Woman with headphones on, earing chips from a bag

How to Overcome the Binge Eating Struggle of ADHD moms

Hey there, fellow ADHD moms! Let’s talk about something that might hit close to home for many of us: binge eating. It’s not an easy topic to tackle, but it’s one that deserves our attention and understanding. I’ve been fighting binge eating for so long. So, I think it’s an important topic to discuss. Grab a cup of tea, cozy up, and let’s dive into this together.

Ever felt like you just can’t control those cravings, especially when stress is high or emotions are all over the place? You’re not alone. Many ADHD moms find themselves turning to food for comfort, only to end up in a cycle of binge eating. But why does this happen?

Well, it turns out there’s a connection between ADHD and binge eating behaviors. Our brains are wired a little differently, making us more susceptible to impulsive actions and seeking out instant gratification. Plus, the rollercoaster of emotions that often comes with ADHD can leave us craving that quick fix, even if it’s just temporary.

A woman looking happy after eating the two donuts in her hand

My Personal Journey

Let me share a bit of my own story with you. For years, I struggled with binge eating in silence, feeling ashamed and alone. It was like a constant battle between wanting to eat everything in sight and desperately trying to regain control. Sound familiar? This was especially bad around that time of the month. Research suggest that ADHD symptoms get worse with PMDD. For me, it was eating through all the sweets in the snack cupboard. My sweet cravings were insatiable. I used to eat every time I was bored, and the guilt that followed was so bad but I kept eating more. But I also remember the turning point when I realized I didn’t have to face this alone. Seeking support and understanding was the first step towards healing.

Why ADHD moms Binge Eat?

Here are the culprits of why ADHD mom’s binge eat.

1. Impulsivity and Instant Gratification:

Our brains are wired a little differently due to ADHD, making us more prone to impulsive behaviors. When that craving hits, it’s hard to resist the immediate satisfaction of indulging in comfort foods.

2. Emotional Rollercoaster:

Living with ADHD often means navigating a rollercoaster of emotions. From soaring highs to crashing lows, it’s no wonder many of us turn to food for comfort when the going gets tough.

3. Stress and Overwhelm:

Life as a mom is already hectic, add ADHD into the mix, and it can feel like a whirlwind. When stress levels skyrocket and overwhelm sets in, food can become a coping mechanism, offering a temporary escape from reality. And our tendency to get anxious is super-high with ADHD, which makes matters worse. We handle stress pretty bad. Even if my toddler was acting up, I would reach for a bag of M&M’s.

4. Distractibility and Boredom:

ADHD moms are no strangers to the constant whirlwind of thoughts and ideas buzzing around in our heads. When boredom strikes or our minds wander, food can provide a welcome distraction, if only for a moment. Boredom was one of the bigger reasons which made me binge eat. I always wanted to be busy, but if I had nothing to do, I would reach out to the bag of sweets.

5. Hyperfocus and Food Fixation:

Ever find yourself hyperfocused on a task or project, only to realize hours later that you’ve mindlessly eaten your way through a bag of chips or through that whole bar of chocolate, like me? ADHD moms’ hyperfocus tendencies can sometimes manifest in a fixation on food, leading to overeating.

A plate with sweets saying "binge"

6. Routine Disruptions:

ADHD thrives on routine, but life doesn’t always play by the rules. When our daily routines are disrupted, whether by unexpected events or changes in schedule, it can throw us off balance and disrupt our eating habits. This is why routines are super important for the ADHD brain, even though routines are the most difficult things for ADHD.

7. Seeking Dopamine Boosts:

ADHD brains crave dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Unfortunately, many of the foods we turn to during binge eating episodes are packed with sugar and carbs, providing that quick dopamine fix we’re craving. Here are few other dopamine hits which don’t involve binge eating on sweets or binge scrolling through social media.

8. Sleep Issues:

Sleep struggles are all too common among ADHD moms, whether it’s difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up feeling rested. Poor sleep can wreak havoc on our hormones, leading to increased cravings and a greater likelihood of binge eating. I realise that on days which I slept for less than 5 hours (my smart watch tracks my sleep), I tend to go on a binge. Also, if you are someone who stays up super late, this could also lead to midnight binges which piles on to the issue.

