The Journal Pediatrics published their findings on their 30 year long study regarding ADHD, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and obesity. Curiously enough this study only focused on boys. ( A reason might have been that boys are prone to have this disorder if compared to girls.) They followed these kids during their childhood and well into adulthood. Other boys from the same community were monitored closely to see how they developed and if they became obese as well. The main goal of the study was to prove that ADHD and obesity are linked to each other. The researchers wanted to expose this fact and to warn the public about this new and astounding development.
The conclusion that is most shocking is that obesity is double as common among men who had ADHD when they were young than among men who didn’t have this attention deficit disorder. The study observed 111 male participants who suffered from ADHD when they were a child, over a thirty year period. During this period there were check ups when they were eighteen, twenty-five and forty-one. The results in percentages: forty-one percent of this group had become obese compared to twenty-two percent of the group who weren’t diagnosed with ADHD.
This study exposed the fact that ADHD and hyperactivity actually do not mean that a person might be thin “because they just can’t sit still” it showed the opposite. A reason could be that people with ADHD eat compulsively and can’t seem to stop once they started. The concept behind this compulsive behaviour is that people who suffer from ADHD can’t concentrate for a long period of time and therefore can’t really tell the “signs”. Meaning: if they have a conversation with a person they might get confused and not really “get” what that person is trying to say. The same goes for their bodies. The body tries to communicate that it’s tired and in need of a rest and the hyperactive person interprets it that the body needs more fuel to get going and starts to eat huge portions of food that will give them back the energy they need, or so they think.
Are there any ways for parents to prevent their hyperactive boys of becoming obese?
John Fleming, PH.D from additudemag.com has the following tips to share:
Don’t try to stick to a diet. It’s all about adjusting the behaviour, the way of thinking about food and the way they feel towards food. A diet just won’t do because it’s to easy to ditch and it’s also very restrictive most of the time. In addition it requires a lot of concentration therefore these tips might be more useful:
- Don’t let any sweets/ fast foods or other calorie dense food in the house. This might lead to your kids trying to earn this food, by behaving in a proper way so you will reward them by indulging them or to secretly eat all of it. In short eliminate any temptations and instead focus on healthy foods and provide them with the necessary tools to avoid these temptations.
- An old favorite but one that never goes out of style and is a good option for everybody, parents and kids alike, is to exercise when feeling deprived of energy. Don’t get choked up on the fact that it should be at least half an hour or more. Just when you feel you want to snack because you’re depleted of energy or feel that you are bored try to do the exact opposite of what you would like to do. Start to walk for 10 minutes, very fast walking no strolling here, or do some jumping jacks or squats. This is a great example to set for your hyperactive child. Try to get your child to jump in and have some energetic fun with you.
- Don’t get stuck on the same old same old ways of entertaining the children. The TV is not a replacement for running around in the park or to actually create somethings with their hands. Try to keep your child mentally challenged and most of all try not to fall for the easy entertainment fix. When doing things that became automatic it’s easy to look for a distraction and most of the time this will result in eating or even overeating.
- Another helpful tip is to set up a time table to plan the meals. Kids and adults who suffer from ADHD usually think to far ahead and therefore forget to listen to their bodies and to eat when they should. (Meaning that their bodies are hungry and need the energy, not because they are tired, upset or bored,) Therefore a plan might be useful and prevent them from feeling too hungry and then eating a lot of food and/or unhealthy things.
- Another fool proof method, some might call this the ZEN way of eating, is actually trying to be aware of the food, how it tastes, if you really wanted this and if you still feel like that even after 5 minutes of eating it. A child might have a more difficult time diagnosing these things for themselves that’s why it’s a good idea as a parent to ask these questions in a more playful manner that befits the situation and helps your kid instead of making them feel like they are doing something wrong.
- Smaller plates for the whole family. This has everything to do with the way we think about food portions and how we feel about them. Isn’t it curious how in most restaurants the portions get bigger and bigger? We feel like this is somehow related to luxury and we deserve those huge amounts of foods and above all we paid for it, right? The truth is that those big portions are harmful and not necessary. Harmful because it’s energy overload and therefore the extra calories will be stored as fat and unnecessary because the taste of food won’t be registered by you after three bites. Therefore smaller plates will do the trick. Children will become used to seeing these smaller portions and if the whole family participates it will become the healthy norm and not the pitiful exception.
Try incorporating all of these tips and above all don’t get discouraged. It’s a life long path and usually a struggle. However it’s a precious gift for your hyperactive child which might even prevent him from becoming obese later on in life.