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Eating with ADHD™: What Does Prioritization Have to Do With It?

Eating when you have ADHD can be overwhelming.

You planned to eat something, but then you got sucked into the ADHD black hole and totally forgot. Suddenly, it’s 5pm and you feel this primal, intense pull towards the kitchen cabinet, and find yourself in a frenzy, grabbing and eating cookies, chips, gummy bears, and peanut butter without actually enjoying any of it.

Or maybe you open the fridge and see the ingredients you bought to make dinner, but the thought of cooking brings on a flash of overwhelm, so you quickly order delivery for the 3rd time this week.

Or perhaps you have some meal options that sound doable, but in the moment, literally nothing sounds appetizing, so you just feel angry, irritated, and intensely emotional… and you end up curling up in a ball and avoiding all things food. 

 

Yep. I’ve been there too. And for many years I thought that a) I lacked discipline and willpower, b) I had no motivation or impulse control, and c) I was a picky eater and there was nothing I could do about it. What I didn’t know then, was that I wasn’t making food and eating a priority, which was creating chaos in my eating patterns and sending me down a serious shame spiral.

 

Ok, but what does any of this have to do with prioritization? Well, everything.

 

Prioritization requires some form of planning… even if that looks a bit different for those of us with ADHD. And let's be honest, ADHDers, by definition, aren't great at prioritizing. Our brains are wired in a way that makes everything feel important in the moment, and we struggle to identify what actually matters and why.

One tool that many of us have tried, and likely “failed” at again and again, is scheduling things on the calendar. I know, MASSIVE EYE ROLL. I promise I am not giving you neurotypical advice to “just get a planner and use it!”, because I know it’s not that simple.

 

So yeah, many of us with ADHD have calendars, and we schedule things in those calendars… BUT… we don’t protect that time for ourselves on our calendars (i.e. self care) in the same way that we protect time that involves someone or something else (i.e. meetings, appointments, deadlines). I like the old ADHD saying “if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist”. But I would take it step further and say, "if it's not SERIOUSLY on the calendar, it doesn't exist!". This is true, even for things like eating, showering, paying bills. You know, all the things that constantly fall through the cracks because we think we will get to them “at some point”.

Well I am here to tell you that without prioritization and time protection, you won’t actually get to those things, or when you do, it will feel stressful, hectic, & rushed. For those of you who find it difficult to eat meals & snacks consistently, part of the issue might be that you aren’t thinking about these times as valuable & worthy of protection.

 

What if you added meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, & eating to your calendar, BUT you also treated these time slots like work meetings or doctor’s appointments? What might happen if these appointments with yourself were both IMPORTANT & NON-NEGOTIABLE, like a really big deadline at work, or picking your kid up at school, or getting on a flight?

I know… this is way easier said than done, especially for ADHDers who do well with external accountability. Prioritizing ourselves in order to meet our basic needs is a muscle that requires some strength training in order to be effective. If you have lunch on your schedule from 1-2 on Tuesday, & at 12:30 your friend calls to ask for a ride to Target… imagine what you might say if you had an appointment with your boss scheduled during that same time. I might say something along the lines of: “I’d love to, but I have an important commitment during that hour. I hope you find a ride & get some fun things!”. That "important commitment" can be an appointment or meeting, but it can also be self-care time, because self-care is really freaking important!

And just like you would start small with a new weight lifting routine, you can start small with this too.

 

BITE SIZED ACTION TIP: This week, schedule in just 1 meal a day & practice making that time the most coveted date with yourself. If you end up missing this time, or choosing something else during that time slot, get curious and ask yourself what got in the way of prioritizing your own wellbeing. 

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