May 24, 2022

Binge Eating and ADHD

Did you know that ADHDers are very likely to struggle with binge eating? Find out why on today’s episode! Registered Dietitian Becca King is here to explain what binge eating is, why it is so prevalent among ADHDers, and how we can stop. Get ready for a shame-free, judgement-free discussion around eating, intuition, and ADHD management.

[CONTENT WARNING: Disordered eating, binge eating, bulimia]

Learn more about Becca here!



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Kristen Carder 0:07
Welcome to the I have ADHD podcast, where it’s all about education, encouragement and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carter and I have ADHD. Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor and challenges of adulting relationships working and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain. Unlock your potential and move from point A to point B.

Hey, what’s up this is Kristen Carter and you are listening to the I have ADHD podcast. I am medicated. I am caffeinated and I am ready to roll. I have got such a great show for you. Today we are going to be talking about binge eating. A few weeks ago I pulled my Instagram audience and ask them for podcast episode topic suggestions. And binge eating was one that came up over and over like so many times. It seems that a lot of ADHD has really struggled with this. And I’ve got the perfect guest on today to talk about it. Becca King is a registered dietician who has ADHD and works with ADHD ears to help them stop binge eating, and heal the relationship with food. She’s here today to share her expertise with us all. And I just want to make sure before we get rolling to give a content warning here, as we’ll obviously be discussing binge eating and perhaps other topics like disordered eating, etc. So I encourage you to take care of yourself as you listen to this podcast. And if now’s not a good time for you just come back to it later when you’re feeling up to it.

Now binge eating is something that I have struggled with often on but extensively in my late high school and early college years, I experienced a lot of inner emotional turmoil and I learned how to soothe myself with food. For me, binge eating was mostly a self soothing technique that I use to feel better. And I think this makes so much sense as an ADHD or with emotional dysregulation who grew up in a family with almost no emotional literacy, or language around emotion. I did not have a safe place to learn how to process emotions, or learn how to soothe myself. And so binge eating was a very doable coping mechanism for me. Now, ironically, while binge eating made me feel better for a little while, I would then experience intense amounts of shame after binging, which obviously didn’t feel good. And so then I would binge even more to soothe the shame that came from binging. And it was just a vicious cycle. I really felt trapped in it. So I guess I tell you this to let you know that if you are struggling with binge eating, you’re in a really safe place here. Right now. This is a judgment free zone. I’ve been there. I can’t wait for you to hear from my guest, Becca, as she shares all of her wisdom and expertise with us. So with that, welcome, Becca,

Becca 3:19
thank you for having me. I’m so excited.

Kristen Carder 3:22
I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so glad I just think this is such an important topic. And there’s no one else I would rather be talking to you.

Becca 3:30
Thank you I very much resonated with growing up in a household that emotional regulation was not a thing.

Kristen Carder 3:40
And I’m so interested as we get going just to pick your brain about that, because I do wonder how much binge eating is just a coping mechanism for just like handling life. Like for me, it was almost like survival. Like I had no other way to process my emotions. And it was the most comforting thing to me in my life, which is just as I look back, like such a tragedy, but also it’s like my brain and body knew what it needed. And it was just taking care of itself. Yeah. Which I think is beautiful.

Becca 4:16
Yeah, I think we, when we are struggling with binge eating, I feel like we feel bad about it or to carry so much guilt and shame around it. But a lot of times it is that our that’s our body’s just trying to protect us and take care of herself. And it’s maybe the only tool that that coping tool that we have at the time. And so I think you know, it’s totally okay for that to be our only coping tool and being able to realize like, hey, there are other things I can do outside of this to learn how to cope with our emotions or even for stimulation. That can be a huge one too, for a lot of a lot of ADHD’ers.

Kristen Carder 4:51
Oh my goodness. Yes. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Why don’t you tell us just a little bit about who you are your ADHD story. Have you noticed a little bit and like how you got into helping people overcome binge eating?

