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ADHD and Food

Let’s talk about food. An excellent topic.

Over at AllPsych, I just wrote about overeating. You can read the full post there, but the key point for our purposes is that there’s a link between impulsivity and overeating.

CakeIf you have ADHD, this connection might make sense to you. Tending not to think before you act makes you worse at pretty much everything that requires self-discipline, including keeping up healthy eating habits.

This potential link between ADHD and eating habits hasn’t been lost on researchers, and recently an interesting study was published showing far-reaching correlations between ADHD symptoms and eating behaviors. The research was done on children, but it has implications for everyone with ADHD – so much so that other researchers have said it represents a “change in focus in ADHD research.”

The study linked ADHD to all of the following:

  • Food responsiveness (basically, wanting to eat food when you come into contact with it)
  • Emotional overeating
  • Food approach behaviors

Based on previous research (e.g., this study), there’s reason to believe that the ADHD-food connection doesn’t only hold for children. Overall, it seems like people with ADHD just really like food.

And now, here’s my personal take on this: I really like food. I particularly like unhealthy food. I always have.

I’ve suspected some sort of relationship between my ADHD and my penchant for unhealthy foods basically since I got diagnosed. I think eating can be a way of giving the ADHD brain some of the reward and stimulation it’s hungry for (literally).

As I’ve mentioned before, I even use food to help cope with some of my ADHD-related attention and motivation issues. Specifically, I reward myself with food to keep myself focused.

Is it physically healthy? Not always.

Does it help me manage my ADHD? To an extent.

In my time as a connoisseur of unhealthy foods, I’ve discovered that the trick is to set ironclad rules for myself. After one too many days where I bought a bag full of chocolate at the grocery store and was left with only the bag minus the chocolate by the time the sun went down, I resolved never to buy myself chocolate ever.

As far as I’m concerned, healthy eating happens at the supply side. If I bring chocolate home with me, I’ve already lost the battle. So if you want to give me chocolate, thanks, it’s very much appreciated, and it won’t last long, but the days of giving myself chocolate are definitively over.

In the end, food basically signifies a reward to many people with ADHD, and that’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, we can use it strategically to motivate ourselves and string along our reward-starved (again, literally) brains. On the other hand, as with many kinds of rewards, it can be hard for us to know when enough is enough, so it’s good to have a plan in place to keep things from getting out of hand.

Do you notice a connection between your ADHD symptoms and eating habits? What are your thoughts on ADHD and food? Recipe suggestions also welcome.

Image: FreeImages.com/Tondo Susanto

ADHD and Food


Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.


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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2016). ADHD and Food. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 25, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-millennial/2016/05/adhd-and-food/

 

Last updated: 29 May 2016
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