This is my fourth and final post in this series. We’ve talked about different factors that impact how those of us with ADHD experience our bodies (emotional regulation, sensory processing, and sleep ) and thoughts (cognitive flexibility and impulsivity) and how these can affect our eating. I've left a complicated subject for last, the influence of community on our food/body relationships.
How ADHD impacts our social experience
RSD (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria)
Rejection hurts. That's universal, but some people with ADHD have such an intense experience of rejection that they deal with another issue: RSD (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria). RSD is an extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized.
RSD is not yet officially recognized as a diagnosis in the DSM-5, but that does not mean that the symptoms associated with RSD are not real. When you combine the vulnerability of RSD with the unfortunate diet culture (see below) that is prevalent in our society, you have the perfect storm for disordered eating.
For those who are not familiar with the term diet culture, it refers to a culture that equates women's value with their attractiveness and their attractiveness with the size of their bodies. In this paradigm, you’re rewarded with worthiness, acceptance, and power when you can successfully control the size of your body.
If you're a female living in the US, you know a thing or two about diet culture. These ideas are deeply ingrained in our experiences of being female in our culture and it's a rare woman who has not been impacted by them.
I do believe we’re making progress, though. Every day, I see an increasing number of women who are refusing to accept the non-inclusive, rigid, and unattainable expectations that diet culture promotes. I’m encouraged by things like overhearing my daughters talking about body shaming as a social problem and not a punchline as well as seeing more diversity in the bodies represented in media. I know we haven’t arrived yet, but at least we‘re moving in the right direction.
What I found helpful...
I embraced intuitive eating. Actually, a more accurate description would be I tried it, ran scared from it, ran back to it, cursed and drop kicked it, tried to blend it with dieting (don’t judge me) and eventually made my peace with it and embraced it for real. I said good bye to my scale. There were times that these changes terrified me, but at some point it became clear to me that I couldn't live the life I wanted to live if I was constantly relying on a number to tell me if I was "ok".
I made a conscious decision to reject the notion that my value was contingent on anything other than me being a human being. I'll be honest, that didn’t really work at first, either. I mean, I got it on a "logic" level- I had been telling my daughters that for years, but I didn't get it it on that deeper "knowing" level.
When I realized that I wasn't going to get there on my own, I started searching for voices I respected and hung out with them- even though it was mostly a virtual hang out.
I read books about body respect and intuitive eating. I listened to fun and irreverent podcasts like Eat the Rules (by Summer Innanen) or the F#$! It Diet (by Caroline Dooner ). Shifting my thoughts took time, but I surrounded myself with these messages and little by little, I built a different way of thinking.
Managing ADHD is complicated. Recovery from an eating disorder is complicated. If you are someone who has ADHD and have experienced disordered eating (whether or not you have been diagnosed), please know that you are not alone.
Your brain chemistry presents unique challenges for you in this area, but that doesn't mean that change is not possible. Although there are no quick or simple fixes for addressing an eating disorder, understanding your ADHD brain may play an important role in helping you create a heathier relationship with food and your body.
You can read the other posts in this series here:
Questions? Feel free to contact me on my website @TheADHDClarityCoach.com. If you are interested in working with me, you can schedule a free discovery call below:
*The information I’m providing in this blog series is based on my personal experiences and the strategies that helped me during my recovery. This is not meant to replace therapeutic interventions or substitute for work with a trained professional. Please get support if you're struggling with an eating disorder, you don't need to do this on your own.*