As you might already know, binge eating and ADHD is a super common thing. Tons of my clients struggle with this, so I invited Becca King, registered dietician and ADHD nutrition specialist, to talk about how ADHDers can stop binge eating and heal their relationship with food!
Binge eating is something that I struggled with throughout my life, and the one thing I’ve taken away from my experience is that it’s a self-soothing technique, especially for people who experience intense emotional dysregulation as a result of ADHD.
I grew up in a family with almost no emotional literacy or understanding, and I didn’t have a safe place to process emotions, so I turned to food to feel better. It was a coping mechanism I used for a long time, and it resulted in a lot of shame around food.
So if you’re struggling with binge eating and ADHD, you’re in good company. This is a safe and judgment-free zone, and Becca King is going to share with us 5 tips to heal our relationship with food so we can stop bingeing!
Tip #1: Eat before you are starving
Often, binge eating is a way to numb our feelings, and many times people with ADHD have something called poor interception awareness, or the inability to pick up on body cues. So binge eating and ADHD happens because many of us can’t even tell when we’re hungry until we are starving — which also feeds into impulse control issues that many of us experience.
So Tip #1 is all about not letting ourselves get so hungry that we can’t make good decisions about food. When we’re ravenous, it becomes too easy to reach for quick and convenient junk food, which, not surprisingly, is super easy to binge.
And many times our ADHD medications make it even harder to know when we’re hungry because it comes out as ‘hangriness’ or headaches, rather than a growling stomach. So the trick is noticing how our bodies react to hunger, and deciding to eat before we experience those symptoms.
Tip #2: Learn to regulate your emotions
Emotional dysregulation is a common symptom of ADHD, and food is a convenient tool that temporarily alleviates our feelings.
Diet culture tells us that we can simply make ourselves not cave into our impulses, but the reality is that binge eating and ADHD is not a willpower issue — it’s an emotional regulation issue.
Just think about the last time you binged. You went for that bag of chips because it helped you feel better at that moment. And because you felt better, you wanted to eat more of it. Trying to make yourself not binge is an uphill battle because our brains are wired to do the easiest thing to make us feel better.
So the key here is to address the source of the problem rather than the symptom. Learning to regulate our emotions (with the help of a coach or therapist) is the most productive path to healing our relationship with food and stopping the cycle of disordered eating.
Tip #3: Add structure to your eating habits
A lot of times when we don’t remember to eat, we’ll also notice that our executive functioning and emotional regulation skills become much more challenging.
So adding some structure to our eating schedules — through a practice called practical eating — can teach us to eat every 3-4 hours even if we’re not hungry, so that we can make sure our bodies and minds feel good later in the day.
Becca King mentioned that in her experience practical eating is a great strategy to overcome binge eating and ADHD, because it takes the guesswork out of our eating routines, gets us to eat more frequently, and ultimately, puts us in a better position to regulate our emotions.
Tip #4: Learn about intuitive eating
Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to eating — no counting calories, tracking macros, measuring your food, or weighing yourself. It’s an eating philosophy that helps us connect with our instincts and learn how to trust our bodies with food.
It sounds like a crazy concept, but as an expert dietician, Becca King has found that intuitive eating is the most effective path that has led to overarching feelings of well-being for herself and her clients.
An intuitive eating regimen looks different for everybody because no two bodies are the same, but it’s all about giving ourselves permission to figure out what works best for our individual bodies when it comes to food.
So Tip #4 to overcome binge eating and ADHD is to learn about intuitive eating by googling it and going from there.
Tip #5: Make sure to eat every 3-4 hours
No matter where you are on your food journey with binge eating and ADHD, a helpful rule of thumb to start out with is to eat every 3-4 hours no matter what your brain is telling you about food.
Eating regularly will keep your blood sugar levels stable so you can learn to regulate your mood. So the first step in our journey is to do ourselves a favor and make sure our blood sugar levels are stable so we can heal and live more fulfilling lives with food.
To summarize, binge eating and ADHD is super common so here are 5 tips you can do to heal your relationship with food and stop bingeing with ADHD:
- Tip #1: Make sure to eat before you feel like you are starving
- Tip #2: Learn to regulate your emotions by hiring a coach or therapist
- Tip #3: Add structure to your eating habits
- Tip #4: Learn about intuitive eating
- Tip #5: Make sure to eat every 3-4 hours