Keep Your Brain and Body Fueled!

Whether I’m reading about the best way to manage weight, anxiety, focus, will power, etc., it often cycles back, in part, to nutrition. And not just what you eat, but how much and how often.

Just about everything I’m reading talks about how a relatively steady supply of glucose is the best way to keep your brain and body working optimally. Too much glucose, and insulin quickly pulls it from your blood into fat reserves, making you hungry again quickly and thwarting your diet. Too little glucose, and you set yourself up for brain fog, irritability, impulsiveness, and anxiety.

So how to hit that happy medium in glucose supply

You probably already know that you should avoid processed foods. Two good rules of thumb apply here: (1) stay away from the middle of the grocery store, and (2) stay away from “white” foods like white flour, white sugar, white rice, and white potatoes. Instead, eat more slowly digested foods like whole grain, whole fruit, and whole vegetables. Include moderate amounts of protein and healthful fish and vegetable oils.

Maybe what you don’t know is that you should also not eat too much at any one sitting, or go too long without eating at least something. Dr. Barry Sears, originator of the Zone Diet, suggests that the average person aim to eat no more than about 400-500 calories at a time, and go no more than 4-5 hours during the day without eating.

To help you stay within those guidelines, all you have to do is learn to estimate volumes. Then, using this Calorie Density Chart I created (if you pass this chart or idea on, which I hope you do, please mention my name and include a link to this website. Thanks!), you can easily estimate how much “fuel” you’re taking in at any one time.

Calorie Density Chart

Each of these portions is roughly 100 calories:

Ounces Volume Food
1/2 oz 1 Tbl FAT (butter, oil, mayonnaise, peanut butter, etc)
1 oz 2 Tbl SUGARY FOODS (sugar, syrup, honey, dried fruit) and
FATTY FOODS (olives, nuts, cheese, bacon)
2 oz 1/4 Cup LEAN MEAT (Large egg, 1/2 chicken breast, small steak, small fish fillet, 3 slices ham)
4 oz 1/2 Cup STARCH (cooked rice, pasta, legumes, potatoes, corn)
8 oz 1 Cup FRUIT (50-150 calories depending on fruit) and
DAIRY (1% milk, yogurt, kefir, etc)
16 oz 2 Cups VEGETABLES

Get Back to Basics

This month, I was again a guest expert at ImpactADHD.

This time the focus was on brain health and my article was titled Get Back to Basics: 3 Great Ways to Live Better With ADHD. Here’s the first part of the article:

When it comes to ADHD we hear a lot about neurochemicals, but did you know that to function well, our brains need plenty of glucose, oxygen, and sleep? Eating, exercising, and sleeping therefore make a big difference when it comes to living well with ADHD. And when we eat, exercise, and sleep properly, the additional benefits play out in those all-important neurochemicals—and in our bodies—as well.

You can read the rest of the article here.

SPARK – a New Reason to Get off your Butt

Being a restless type myself, I’m a big fan of movement and exercise as a means of self-regulation. If you’ve read my book, Fidget to Focus, you’ll know many of the techniques I use in my own life to stay focused.

Being an evangelist for the Body/Brain connection (how what we do with our bodies affects our brains), I was really excited to learn last year that Dr. John Ratey of Driven to Distraction fame was writing a new book entitled Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

Well, it has just come out and everyone should read this book! And I do mean everyone: you, your spouse, your parents, your kids, their teachers, your doctors. EVERYONE!

I originally put off opening it as I was afraid it would be dry and technical, but it’s not at all. I found it so compelling and easy to read I could hardly put it down. So go read it. And then come tell me how it’s changed your life!

Feingold Diet

This MedScape* article on Lifestyle and Complementary Therapies for ADHD includes a review of the Feingold diet.

I was surprised that the research cited supports the effectiveness of the Feingold diet. I had been under the impression that although this diet clearly helped some people, it was ineffective for the majority and hard to maintain, which made it a difficult solution for many households. To my surprise, the research cited in this article suggests that it helps a majority of the children who tried it. The diet is, however, controvercial. Click here for another viewpoint.

You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s something you want to try. The advantages are it’s free and cant’ really hurt. Let me know if it works for you (or if it doesn’t!). I’ll be interested to know.

* Medscape is a online medical journal for healthcare professionals with the mission to provide timely, comprehensive, and relevant clinical information to improve patient care. You have to create an account to view the articles, but once you do, you can access the content at no charge.

Alternative Therapies

A friend just directed me to this MedScape article on Lifestyle and Complementary Therapies for ADHD.

The articles points out that more than 50% of American families who receive care for ADHD in specialty clinics also use complementary or alternative medical therapies such as modifying their diet or other aspects of their lifestyle. This article reviews the common alternative therapies and the research that supports (or doesn’t support) the effectiveness of those therapies. The article is worth checking out.

Medscape is a online medical journal for healthcare professionals with the mission to provide timely, comprehensive, and relevant clinical information to improve patient care. You do have to create an account to view the articles, but once you do, you can access the content at no charge.

ADHD and Exercise

One of the best things we can do for ourselves is exercise. Even if we haven’t yet experienced this for ourselves, abundant research demonstrates that exercise helps to:

  • Regulate your appetite
  • Regulate your weight
  • Improve your sleep
  • Improve your mood
  • Reduce symptoms of menopause
  • Improve your sex life

And, according to Dr. John Ratey, it’s also good for your brain. He says that 20 minutes of aerobic exercise is like giving yourself a little hit of Ritalin and a little hit of Prozac, helping you to achieve a focused relaxed state of mind. Additionally, new research is strongly suggesting that exercise can help the brain learn and stay young by developing new neural connections and optimizing existing ones, even if you’re old! Check out this very readable article from Newsweek. Click here for the link.

ADHD and Your Lifestyle

One of the fascinating things about ADHD is that although some of it is clearly related to genetics, some if it is clearly related to environmental factors. What’s great about that is it means there are non-pharmaceutical things we can do to help manage and mitigate ADHD symptoms. This is a growing area of interest and research in the field of ADHD. The book I co-authored, Fidget to Focus, is just one of the approaches being studied. When I come across interesting and relevant research regarding these environmental or lifestyle aspects of living well with ADHD, I’ll post it here.