Becca 5:06
So I have like the, probably the typical caught like, woman with ADHD story of like, you know, I, my parents kept me super busy in high school, I did well, I never really struggled academically, and then got to college. And that nice structure that I had in place was no longer there, and I could barely function. And at the time, I was struggling with anorexia, and then kind of through college, it kind of transitioned more to the binge eating side of things. And for me getting diagnosed, I got diagnosed at 19. And because I was like, there’s something going on here. And I was talking to my therapist, and my roommate at the time, had had ADHD. And I was like, We are two peas in a pod, like, very similar. We’re best friends to now. And I’m just like, at the end, I was like, Yeah, I think I have this, I was talking to my therapist, and she screamed me and was like, yeah, you definitely do. And for me getting medicated, and getting going through therapy was like, finally, you know, all of the chaos brain kind of, you know, had subsided, and I was able to, you know, do I actually feel like I could function on a day to day basis. So yeah, I had I’ve kind of my eating disorder journey has kind of run the gamut of eating disorders. And it really wasn’t until I kind of started getting going through recovery that I was like, you know, I think I want to be I was in nursing school at the time. And I was like, taking a nutrition class. And I was like, you know, what, I and I didn’t get into the second half of nursing school, because my GPA was like, point oh, something short of like, the cut off, it was minuscule. And I still had like a 3.4 GPA, which is not bad for college. Yeah, so it was super intense program. And so I was like, you know, I took this nutrition class. And I was like, I kind of like that. And the professor wasn’t dietitian. So I was like, coffee with her. And I was like, you know, actually kind of like that, do you have been a dietitian, instead of being a nurse anymore, because I love food, in a weird way at the time, because it was still kind of struggling with an eating disorder. So it’s like, I love food, but I have like a weird relationship with food at the same time. And I think a lot of dietitians, we go into the field, because we have kind of a weird relationship with food. A lot of times a lot of dieticians do have a history of an eating disorder. And so I think for me, grad school was really helpful when I got into a master’s program for nutrition to be like, hey, I can have a better relationship with food and kind of, it gave me the chance to kind of work through my food issues. And it was kind of discovering intuitive eating, which you can talk about, probably at some point, but that for me was kind of what helped me heal my relationship with food. And once I took my first job, which was in weight loss, and it was not for me, and I was like, I can do this, you know, like, I can still, you know, help people. And I was like, This is not for me, because they wanted me to see a bulimic patient for weight loss. And I was like, this is really unethical, and I don’t feel comfortable doing this. And it was there, like review, we see everyone here, which I was like this is that doesn’t make sense. Everyone doesn’t need to be at a weight loss clinic. And so eventually, it got to be any other pandemic, it was like a couple of months before. And my best friend came and stayed with me. And from New York City, and we both had a cough, and we couldn’t get tested too. So early on in the pandemic. So like, why don’t you just stay home for two weeks? And they pass up the unemployment stuff? And I was like, you know, how about I just don’t come back? And they’re like, Yeah, okay. And I was like, you know, I think this is my sign to start my own, like virtual practice, because it’s like, the perfect time because everything was starting to shift to online, sort of Yes, surfaces. And I was like, I could do this. And then I decided to get a business coach, because we will learn how to do that. In school via dietitian. Yeah. And as I was kind of working with her to figure out where my niche was, I was like, I know, I want to do intuitive eating. And I was working with a really good friend and trying to figure out like, helping her with nutrition stuff. And I was like, oh, both of us have this very similar experience of not eating enough on our medication and Binging at night when our mental wear off. And so I got really lucky, some Facebook support group for women with ADHD. Let me do a poll on their group about what people struggled with. And everyone pretty much said binge eating. And I was like, there’s nobody talking about this on social media. And it’s like a footnote and research papers for what you might struggle with if you have ADHD. And I’m like, this is a huge thing. Like, I feel like risky driving and things like that, which art can be dangerous, but it was like, eating disorders are very dangerous. We’re just like, getting over that you might struggle with this if you have ADHD. So it’s like, you know, I think I’m going to talk about this. I remember my business coach being like, okay, like, and I was, like,

Kristen Carder 9:50
super sexy to talk about.

Becca 9:54
Yeah, it was like, there’s definitely something here that no one discussed like discussing and I think for me, it’s really cool to like, make that connection for people, that you might struggle with your relationship with food, because of ADHD and being able to, like, make that light bulb go off for people, because I think it’s so often that we forget that, like, ADHD does impact every part of our life. And that does include food, too. So I think being able to make that connection is huge for people.

Kristen Carder 10:23
Wow. Okay, let’s start with the basics. Yeah, how do you even define binge eating? Like, how would somebody know if they were binge eating?

Becca 10:34
Yeah, so the definition of binge eating is having recurrent episodes, which would be eating, usually a large volume of food in a very short time period. So typically around in like a two hour window of eating, you know, something, maybe eating, like what someone maybe would eat and a whole day and in a two hour period, feeling out of control while you’re in a binge episode. So it can almost feel like an out of body experience, at least for me, when I was binge spending, I felt like I was like, watching myself totally do this feeling like you can’t stop. And then feeling either, like you’re eating more rapidly than normal, eating until you’re uncomfortably full, eating larger amounts of food, even though you might not be physically hungry. And then eating alone is a big piece too. And then just either feeling disgusted, depressed or really guilty afterwards. So and it typically happens or to meet like the criteria for diagnosis, you have to have at least one binge episode a week for three months.

Kristen Carder 11:35
Oh, that’s fascinating. Yeah, I didn’t realize that this was a diagnosable?

Becca 11:40
Yes. Yes, it is a newer diagnosis, I want to say with in the last like 20 years at most is when it had kind of been acknowledged that this was that this actually is more of an actual eating disorder versus like, Oh, someone just eats a lot of food. Right. And it’s a little different from bulimia in the sense that there isn’t some sort of compensatory mechanism like activity that you’re doing afterwards, whether that’s like, you know, excessively exercising or purging or using laxatives or something like that you’re not doing anything after the fact to like, try to counter act, if you will, the batch.

Kristen Carder 12:21
That’s so interesting, because when I was experiencing this, pretty much like at the height of it in college, I have this like, fear of throwing up, so I would never, ever, ever heard him that way. But I would excessively exercise and I didn’t realize that that could be a classification for Yeah. Bulimia, that’s,

Becca 12:44
yeah, because it can be there can people who do still a ton and ton of exercises to make up for it in that sense.

Kristen Carder 12:51
And usually it’s like rage fueled, or shame fueled exercise. It’s not like joy. Right? Like, it’s like, I remember one night getting up out of bed. I was living with my parents, I was probably my second or third year of college. And I like totally binged before bed. And then I went to bed and I lay down, and I just felt so awful. And so, you know, full of shame and self judgment, all the things and I remember making myself get up out of bed and go for a run at like, 12am. Yeah, like, it was ridiculous. Yeah. I mean, it was just so difficult to not know how to deal with Yeah, all of those feelings. And it was like, Well, I guess I have to go make myself run. Yeah, like yell at myself the whole time?

Becca 13:44
Yeah, there’s a lot of negative self talk. I think when you’re struggling with an eating disorder, or even just disordered eating, I think there is a lot of beating ourselves up over, over the behaviors that are engaging in.

Kristen Carder 14:02
What do you feel or, or what is the research say, causes people to binge eat

Becca 14:10
a variety of things. So I think for some people, it can be a response to trauma. So it that can be a way of, for some people, especially if you’ve had like sexual trauma, it can be almost a way of like, really numbing yourself, or even trying to gain weight as a way to kind of feel protected. For people with ADHD, it can be having poor interoceptive awareness is what it’s called, but being able to pick up on our body cues. So a lot of times it’s not recognizing that we’re hungry until I’m ravenous and I need food like right now. That’s a huge one, the impulse control.

