How can ADHD lead to overeating?

Listen to this post ...
 
This started with my frustration over my difficulty losing weight. No matter what I do I keep vacillating between eating well and overeating. 
 
As I made my morning smoothie I dumped the frozen fruit in the blender and said to myself, “Thank goodness they sell this in portioned sizes so I don’t overdo it.”
 
Then it hit me, “They were made into portions ahead of time so it was harder for me to overeat.” 
 
Of course meal planning is a helpful way to avoid overeating, but there’s more. 
 
I work with a lot of parents on homework strategies and my mind drew a comparison to “chunking” which is about breaking larger tasks into smaller manageable bites (sound familiar)? “Chunking” is also helpful when cleaning a home or work space. 
 
We tend to think of “chunking” as it relates to organization but not so much when it comes to eating.
 
Why is chunking particularly helpful for people with ADHD or ASD?
 
Why is “chunking” something we often need help with every time we need it?  
 
I’ll answer these questions in a bit.
 
I posted this question to one of the parent groups I belong to,“Does your child with ADHD or ASD have difficulty breaking down large assignments AND also tend to overeat at meals?
 
Some of the reply’s I received include:
 
  1. Yes. My daughter needs large assignments broken down into small tasks. When her medicine has wore off or she hasn’t taken it that day, she overeats.

  2. No because we’ve broken it down into smaller segments with regular activity breaks and praise. We also now have him make his lunches and have him grow and prep dinners and help doing menus so that he has more control thus eliminating the fights.
     
  3. Yes mine does. We have to tell him he has had enough food. He will whine and say he is still hungry this is after having seconds on food. I don’t think he is aware of what it means to be full.
     
  4.  My son has a hard time staying on task when it comes to big assignments. We have to break it down into smaller steps and I have to stay with him to make sure he stays on task as he finds it really hard to concentrate. When it comes to food he eats a LOT and he eats really fast. It’s almost like it’s a race for him.

So what’s this all mean? 

As parents we tend to focus so much on classroom success we forget to explore how executive function issues show up outside the classroom. 


When your brain thinks in an “all or nothing” way, which ADHD & ASD brains do. There are two ways to approach a large task, do all of it or none of it. 

Homework can appear overwhelming because, “I can’t do all that work, it’s too much. So I just won’t do it.”

The option of “chunking” seems elusive because a brain that struggles with that ability won’t seek it as a solution, it isn’t an easier path to the desired outcome. 

When your brain doesn’t chunk well it stays with what it knows, all or nothing

But when someone good at “chunking” helps me create a list or template I can use again and again, its like building a bridge over a steep valley so that two things are connected that previously may have felt miles apart.

Recipes chunk down the process of preparing a meal.
Lists and templates help break down larger projects into less overwhelming and manageable tasks. 

Portion control is about meal planning AND having a specific definition of what it means to be full. 

I used to eat until I felt full, like Thanksgiving full. Now I eat to feel not hungry, big difference. 

Kids with poor self-awareness may not be tuned into their hunger and eat until it hurts because that is a strong and clear signal that they’re no longer hungry.

All or nothing, starving or stuffed. 

So now that I realize my overeating is (at least in part), due to my extreme difficulty with “chunking” things down,

I’m going to ramp up the amount of support I seek in this area so I can experience better results. 
 
How is this helpful for you?

Helping your neurodiverse child stop tuning you out

Listen to this post … Hoping our kids learn important lessons through lecture is a fruitless strategy. All your kid really gets better at is tuning you out. I’ve learned (especially with ND kids), introspection is a more powerful teacher. But ND kids tend to avoid introspection. Their self-consciousness and inner critic make it something they want to

Read More »

A useful way to manage anxiety

Listen to this post … Let me tell you something about anxiety. Anxiety is stored up energy for action you can’t take. When you fret about the past, thinking about how it should have gone, what you should’ve done – you’re suggesting to yourself another course of action is possible. Your subconscious mind thinks, “Yeah, let’s do

Read More »

Getting beyond RSD with ADHD

Listen to this post … I have an idea about RSD (Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria) experienced by many with ADHD. I’ve noticed those that experience it perceive relationships in an all or nothing way. You’re loved or unloved, given attention or ignored, you’re happy when they’re happy. When in a relationship it’s often co-dependent. Wanting constant access to the

Read More »

He’s going to be an adult someday so he may as well learn it now

Listen to this post … “He’s going to be an adult someday so he may as well learn it now.” This is a concerning belief in the mind of many parents raising a child with neurodivergence (ND). It demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding about how our kids learn. Believing a consequence needs to be harsh and effective the first

Read More »

One tip for you that can transform how you think about life

Listen to this post … I have one tip for you that can transform how you think about life. I was talking to a friend this morning who was unaware just how disabled I am by my health conditions. She was surprised by how positive I was able to be regardless of the challenges I experience every

Read More »

A secret for becoming less reactive…

Listen to this post … I’m going to help you learn to be less reactive by teaching you something about how the Neurodiverse brain works that no one ever taught you.Conventional wisdom tells you you have the power to choose your thoughts. If you’re feeling a certain way, just change your thinking and all is

Read More »
%d bloggers like this: