenty of options for food that's on my protocol stored at home and stored at school (for when I forget to pack a lunch) my band will let me know when I'm full. As long as I continue to get support from my on-line friends and continue to write this blog to help me deal with all the assorted issues that accompany my food addiciton, I think I can beat the odds against me as an ADHD, arthritic woman recovering from this eating disorder.
By the grace of God, I am Cheri, a recovering food addict.