Kristen Carder 14:48
Can you do that again for me, because I didn’t actually hear it.

Becca 14:51
interoceptive awareness. So being able to just recognize, like, hey, you’ve been going to the bathroom? I use that one as an example because a lot of my clients would be like, yeah, I don’t go to the bathroom until like, I need to run to the bathroom. And a lot of my clients as well will do that with hunger, where it’s, I’m not that I’m not hungry, or I don’t even feel hunger until I’m, you know, I need food now at this moment and then, you know, being when we’re ravenous, it’s a lot harder to make, you know, make good decisions, or even make the decision we want to make, like, maybe it is I want to eat, you know, something more nutrient dense, but I need whatever is quick and easy. So I might grab, I’m just gonna grab potato chips, because I can just open bag and eat them, you know, kind of kind of thing.

Kristen Carder 15:34
Wow, I I know that like you have more in your list of things. But like, this one resonates with me so much because I really struggle in this area. And I noticed that my husband, he will point out to me, like, I think it’s time for you to eat. I think you’re about to get your cycle like all like he is so much more aware and in tune with my body than I am. Yeah. Which sometimes is amazing. And sometimes I’m just like, shot. True, like he picks up on my body cues faster than I pick up on my body cues. While wild

Becca 16:13
Yeah, yeah. And it is. Even if you’re not even if you’re not medicated. It can still because I’ll have people talk about that have like a kind of talk about the binge restrict cycle of like not eating enough during the day, and then Binging at night. And even then people be like, Well, I do that and I’m not on medication. And I’m like it you could totally still have not noticed what hunger feels like even if you’re not on meds, it’s just that stimulant meds, add that extra layer of not being able to recognize when we’re hungry, or, or it’s more like the nonclassical like signs of hunger. So it’s usually not like, oh, I have a growling stomach. It’s like, I get a headache. Or I you know, my mood shifts and I’m hangry all the sudden for me. That’s it. Like for me, I know if I get angry at the speed of my internet. And that’s usually like, a sign that it’s time to have a snack or eat lunch. I’ll be like working. I’m like, I’m gonna throw my computer across the room. Like, why is like Canva being slow. And I’m like, and then I’m like, when was the last time we ate Becca and it’s like, oh, it’s time for a snack. That’s fine. Now I noticed that if I get like really irritated, I’m like, okay, just go grab a snack and get back to whatever we’re doing.

Kristen Carder 17:24
Okay, back to your list. What else do you think causes us to binge eat?

Becca 17:30
I would say emotional dysregulation is a huge one too, of being able to access help with regulating our emotions, eating for stimulation for a lot of people with ADHD too. So it feels like boredom eating or like anything. Yeah is like

Kristen Carder 17:50
best is

Becca 17:52
yeah, one of my clients was like I realized like I have to have a current some meat aspect of my meal has to be crunchy or I want to continue to eat even if I’m full it just like there needs my bread on my sandwich needs to be toasted or I need some sort of like crispy vegetable or something. Or something else that’s crunchy but it Yeah, it is crunchy foods, carbs, and caffeine even like chocolate. Dr. Hollowell cuz chocolates, ADHD, kryptonite, because it’s like caffeine, and sugar. So our brains are extra happy. And I’m like, yeah, it makes sense. Perfect. So and I would say impulse control too, can be a piece of it, especially with with ADHD years. And it’s

Kristen Carder 18:33
like all of it combined, right? It’s not like just like one aspect. It seems like all of those different things work together to make us more prone sometimes to binge eating.

Becca 18:48
Yeah, it is the some of the research is that people are about, or at two years have about a three fold risk for developing an eating disorder and binge eating and bulimia are the two that are the most common amongst any years. And so I think all of the diet culture stuff that we have to deal with, in addition to issues with executive functioning, and all the things that we’ve just talked about, I think, makes it that much easier for us to struggle with, with our relationship with food.

Kristen Carder 19:15
Wow. Now, I’ve seen you say that if you have ADHD, and you struggle with binge eating, it’s not because of lack of willpower, yes. Is that just because of all of the things you listed? Or like, what are your thoughts on that?

Becca 19:34
I think because especially with diet culture, we get told, like, you know, just just, you know, kind of just will yourself like, just don’t eat, you know, just don’t don’t have sugar and you won’t binge on it or don’t keep it in your house or just avoid it kind of thing. And no, it’s like time really.

Kristen Carder 19:51
If you really want these results. You can have them or like yeah, you

Becca 19:54
can just yeah, you can just do the thing and it’s fine and it’s like that’s not usual. really big at least for a lot of my clients, it’s not like, they don’t want to do certain things, it’s being able to do them or figure out how to cook meals for themselves or have food on hand that they can eat that’s quick and easy and nutritious is a challenge and makes it that much harder to kind of do do the things we want to do. It’s more I think, feel like the executive function, the challenges that come with, with that and eating then lacking some sort of willpower

Kristen Carder 20:31
100%. So talk to us just a little bit about what you were sharing earlier on how like, especially if you’re on a stimulant medication, you might not feel like eating all day, and then it can make us more prone to binging once the meds were off. Can you speak to that a little bit? Yeah,

