ADHD and Emotional Eating

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Humans eat for more reasons than hunger. Food is something we comfort ourselves with when we are faced with an emotional challenge, like stress, sadness, anxiety or boredom. The problem with emotional eating is that it sabotages weight, health and fitness goals.

In her book ‘Natural relief for Adult ADHD’ author Stephanie Sarkis says people with ADHD can self-medicate  with  high fat, sugary and salty foods as a way to feel better.

Here are 6 ADHD-friendly ways to put you back in control of what you eat.

1) Treat your ADHD. 

Living with unmanaged ADHD is stressful and can make you feel sad, anxious and bad about yourself. These are the types of emotions that might make you want to comfort eat. In addition, key ADHD behaviors like impulsivity and distraction mean you might find yourself eating unconsciously.  Treating your ADHD empowers you to feel in control of your life and your eating habits. 

2) Practice Mindfulness. 

Practicing mindfulness while you are eating helps you to break the habit of emotional eating. By noticing what you see, smell, taste, and feel in the moment, you are able to savor and enjoy what you are eating. You are also able to stop eating when you are full. 

3) Don’t reward yourself with food.

As someone living with ADHD, you might have noticed how powerful rewards are. Promising yourself a reward for completing a task is a winning strategy to get things done.

  However, if your rewards involve food,  it can be problematic because you will find yourself eating when you aren’t hungry. Keep rewarding yourself, but instead of using food, use non-food rewards.

4) Don’t get bored.

Many people with ADHD have a  low threshold for boredom and rather than feel bored and restless, they find something to eat.

If this is you, write a list of activities you could do instead of reaching for a snack. Challenge yourself to think of as many as possible, from phoning a friend to doing 20 push-ups. Think of activities that will be fun for you and that don’t involve food. With time, your first reaction won’t be to go to the kitchen whenever you feel bored, it will be to do one of these activities.

5) Keep a food diary.

Doing a detailed task like keeping a food diary, might seem hard  when you have ADHD; however,  smartphones make it quite easy. There are many food diary apps to choose from, and if you don’t like writing you can just take a photo of your food. Pausing to take a photo gives you time to decide if you want to eat the item or to consider whether you are eating for emotional reasons. Tracking your food allows you to see what you are eating and what changes you could make.

6) I​t's not about food.

Emotional eating is less about food and more about your emotions. Start to notice how you feel before you eat. Are you hungry?  If not, what emotion are you feeling? After identifying the emotion, think about what you could do to address that emotion. For example, if you are feeling stressed, how could you relieve your stress besides eating?

Working with a therapist to help you address these emotions is very helpful.

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