The ADHD diet: How to Change Unhealthy Eating Habits
Many people looking to create a balanced ADHD diet overlook the first, all-important step: listen to your body! What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Remember, your body already knows what’s best for it. Unfortunately, many people have lost touch with their ‘internal eating compass.’
The reason for this has much to do with processed foods and their being manipulated to trick the body’s hunger mechanism. Besides avoiding processed foods, here are some simple ways to kick unhealthy eating habits.
Step 1: Become Aware of Your CURRENT Eating Habits
Before you can make any changes to your ADHD diet, you have to become aware of your current eating habits. You can accomplish this by simply writing down what you eat for one week. As you do this, DON’T judge yourself; instead, act like an impartial observer. One week is usually enough to reveal important eating patterns. During the process you can ask yourself questions like:
- Do I give myself enough time to eat?
- Do I take a moment to ‘tune into’ what my body needs before I eat?
- Do I enjoy my food and the experience of eating?
- What size proportions do I generally consume?
- Do I stop eating when I’m full?
- Do I feel bad – mentally of physically – after eating?
- Do I eat when I’m hungry?
- Do I eat when I’m not hungry?
- Do I have cravings that coincide with emotional or stressful events?
- Do I eat a lot of processed foods?
- How do I feel after I eat one type of food vs. another?
Again, it’s essential not to judge yourself, just observe your relationship with food – as if you were watching someone else. Observation without judgment is the best way to spot an imbalance in your eating habits.
Step 2: Make a Short List of the Problem Areas
Do you skip meals or forget to eat? Do you continue eating when you’re full? Maybe you overindulge on sweets or crave salty foods. The previous exercise will undoubtedly shed some light on which areas of your ADHD diet you might want to modify.
Step 3: Make Microscopic Changes!
Once you’ve figured out which aspects of your ADHD diet you wish to improve, begin making VERY SMALL changes. Once a change has become a habit, move on to the next one. Don’t try to implement them all at once. You will get discouraged and give up. Take your time.
Here are a few examples of what a microscopic change could be:
- If you have a tendency to eat too many sweets, begin by not eating any sweets after 8pm or cutting portions in half.
- If you eat to many processed foods, begin by replacing one meal or even just one type of food with a healthy alternative.
- If you tend to skip meals, start by eating one meal at the same time every day and make time to enjoy every bite of it!
Whichever goal you set for yourself, make it a S.M.A.R.T. one = Small, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and on a Timeline. Even the smallest progress is a step in the right direction. Over time, as your body adjusts to your new eating habits, you can implement more small changes and gradually move towards a healthier and more balanced ADHD diet.
Last But Not Least… Some General Tips
- Try to eat W.H.E.N. (When hunger ensues naturally): an obvious rule that many people break. Some people have a big lunch, even when their big breakfast isn’t fully digested yet; others ignore their body’s call for nutrients and keep working through their hunger.
- Be mindful when you eat: take time to enjoy your meal. Your body needs a moment to let you know you’ve had enough. Slow down to avoid overeating.
- Try new foods: variety is the spice of life. Whenever you visit the store, buy one food you haven’t tried before.
- Don’t drink too much during meals: this dilutes gastric acid and impairs digestion
- Another obvious tip that many people forget: eat fruits and vegetables to keep your acid-alkaline balance in check
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