Becca 20:51
yeah. So. And I, for me, I, when I was kind of working through healing my relationship with food, it was realizing that like, my body was really protecting me in this in, in this cycle that I was experiencing. So I was like, Oh, I’m just, you know, I’m not eating enough. During the day, I still ate, I don’t really skip meals or snacks, I just didn’t eat enough at them. And then in the evening, I would be ravenous. Like I need to eat everything now, like I’m so hungry. And so for a lot of people who might not feel hungry during the day, but it is important to still fuel and nourish ourselves or look at those other signs of hunger that might pop up. And a lot of times when we’re not eating, we might notice that our executive functioning is it gets more challenging to do certain things or to regulate our emotions. And that can be a sign of like, Hey, I might need to eat. And that might actually help me. So for a lot of my clients, it is learning some of those nonclassical signs of hunger, or even just almost having a little bit more structure and intuitive eating, which is what I teach my clients having what’s called practical hunger. So it’s eating when you may not be hungry, but knowing that you need to eat so that you won’t be ravenous later. And so I think that’s huge for people with ADHD, even if you’re not on medication, but even if you are if like, Hey, I might not feel hungry at lunchtime, but like, logically, I know that it is important for me to eat something and nourish my body. And that’s going to help what I call the hunger I call it the hunger monster that comes out in the evening. Because it does, it just feels like I’m ravenous and need all this food. And so I think for a lot of people that kind of understanding that connection or helping people be like, hey, yeah, what I do eat lunch, and I do eat more regularly. When my meds were off in the evening, it isn’t. It isn’t as challenging to eat mindfully and be able to see kind of the difference that it makes. Yeah,

Kristen Carder 22:46
can you can you talk a little bit about intuitive eating. What does that mean?

Becca 22:53
So it’s a non diet approach to eating. So there’s not as you know, you’re not counting calories are tracking macros, or measuring and weighing or doing all of that with your food, it’s kind of unlearning all of that, but connecting with our instinct, or emotion and our rational thought, to kind of be able to trust our bodies in terms of what, when and how much to eat, which usually, it’s like, that is the most crazy concept. I know, for me, like when I first discovered it, I was like, this is woowoo you can not listen to your body like that is insane. But I was, you know, I was trying every other diet and thing out there thinking, hey, this will if I just do this, or if I just restrict things or whatever, I’ll stop binge eating. And that only fueled the binge eating and made it worse, the more I tried to dye it or restrict or try to fix it. And I honestly had found dieticians on Instagram that were talking about intuitive eating. And that’s kind of when I was like, you know, it’s woowoo. But I’ve tried every other crazy thing out there. And I was like, so why don’t I try this. And for me, it was like, Oh, this is great, because it just allowed me to, like, open space to figure out what works for me. And what makes me eating in a way that makes me feel good. And it might look different than for someone else, which I think is very helpful for people who do have ADHD, of giving yourself permission to figure out what works and might not be the regular or the normal way of eating in a sense.

Kristen Carder 24:24
So when you said that it relies heavily on self trust my facial expression there’s like that is such a difficult thing for us with ADHD because we have spent most of us have spent decades gathering so much evidence for the fact I’m using air quotes here that we can’t trust ourselves. And so do you find that in working with ADHD errs? It’s particularly nuanced to help them learn how to trust their instincts and trust their bodies because They’ve spent so long not trusting themselves. Yes,

Becca 25:03
yeah, I think that is a big piece of it is just building trust that like, hey, I can listen to my body or even just connect, you know, with what I know. Because really, at the end of the day, we’re the experts on our, our bodies, you know, I can’t tell you what is going, you know what to eat, that’s going to be enough and be satisfying to you. Like, what is a good nourishing meal to me might be different than what it would be for you. And so I think it’s helping people realize that I was like, hey, and you can be you can trust your body to know those things, it does take time to rebuild back some of that trust. But I think it can be, it can be really empowering a lot of my clients, it’s pretty cool, though. Like I start trusting myself in other parts of my life. Because you know, in which is like, so amazing to me, because that’s like, my favorite quote from the book, Intuitive Eating is like that, building back this trust with food, and your body will start transitioning to other areas of your life. And I’m like, and when my clients say that I’m like, and they don’t read the book, I’m like, Yes, you got it. Like, when it’s so great. And it’s empowering to feel like, hey, I can I can trust myself, even after having, you know, decades of feeling like I couldn’t.

Kristen Carder 26:16
So tell us a little bit about what you mean, when I think you had a specific name for it. But I don’t remember, like when you just eat because you know that your body needs fuel, not because you’re particularly feeling, you know, hungry at the at the time, like, talk to me about the benefit of that.

Becca 26:35
So eating, eating every three to four hours, is helpful for anyone, even if you don’t have ADHD, that’ll help keep your blood sugar levels stable, which makes it easier to regulate our mood when we have big peaks and dips in our blood sugar that tends to be when it’s harder to regulate our mood. And it’s harder to kind of use or use our brains, it’s a lot harder. And for people, I think that can be a really big game changer is just eating every three to four hours to keep kind of keep their blood sugar stable, which can just help with managing symptoms a lot better. So for my clients, it’s, you know, it is a practical hunger was what we were talking about of just like yeah, I pairing basically pairing our logic with our intuition, because I think a lot of people think, Oh, if I eat intuitively, if I’ve listened to my body, I’ll eat cake or cookies 24/7 Or I won’t eat until 6pm Because I’m just not hungry all day, and then I’ll binge and it’s like, well, logically, we know the importance of eating consistently throughout the day. And we know that if we don’t eat your experiences that you’re binging when you do eat. So being able to pair logic, I think with intuition, I think it’s missed a lot of times, it’s just at least the way Intuitive Eating is represented on social media of just like, oh, just listen, just listen to your body and you can eat, you can eat whatever, and you only eat when you’re hungry. But I think it is more nuanced than just eating only when you’re hungry of like, yeah, I need I need to eat every couple hours or or I do notice changes that some people might not necessarily contribute to hunger of, you know, being hangry having a headache or being tired. I remember I did a post once with like signs of hunger and it was like lack of concentration or, and someone was like, but that’s already like a thing with ADHD like Yeah, but it’s even worse when you’re hungry. Even if you’re medicated, it might be like, all of a sudden my meds feel like they’re not working. Because I’m hungry and I need to eat.

