Emotional Eating and ADHD
Eating is one of life’s simple pleasures. Foods can serve as an emotional escape to better times, or it can simply fill our time when we’re bored. So it’s no wonder people easily (and often subconsciously) turn to food when they’re feeling stressed, disinterested, or worried.
Individuals with ADHD have a greater tendency to emotionally eat than those without the condition and young people even more-so. That makes ADHD youth the group most vulnerable to emotional eating.
Food and the Brain
It’s no secret sugary, starchy foods worsen ADHD behavior. Unfortunately, those are exactly the foods emotional eaters latch onto!
Foods like sweets and carbs satisfy the impulse to “fill” an empty emotional space–that boredom, worry, or anxiety that triggers the eating. However, also consider that, in the body, starches convert to sugars and sugars into opiods, chemicals that activate the brain’s pleasure center, giving a “feel good” effect on the mind and body.
It’s no wonder food as comfort is so alluring.
Break the Chain!
First, identify true hunger versus emotional eating triggers. Ask your child how they’re feeling: sad, angry, bored? Be aware of any changes in environment or situation. They may want to eat to feel safe in a strange place (e.g. a new school) or with a strange person (e.g. a new nanny), or an argument with a friend or disturbing situation may cause them to seek comfort in food.
Once you’ve identified that it’s an emotional “hunger”, learn to work through it with distraction–take a walk, play a game–or, ideally, by talking through the emotions to get to the core of the trouble and comfort that.