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ADHD & Hunger: Love-Hate Relationship with Food
I am hungry right now while I am writing this. This is an acknowledgment of what I am currently feeling. But, even though I am hungry and need to eat something, I chose to write everything here because the idea may wander and disappear. Most of the time, I just let my hunger pass and continue to focus on the activity I am currently engaged in.
This is just one of the weird habits that I developed about food. I know there are other people with ADHD symptoms out there who experience the same thing. So, I want to share my experience in the hopes that it can help others deal with ADHD better.
When I am bored and have nothing else to do, I binge eat and consume foods that I see in my fridge. It is a weird compulsion to eat something now and then. It is almost like an addiction. So, there are times when, even though I am not hungry, my mouth - and my ADHD brain - will still tell me to eat.
People with ADHD are prone to have an eating disorder alongside their neurodivergent brain. Foods and beverages sometimes act like drugs. They give you the illusion that they can help you cope with daily tasks and become productive. Having an eating disorder and ADHD tend to overlap each other.
Binge Eating Disorder and the ADHD Brain
What is binge eating? Binge Eating is when an individual overeats in a brief period. Binge eaters hardly make healthy choices in what they eat. Research suggests that compulsive eating or binge eating is driven by cravings and often associated with mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Of course, binge eating is also linked to ADHD. So, when everything goes out of hand, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) may be the result.
People with ADHD tend to have difficulties in impulse control. When a person with ADHD thinks of something to eat, they often do not think of the consequences that may follow. I know for sure that when I am hungry, and my ADHD brain gets triggered by anything, I get close to an OCD-like behavior where it is almost impossible to stop thinking about food without thinking about my health.
ADHD & Hunger: Can It Also Trigger Stress Eating?
Binge Eating is essentially what it sounds like: "Overeating to the point of discomfort or pain." A lot of the time, people who have BED will eat even when they are not hungry because it is more about what they feel at that moment.
On the other hand, stress eating (also called emotional eating) is more of an escape to overcome stress or fatigue. People who experience stress eating often eat to brighten up their mood or forget about their problems momentarily through eating.
Emotional Eating for ADHD may be an act of using food to numb out negative thoughts and emotions without dealing with them. Emotional overeating often happens in response to anger, anxiety, sadness, or loneliness. It is sometimes a coping mechanism for most people to block their emotions and eat everything on sight.
Being impulsive and acting out of compulsion are common ADHD symptoms. When you have ADHD, your brain's executive function does not work because it gets distracted easily. The impulsivity and hyperactivity that come from the condition make it very difficult to control what you feel and think about when it comes to food.
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There's More To ADHD and Binge Eating
Aside from Binge Eating Disorder, there are many eating disorders that people with ADHD can encounter and experience.
Reports say children with ADHD are more likely to show symptoms of eating disorders when they grow up. It is not surprising since impulsivity and inattention may lead to unhealthy decisions about food, leaving a person vulnerable to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. These ADHD and Disordered Eating behaviors revolve around the ADHD brain.
Although foods, in general, are not “addictive,” eating disorders don’t come without consequences.
Eating compulsively or overeating, for instance, increases the risk of health problems, such as obesity, hypertension, and heart disease. Did you know that watching television and playing video games while eating contributes to obesity? People with ADHD are less likely to exercise, so they put on weight and become obese.
And as we know, there’s a connection between ADHD and irregular eating habits. This symptom makes it hard for a person to stop doing whatever he's interested in and cannot focus on something else like taking their meal.
People with ADHD aren't safe from obesity even if they have a Hyperactive ADHD type. Their ADHD symptoms may lead to them to overeat and not care too much about what they eat. The impulsivity, restlessness, and preoccupation can impede people with ADHD from eating healthy and exercising, increasing their risk of becoming obese.
While it is a normal reaction to the distress of ADHD, binge eating does not mean you have to give in to your cravings all the time. Rather than going overboard and constantly feeling guilty about something you cannot control, consider looking for healthy alternatives. There are undoubtedly different ways to overcome these eating problems and maintain optimal health.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the Guide to Healthy Eating Habits
According to the research of John Fleming on ADHD about disordered eating, "a person with an ADHD diagnosis may have a difficult time in identifying satiety and fullness--whether one feels ''stuffed” or “'but I could eat more." But, there are ways to manage both ADHD and the food temptations that come with it.
Remember, it's usually easier to prevent something from happening than treat its effects. Here are some of the potential treatments or approaches you can undertake to help you overcome your eating issues and eating disorders.
- Do not forget to eat. As simple as it may sound, set a regular time or schedule in taking your meal. This may help your ADHD brain and stomach set a “rhythm” and you may be able to eat regularly.
- Meal planning might come in handy for you. Create a to-do list and schedule break time for a snack. This way, you can monitor your eating habits and avoid giving in to food cravings.
- Be accountable for what you eat. As much as possible, know your daily calorie requirement and try to consume only what’s within the recommended number. This is important for keeping proper track of your eating habits, along with keeping up with your overall health condition.
- Exercise regularly and try to lose weight if necessary. Losing weight doesn't mean that you need to stop eating. However, it’s important that you exercise portion control.
- Find an ADHD-friendly distraction for your food cravings. Find something else to do, such as reading, listening to music, or banging on a drum. These can help you not think about eating all the time.
- As much as possible, avoid eating foods from fast-food restaurants. Some of them aren't a good option for your health.
- Practice self-control and try to eat small meals in intervals. In this way, your hunger will be satisfied while trying to control your weight.
- Eat nutritious foods before doing a particular task. Remember that having a full and satisfied stomach can enhance your brain's executive function and working memory.
- As much as possible, avoid sleep deprivation. Studies show that eating issues may begin to arise due to boredom when a person stays up late at night. There's also a higher chance that you'll have obesity or be overweight because of staying up late unless you spend some time exercising.
- Seek professional help. Doctors can help relate what ADHD symptoms affect your unhealthy eating habits. It is critically important to understand your mental health status and the possible health risks associated with your ADHD when it comes to eating disorders.
- Only take medications given to you by a doctor. Some medicines can directly have an appetite suppression effect on adults with ADHD.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may significantly affect you and how you behave under certain circumstances. But with a little bit of knowledge and effort, you can manage your ADHD and maintain good eating habits at the same time. Eating disorders are manageable, and adults with ADHD can lead a healthy lifestyle even if they have food cravings.
ADHD and Hunger: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Can ADHD occur with eating disorders?
Yes, it can. In fact, some reports say people with ADHD (including children) are more likely to have concerns in their eating habits. Some of the symptoms that can “trigger” eating disorders are inattention and impulsivity.
What unhealthy eating habits can happen with ADHD?
ADHD is often linked to Binge Eating Disorder, Irregular Eating Pattern, and Stress Eating.
How can unhealthy eating habits affect a person with ADHD?
Unhealthy eating behavior can result in several medical problems. For instance, frequent stress eating or binge eating can lead to weight gain, which is a dominant risk factor in numerous conditions, like hypertension and diabetes.