Kristen Carder 28:31
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So interesting. I don’t know if this story is super relevant, but when I was in college I attended a oh my gosh, this is such a rabbit trail. I am so sorry. Are you into documentaries? Have you seen the documentary The way down? It’s about like a weight loss like a question lately. Yeah. Yeah. Trigger warning everyone, but also crazy town. Yes. So my church at the time this was in the 90s. Did that program?

Becca 30:42
Yeah. Yeah, I had a couple of clients who did it.

Kristen Carder 30:45
Oh, my gosh, but she was all about, you know, only eat when you’re hungry. So like, literally wait for your stomach to growl and I just remember feeling so hungry. But like, was that a growl? Did I grew up did it like it was so going against logic and intuition, because it was like, I knew I was hungry. But this person said, wait until you actually feel your stomach growl. Yeah. And it’s like me, that’s not a thing that my body really does, ever. Maybe somebody do, but my body just really does. Yeah. And so I just remember, like the really wanting someone to help me to like, learn how to eat because I knew my eating was out of control, and really liking there being black and white rules because as an ADHD or like, even though I hate rules, when there are rules, I want them to be black and white. And I like gray areas tough for us. Right? And so having the black and white rules was like, Okay, great. Like, I’m gonna go and do this. And then it was so messed up. Yeah. So and then I was messed up for like, decades. Yeah, sure. Words like so. But just like, I love how you’re talking about pairing logic, with intuition is not just logic. It’s not just intuition. It’s both. Yeah, that I think it’s so important.

Becca 32:08
Yes. And I think and that’s, I think the appeal of dieting to ADHD ears is like seeking, you know, I need this, I need concrete rules, or like, it’s just easier to, you know, if someone’s telling me exactly what to eat, or how to eat or when to eat. It’s one less thing for my brain to have to think about, you know, but a lot of times it’s not connected with us or works for us. So then, then there’s all the guilt and shame that follows from that too, of like, well, the diet, i can’t i The diet is not I’m I’m failing at the diet, when really, it’s just that the diet is failing us, because it’s not working for us. You know, it’s not sustainable. Usually, most diets aren’t sustainable, long term. And they really break that trust, or the way diets are so successful is that they try and convince you that, Hey, you can’t trust your body, even if you don’t obey the shape. Like you shouldn’t trust your body. You know, you should trust this plan and these rules and when, and then when that it fails, it gets put back on, you have like, it’s your fault, and then it just perpetuates that cycle there.

Kristen Carder 33:12
Oh, my goodness, yes. To all of that. So how do you believe that ADHD influences our relationship with food? I’ve seen you talk about that a little bit. Yeah. Like ADHD impacts every area of our lives. Obviously, this would include food, although I don’t think that most people think about that. Yeah. So what are your thoughts on that?

Becca 33:35
So I think when they’re talking about like, the executive functioning piece, so some people might really love cooking. And I think it’s, it’s, you know, I have always say, like, for some people it is cooking is really overwhelming for a lot of people with ADHD. And there are people who, like, it’s not overwhelming, but that was chef and so I’m like, well, it makes sense, because that’s like, that’s it, your brain finds really. Okay? Like, you get a lot of reward out of cooking, whereas someone else is like, I have to do this task every single day. And it has a million different steps. And I don’t know where to start or, you know, struggling with the shopping piece or struggling with the prep piece or just the time that it takes to cook. And so I think those things for a lot of people mean that like, I might be ordering more takeout than I want, because cooking is just too much and I can’t think through it. So I find that piece for a lot of people Yeah, is huge. And I think all times to wish, like put a lot of shoulds with with eating of like, what might be more neurotypical things of like, Yeah, you should spend a whole Sunday meal prepping or, which is like, I like I enjoy cooking, but I can’t wrap my head around meal prepping and I can’t intentionally eat the same thing every single day. And like by day two, I’m like, I never want to see this again, even if it’s my favorite thing unless it’s like something I’m hyper fixated on where I’m like, Yeah, that’s it. Having this I don’t intentionally like, plan to eat it every single day. But I think yeah, and this, this stimulation piece too, I think for a lot of people, there’s a lot of guilt and shame around that, because it’s not something maybe that people have made the connection to of like, Oh, my brain is craving, dopamine. And food is something that’s, for most people is easily accessible, especially over the past few years of the pandemic and being home more, we don’t have all the access to all of the stimulating activities that we normally do. And so it might be turning to food more often and feeling a lot of guilt and shame, because it just feels like I don’t understand why I’m doing this. And, and it is just your brains looking for for stimulation so

Kristen Carder 35:44
easily. And then our brains are looking for that stimulation, and then we don’t have the impulse control to just stop and think like, what do I actually need right now? Like, am I hungry? Do I actually need food? If so, like, Let’s go for it. But if not, like how can I meet this need and a different way? Yeah,

Becca 36:01
or and I think, for me, I try not to demonize it just like emotional eating of like, it’s a coping tool. It’s fair, it can be part of our, you know, toolkits to get stimulation. But what other things can I use? Because there might be times where that might be the only thing that’s gonna hit the spot, and it’s how do I make sure that it’s, you know, trying to make it a mindful experience so that you can maximize the reward or the dopamine that we’re getting from that food, but not being like, Hey, I can’t ever do that, or that’s bad. And I shouldn’t do you know, I shouldn’t use that tool that way of being like, hey, I can and it’s okay. And you know, but how can I use it in a way that might feel more productive? You know,

Kristen Carder 36:41
I want to stop there for a second because I think that’s really important. Like, so many of us, because of all of the messages that we’ve received from parents and teachers and commercials and society does we get so many messages that it’s like, if you are using food as a coping mechanism, or if you are using alcohol as a coping mechanism or whatever, fill in the blank, then you’re bad. You’re doing it wrong. Yeah. And I love how you just kind of neutralized that. Yeah. Where it’s a, it is a tool, and it is something that works. And you don’t want it to be your only tool. Yeah, right. But like, it is not something that we necessarily need to feel shame over. But we can just like accept how, how, though? How do you accept that? Like, how do you work with your clients to accepting that, like, this is a viable coping mechanism? And it’s okay that you’re using it?