9. Social and Cultural Influences:

Let’s not forget about the societal pressures and cultural norms surrounding food. From social gatherings centered around food to advertisements bombarding us with tempting treats, it can be challenging to navigate a world that seems to revolve around eating.

10. Restrictive Dieting

Restrictive dieting can ironically exacerbate binge eating tendencies among ADHD moms. When we deprive ourselves of certain foods or severely limit our caloric intake, it can trigger feelings of deprivation and lead to intense cravings. This sets the stage for binge eating episodes, as we may find ourselves succumbing to the allure of forbidden foods in a moment of weakness. Additionally, restrictive dieting often perpetuates a cycle of feast and famine, making it difficult to maintain a balanced and sustainable approach to eating. Instead of focusing on deprivation, it’s essential to adopt a mindset of moderation and nourishment, finding joy in a diverse and balanced diet that supports both physical and mental well-being.

Coping Strategies for the Journey

Research also suggest that those with ADHD may be likely to forget to eat and to binge later. This was something which happened to me too as I was busy with my kid, chores and freelancing, I forgot to eat on time or just ate a tiny snack. Once I was free from commitments, I used to have a hearty dinner. We as ADHD moms, also have trouble planning and shopping ahead, which can result in spur-of-the-moment and uncontrolled eating.

So, what can we do to break free from the cycle of binge eating? Here are a few coping strategies that have helped me along the way:

1. Recognizing Triggers and Patterns

One of the key steps in managing binge eating is recognizing the triggers and patterns that lead us down that slippery slope. For many of us, stress is a major trigger. When life gets overwhelming, food can become a source of comfort and distraction. But it’s not just stress that can set us off. Emotional highs and lows, boredom, and even certain foods can all play a role in triggering a binge. Personally, all three of these factors (emotional lows, boredom and sweets) were triggers for me. The key is learning to recognize these triggers and finding healthier ways to cope.

2. Working Out

Exercise can be a powerful tool in curbing binge eating tendencies for ADHD moms. Not only does it boost mood and reduce stress, but it also promotes mindfulness and regulates appetite. By making exercise a regular part of your routine, you can channel energy productively and create a positive feedback loop of healthy habits. I have noticed that on days which I workout in the morning, I rarely get any cravings at all.

3. Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated is key for ADHD moms looking to curb binge eating habits. Often, thirst can disguise it self as hunger, leading us to reach for snacks when all we really need is a glass of water. By prioritizing hydration throughout the day, we can keep cravings at bay and maintain a sense of fullness. Plus, staying hydrated supports our overall well-being, from boosting energy levels to improving cognitive function. So, remember to keep a water bottle handy and sip regularly – your body will thank you for it. Bonus tip, I find green tea helps curb my sugar cravings too.

4. Mindful Eating

Instead of mindlessly reaching for food, try to bring awareness to your eating habits. Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel and listen to your body’s hunger cues. I have a separate article on 25 ways on how to be more mindful in the daily routine of ADHD moms.

5. Finding Alternative Coping Mechanisms

Rather than turning to food for comfort, explore other ways to soothe your emotions. Whether it’s going for a walk, journaling, or practicing deep breathing exercises, finding healthy outlets for stress can make a world of difference. Without relying on that sugary treat for the dopamine boost, here are a list of other activities to do a get a dopamine hit.

6. Remove Temptations

By keeping trigger foods out of sight and out of reach, we reduce the likelihood of succumbing to impulsive cravings. This might involve decluttering our pantries and fridge, stocking up on healthier alternatives, and creating a supportive environment that encourages mindful eating. While it may feel challenging at first, over time, removing temptations can help break the cycle of binge eating and foster healthier habits. Remember, out of sight, out of mind – so why not give yourself a fighting chance by setting up your environment for success?

7. Seeking Support

Remember, you don’t have to face this journey alone. Reach out to friends, family, or a professional who can offer support and guidance along the way. Therapy can be especially helpful in addressing the underlying issues driving binge eating behaviors. Even health groups on Facebook could also support.

Woman getting support from a therapist

You’re Not Alone

To all the ADHD moms out there struggling with binge eating, know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to ask for help and take small steps towards healing. Together, we can break free from the grip of binge eating and embrace a healthier, happier life.

So, let’s lift each other up, support one another, and remember that we’re stronger than the challenges we face. Here’s to taking the first step towards a brighter, binge-free future. You’ve got this! 🌟

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