Becca 37:44
Yeah, I think there’s a principle in Intuitive Eating called making peace with food. And that is really making food morally neutral. And I think that piece can really help with, you know, okay, yeah, I do eat for stimulation. And, and that’s okay. But I think just for my clients, it’s being able to honor our physical hunger or make sure we’re eating consistently. And then it becomes easier for them to be like, Oh, I’m recognizing that I’m eating, because I’m looking for dopamine, or because I’m feeling lonely, or, you know, dealing with some sort of negative emotion. And I’m using food as a way to self soothe and they’re like, Okay, now, just having that awareness is really helpful for them. Like I had a client this week, she was like, you know, I went and I impulsively did go grab something and started eating it, and then realize why I was doing it. And then it wasn’t making me feel good. And so she’s like, so then I just had a moment of pause of like, what else could I do? And so I was like, Hey, I think she was like, I’m gonna go hang out in the garden for a little while and go for a walk instead. And she was like, and I felt so much better. And she was like, even though I still had that moment, of, of, like, maybe a tiny little binge of being redirecting themselves, I believe this doesn’t feel good, and it’s not making me feel good. And so I think there’s a way you can use food to get stimulation that doesn’t always have to lead to overeating or to binge eating. Sometimes it’s like, Hey, I know that I’m gonna sit down and study or work on this, you know, do work that I need. You need that little bit of like, okay, I’m gonna sit and eat, you know, whatever it is, you know, some crunchy snack or some chocolate or something, I’m gonna have a moment with my food and really get get that and then go go on with doing that. But I think just having that acceptance of like this, this does help me and that is totally okay. Just like, you know, using a fidget toys is totally okay to use and helpful of just being able to build up like, what are some of my other options for when I’m, you know, looking through that usually I have clients be like, Am I hungry? If you are like, Yeah, I know for sure. Then I’m like, go eat. And then if you’re not sure, it’s like, when did you last eat? If it’s been three to four hours, then probably eat something. And then asking yourself, you know, if you’re still if it hasn’t been three to four hours, and you’re like, I’m not hungry, but I have this urge to eat have What might be triggering that? Whether it’s emotions or like needing dopamine, and then being thinking of what can I do to fulfill that? And if it’s food, that’s okay. If it’s something else, that’s okay. But just keeping the options open.

Kristen Carder 40:13
It’s just like, it sounds like you’re just really helping people to gain awareness without judgment. Yes. Like just lots of awareness and intentional decision making and if the decision is to eat great, yeah, and if the decision is to not great, but like, I think that what we so often do is we might kind of wake up in the middle of, you know, like, the bag of chips or the package of Oreos, or whatever. And immediately, shame and judgment. Yeah, it’s like present, and which I think for so many of us is just like habit, like neural pathway. Just like habit emotions, like, obviously, I have to shame myself. Obviously, I have to judge myself right now. Yeah. But then what that does is it makes us feel so awful, that the only solution is to eat to feel better. Yes. And so it’s just this like, vicious cycle rather than if you wake up in the middle of what you’re doing. And you’re like, Oh, this is so interesting.

Becca 41:24
Yeah. Yeah, I’m getting curious. Yeah, that’s, like, why is this happening? Like, you know, for me, it was a lot of wine in the beginning for me of intuitive eating was like, why did this happen? And it would be like, Oh, I didn’t I miss my afternoon snack, or I waited too long to eat, or I’m, you know, feeling lonely, or dealing with some other, you know, something else and being just being able to be aware of it and be like, Okay, so now I can start to identify that that is something that maybe triggers me to binge is being able to, even if you cut yourself in the middle of okay, this is a learning experience for me, and learning about my body of, of why this might be happening and that

Kristen Carder 42:05
I love to ask myself like, hey, what do you need? Yeah, in tone like, hey, what do you need? Sometimes? The answer is, I need chips to say go for it. Yeah, right. Sometimes the answer is like, I need a hug, or I need a walk, or I need a nap or whatever. But I think we don’t often. And I think this goes back to self trust. Like we don’t often check in with ourselves. Yeah. So many of us have been conditioned to dismiss our needs. Yeah. So many of us didn’t have our needs met in healthy ways as kids. And so it feels so foreign to check in and be like, hey, what do you need right now? Yeah, how can I help you? You know, so true. And so yeah, to develop that, like, I can ask myself and answer. And I’m going to meet the need. Yes. No. And it’s just a beautiful way to develop that self trust.

Becca 42:58
Yeah. And that is, that is a lot of what I that is exactly the exact question I asked my clients is to do is periodically throughout the day, just even if it means at first setting an alarm to be like, hey, and labeling the alarm as what do I need as a way to practice pausing because we just get started with our day to have like, I need to get going, I need to do all you need to get everything off my to do list they just need to. And that’s when like taking care of ourselves is like, well, that’s not productive. Because like, you know, it’s like, if there isn’t like a nice checkbox of like, there’s nothing else like our external to show that we’ve done that thing a lot of time. So it’s like, okay, I’m just gonna keep going and going and going until like, I can’t ignore my body needs. And so practicing, just pausing of like, what do I need? And it’s not necessarily like you said, it’s not always oh, I need to eat, it’s, I need to call my friend, I need to get up and stretch or go refill my water, whatever it is it just giving ourselves that moment of pause, I think is really helpful. Because sometimes you might not know the answer. Sometimes it might be like, Hey, I don’t really know right now. And that’s okay to have. But it just helps build that ability to figure out what we do need over time. I

Kristen Carder 44:09
love it. So much of diet, culture and messaging that we’ve received. And I think I don’t know, like as someone who was raised by baby boomers, like, the messaging from parents was also around restrictions. Yes. And I’m curious how you believe, like, restrictions, impacts, binge eating? Yeah. What What have you noticed and what is the,

Becca 44:36
for a lot of my clients? It’s very well meaning like, um, a lot of my clients, we do reflect on kind of what your childhood was like with food and your teen years, like what was your experience with food or in your household? And for a lot of my clients, the Restrict student came from a place of a well meaning place of like, I want you to be healthy or, you know, I want you to you know, Sweets are bad. So we don’t keep them in the house or even at very young ages, like we’re gonna go to Weight Watchers together and things like that. And so it is it ends up complicating your relationship with food as an adult, because it’s teaching you Hey, you can’t I, you can’t be trusted around sweets. And so if we don’t allow them in the house so that teachers do that, and then a lot of my clients, it’s whenever I got the chance to go to a friend’s house, and they had a pantry with all of the fun foods, then I would eat all of them because or you get to your teen years, when you can start driving or you leave to go to college and you have access to whatever you want, then that you find like, Hey, I can’t control myself around food, because you’re like I can, now I can have whatever I want. And so oftentimes, the foods my clients binge on are the foods that have been restricted from even from childhood into adulthood, or they’re like now that’s not necessarily that they’re restricted, it’s just that they feel a lot of shame every time that they do eat them. So it’s called the forbidden fruit phenomenon of and so it’s kind of, when parents do this with you know, sugar is often when, especially with kids with ADHD, it’s like, we’re gonna restrict sugar, but then it’s increasing, putting that food up on a pedestal and making that food super rewarding. So when you tell a kid, you can’t have that, you know, that’s all the kid wants. And so then, like I mentioned earlier with them, when you get to, you go to a friend’s house, or you go to a birthday party, and you eat all of the sweets and you’re bouncing off the walls or whatever, and, or you get a stomachache, your parents are like, see, this is why I don’t give you sugar, and then over time, it just builds that relationship where every time I do eat this off limits food, I overeat or binge on it. And so it kind of conditions us to to do that, because our body expects that restriction of like, okay, I can only get this food now, because it’s not going to be available later. So I might as well eat all of the sweets or like, you know, the chips or whatever we’re not we weren’t allowed to eat, let me eat all of it before that restriction comes back. And so our bodies get really conditioned to that, and even into adulthood of like, or if you have foods, insecurities, very similar experience, if it’s not necessarily intentional restriction with parents, if that might be for financial reasons of like, when the food’s available, or here, we eat what we can and then and then that, like restriction can be imposed. So it can it’s still this similar scarcity kind of mindset, there

Kristen Carder 47:21
may ask you a question completely selfishly, because as a parent, I really walk the line of like, how do I help my kids eat without shame and judgment? And also make good choices? And like, have a fridge stocked with fruit? But a pantry stocked with like, fun foods? Yeah, like, how does someone not restrict like, hey, two cookies is probably enough after dinner, like, as a parent? Do you just have like a 32nd nutshell I don’t want to do is treat them in a way where they’re wanting to have the access, you know, like, go to a friend’s house and like, oh my gosh, finally,

Becca 48:11
some of it, I think is giving our kids the opportunity to learn how some of those eating experiences are so sure you can have more than two cookies, and then being able to talk about yet how do you feel after you have if you had four cookies, instead of two of like, oh, my, my belly hurts, or, you know, I don’t feel good afterwards of having them start to learn those experiences for themselves a little bit and just kind of being there to provide that space. And I think just trying to talk about food in a neutral, very neutral way. Or, you know, I think it can be really helpful to being like, hey, yeah, we, you know, what foods are going to give us energy and fuel us and make us feel good. And not saying, oh, we can’t have those fun foods, but those things, you know, those things serve a different purpose for us in that family. So there’s, if anyone’s listening that has kids, there’s a book called How to Raise intuitive eaters, and that’s brand new, that just came out from literally colleagues it’s writing, it’s really great because they are they specialize more on like the kids side of intuitive eating. And there’s another there’s an Instagram account, its kids eat in color, I believe. And there’s periods in between some of those words. But she’s amazing at explaining like, how to talk to your kids about food, how to introduce food, even if you have picky eaters of how to, you know, get them to eat some more food in a way that actually usually works with kids and how to just talk to them about foods so that you’ll be you tend to be really surprised because kids are really intuitive. So you’ll be surprised like I had a little boy I worked with who was who’s struggling with kind of binge eating and his parents were really restrictive with food. And he was with even within the first 10 minutes of our first session of him being like, I know you think that if I had the choice between an apple and a cookie, I’d always pick the cookies, but sometimes I really do You want an apple. And so I think creating that environment for kids to pick and choose and learn how foods make them feel or help them learn those things of like, yeah, when I eat, you know, an apple with some peanut butter as a snack versus maybe eating some cookies as a snack, I, you know, I have more energy, or I can think of better or, you know, I don’t crash of being able to help kids learn those things. And then they, they end up picking, usually, picking, picking foods I’ve had one of my clients, her, one of her sons is really is pretty intuitive. And he like he even like, had a bunch of candy once in his bag. And she’s like, I thought he’d eat it all. He was like, I didn’t really want it because I want to be able to pay attention in my class. And you wouldn’t want help with that after lunch. And so it’s, it’s pretty, it’s pretty amazing kids, can they absorb their sponges, they absorb so much information. So when we can I think help them foster that relationship of, of listening better to their bodies, it becomes easier for them. So

Kristen Carder 51:01
I really appreciate you answering. And I do think that this is so valuable for my listeners, because I think my Well, my theory is that, like, so much of this is passed down from generation to generation. Yeah, and so many of my listeners are kind of, in the middle where I am, where it’s like, I have my parents, you know, lovely humans who are still alive, who are still restricting themselves, you know, and then I have me who’s like trying to navigate unlearning that and moving into a much more intuitive way of eating and then like raising humans with the, with all of like, the mindset drama from my parents. Like, it’s just like, learning how to do this is it? It’s so all consuming. And I’m so glad that you are out there working with people on this because I literally do not know how we would learn like how does someone just deprogram themselves from everything that their parents have taught? Right? Yeah. And, and their parents before them? Like, I just really think it’s a generational thing. Is that something that you see?

Becca 52:14
Yes, definitely. Especially, like I said, I have clients whose like, I’ve gone to started going to Weight Watchers with their mom at like, 10 or 12 years old. And you know, and their grandma might have even gone or you know, it just like it very much is like, Oh, my grandma, or my mom is always dieting or always doing something, and it does get passed down, or just you even seeing your parents doing certain things, even if they’re like, Oh, if people would be like, Yeah, I don’t really talk to my kids about about like dieting or eating in a certain way. But their behaviors are very much like well, you’re they can see what you’re doing, or you know, or how you’re eating or what you’re not eating kind of thing and be able to make those those connections. So

Kristen Carder 53:00
amazing. If someone is struggling with binge eating, what is the best way for them to begin the process of doing it less?

Becca 53:10
Yes. One thing is, one piece is removing the restriction or if you are dieting, have to work on maybe giving yourself the permission to quit dieting, or restricting which can feel really scary. And so I think that can be a place where if that does feel daunting or overwhelming considering working with a dietician, I think it’s very helpful for people who have ADHD to find a dietitian who does understand ADHD so that they can kind of work on the other pieces that might be contributing to binge eating that aren’t necessarily I’m trying to control my weight of understanding those things. And I think the other piece is just understanding what your triggers are for binge eating, whether that’s waiting too long to eat for getting you know, getting hyper focused. Or maybe it is to regulate emotions, or to get stimulation and being able to figure out what those things are. And then I’d say the last piece is just making sure that you are eating or trying to eat enough and eat consistently throughout the day, especially if you find that the evening time is when you struggle the most. With binge eating, make sure that you’re kind of shifting that our cycle of eating a little bit. And again, if that is something that’s overwhelming, or feels daunting to figure out how to do I think that can be another place where working with someone can be really helpful just because I think especially if you have someone who understand ADHD, I find a lot of my clients, there’s not necessarily a knowledge deficit when it comes to eating and nutrition. It’s the how piece and so I think having someone who can understand actually understands ADHD so they can help you work through the house is really helpful because a lot of times it’s like here, just follow this meal plan. Like here, just do this and they’re like, Yeah, but you don’t like how do I grocery shop? Or how do I You know, how do I figure out what I need? Or find the time to cook? Or how do I actually make this meal or remember what’s in my fridge. So I think being able to work with someone who gets those things. So it’s not just like, Oh, she’s he or she’s not trying, or they’re not trying because sometimes that’s how it might get looked at. A lot of times in eating disorder, treatment or, you know, programs, a lot of people with ADHD get looked at as quote unquote, like non compliant, which I hate. Because it’s not that you’re non compliant. It’s usually that that, that whoever is working with you doesn’t understand how ADHD is playing a role. They’re like, you’re not following the meal plan. They’re like, well, and maybe the recipes that you’re giving are too complicated, or you’re expecting them to do something that they can’t, they don’t have the executive function to do. And so I think having someone who can meet you where you’re at and work with you and figure out what works for you, is really helpful, because then it, it removes that like that. I think Cuz usually the biggest piece is like, how do I do this? Or, you know, like, totally, and

Kristen Carder 55:59
that’s such an ADHD thing, right? It’s like, it’s not not knowing what to do. It’s just not being able to do the thing that you already know that you should be doing.

Becca 56:09
Yes, yeah. And so I think, especially with nutrition, it’s like, Okay, we are eating, it’s like, okay, I know what I like, should ideally be doing but maybe it is I need to make some adjustments or, you know, tweak things to make it feel doable for me. So,

Kristen Carder 56:24
yeah, totally killing it. You know that right. So, Becca, I love the work that you’re doing. How can my listeners find you if they’re resonating with what you’re saying? And they need help? How can how can they reach out to you? Yes,

Becca 56:40
I am most active on Instagram. So you can find me at ADHD dot nutritionists. If you’re interested in actually working with me, there is a link in my bio on Instagram. And you can set up a free 30 minute call to learn about my small group coaching program and see if we’re a good fit to work together. And trade as she fashion. I have a website that is in the midst of being being finished. So one day, there will be a website.

Kristen Carder 57:09
I love it. That’s so great. And we’ll link all of this in the in the show notes. I just appreciate you so much. This conversation has been so helpful to me and so enlightening, and I know it’s going to help a lot of people. So thank you so much for being here.

Becca 57:25
Yes, thank you so much for creating space for this because I know I know there’s a lot of ADHD errs who struggle with their relationship with food and if that is you and you’re listening, please know like you’re not alone and in that struggle and that there are resources out there to help you.

Kristen Carder 57:46
Hey, ADHD, er, I see you. I know exactly what it’s like to feel lost, confused, frustrated and like no one out there really understand the way that your brain works. That’s why I created Focus. Focus is my monthly coaching program where I lead you through a step by step process of understanding yourself feeling better and creating the life that you know you’re meant for. You’ll study be coached, grow, and make amazing changes alongside of other educated professional adults with ADHD from all over the world. Visit I have adhd.com/focused to learn more

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