Content warning: This episode contains discussions of eating disorders; listener discretion is advised if you feel that listening may aggravate your suffering or complicate your recovery. Discuss with your support system as necessary.
Moira has struggled with her relationship with food and her body for close to 50 years, only learning she had binge eating disorder after her ADHD diagnosis. Megan’s eating disorder was recognized first, as a teenager, and her ADHD diagnosis came in 2021. Both women know we do not need to suffer endlessly anymore and there is a path to recovery. ADHD contributes to disordered eating and obesity and getting help for any of this means understanding our experiences and having ways to get the help we deserve.
- They share a willingness to talk about their experience to help:
- Other people to have the words and
- To be their own advocate in both fields
- To advocate for change–please research this
- really high correlation between disordered eating and ADHD
- Moira shares that not knowing she had ADHD or Binge Eating Disorder until in the last number of years made coping with both harder
- Megan shares about how needing more stimulation for our brains led to self-medicating by binge eating as a child
- Moira struggled with eating, and her relationship with food and body for her entire life.
- As a child she had no awareness of hunger or fullness cues, but struggled greatly with being very body and weight conscious
- Her disordered eating was using food as comfort for her body dysmorphia, and untreated, undiagnosed ADHD,
- Moira was struggling pre puberty physically, mentally and emotionally and cognitively
- Medical advice at the time (early 1980s) recommended that:
- Her weight was an issue to be addressed
- She began regular trips to see a dietician
- Put on a calorie restricted diet to be tracked, updated daily
- Weighed weekly
- Have food selected or portioned separately from rest of family at home
- All these practices have since been discredited as healthy options for children
- The result was:
- Moira tried to get food wherever and whenever she could:
- at school she would eat whatever people would give her
- She’d go to the corner store and eat it all before going home
- Hiding and lying about what she ate become normal
- Her sense of self, relationship with food, and body image got stuck at 10 years old, for decades
- Moira tried to get food wherever and whenever she could:
- as a teenager these behaviours continued but were hidden by growing taller and getting involved in sports
- By 18 yo she had been on all the common weight loss diets or programs
- Being 10-15 pounds heavier than peers meant coaches, usually the male ones, felt it was appropriate to comment on her size, even if it was couched in a compliment, “you can keep up with them, that’s great!” reinforcing her own cognitive distortions
- Moira learned to attribute most of her challenges to her body size and shape.
- In her 20s and 30s Moira managed her disordered eating by diet and over exercising
- Moira did not know her symptoms matched an eating disorder, only knowing about bulimia, anorexia and laxative abuse
- after her ADHD diagnosis, she learned more about what binge eating is and ticked every box
- ADHD played a role with inadvertently restricting, forgetting to eat, not recognizing hunger, often ADHD symptoms get worse when hungry
- Moira’s current tools:
- eats on a daily schedule that is on her calendar
- uses alarms to reminder her to go eat
- uses alarms to reminder to get ready to transition to go eat (30 min before lunch, 10 min before dinner)
- changes alarm on watch to music she likes to not be annoyed by the sound
- pre-plan almost all meals to avoid decision making in the moment
- meal and food choices need to be super easy, or she won’t do it
- asks others to help her remember—prompts from those who can do so without triggering her
- have snacks/food handy in case she gets stuck doing something and needs to eat
- has added taking food with her as part of her leaving routine
- everything is tied back to not liking her body
- She had a binge eating disorder as a child to keep herself stimulated
- She had an entire formation of self around her body being undesirable
- When she realized friendship challenges, she also thought it was her body was the issue, not her neurodivergence
- Losing weight seemed the answer and led to addictive, restrictive eating
- Seeing the scale go down stimulated her because she put so much weight in weight.
- NOW: she doesn’t attach any meaning to weight and that removed any stimulation from it
- Megan’s orthorexia:
- never restrictive in terms of quantity, or in terms of the volume
- ate loads of fruit and vegetables– things that just go right through
- always stimulating herself with food
- orthorexia is the exclusion of different food groups, believed to be linked to the person suffering from it is doing it for health reasons. Kind of like an OCD type of description
- Megan’s therapist on binge eating disorder: your brain craves carbs because when you eat them, it releases serotonin and calms you down
- Megan was chronically uncomfortable, and food made her feel better
- Moira: food, overexercising, and thyroid disease
- Megan modern food landscape is not food that we were ever meant to consume
- Podcast called Let us eat cake discusses finding food that fuels you, as a part of intuitive eating
- Misconception to think intuitive eating means eat whatever you want as there are 10 steps to it that include rejecting diet culture and mentality, having ways to care for yourself.
- Really about learning to trust your own lived experience
- People with ADHD can struggle with trusting ourselves
- Moira also did a lot of work with Geneen Roth, a lot around mindful eating
- Such a personal experience and hard to get the help that we people need individually.
- For Megan intuitive eating was not helpful to be recovering from restrictive eating disorder, and be told, okay, try eating whatever you want.
- Megan can see that intuitive eating as an approach can be helpful part to her, and for others to understand and do
- interoceptive awareness for people with ADHD, and eating disorders
- Megan’s cup metaphor for helping to cope
- digging into what we each do:
- talk about different symptoms to validate people and as catharsis
- here are XYZ things that I do that helped
- We do need to suffer needlessly anymore
if you need immediate help:
I acknowledge with gratitude that I’m a settler who lives in creates on the unceded traditional territories of the Semiahmoo First Nation, which lies within the shared territories of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Tsawwassen, and Sto:lo First Nations.
I think two things that are deep in our souls are the willingness to talk about our experience to help other people. And that need to be your own advocate in both of these fields of ADHD and eating disorders. But also having this like this advocacy piece like this has to change. I loved how you said, if you’re doing your master’s or your Ph.D., please research this.
Welcome to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle. I’m your host, Moira Maybin a woman, mom, educator and I have late-diagnosed ADHD. This is the place to practice getting rid of guilt or shame and spending more time with our strengths and passions. There are things that I wish I had known about my ADHD sooner that is allowing me to make different decisions to make my life more ADHD friendly, and I want to share them with you. For show notes, including next steps, resources and articles on this topic, visit ADHD friendlylifestyle.com.
Moira Maybin 01:30
So, we’re back here today with Megan Rogers. And if you got to hear her in the previous episode, she is an amazing young woman who is just finishing college at the University of Notre Dame, we are talking today about having disordered eating or eating disorders. There’s a really high correlation between that and ADHD. So we just wanted to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about our own experiences, and know that this may be uncomfortable for some people, or we don’t want to trigger anyone. So as Megan has taught me to say, take what you need and leave what you don’t say right or backward. Yeah, he says, you know, the ADHD work comes out of your mouth differently than what you thought, yeah, really just wanting to help people understand their own experiences. Because I didn’t know I had ADHD until five years ago. And I didn’t know I had an eating disorder till about three years ago. But I struggled with eating and my relationship with food and my body my entire life. That’s crazy. I’m so amazed at how wise you are at this young mature age. And appreciate this opportunity to talk about things with you.
Megan Rogers 02:44
Thank you so much. So ADHD, one way you could look at it is about achieving an optimal level of stimulation. And as ADHDers, were either getting too much or too little, most of the time. And especially during school as a child, I just remember being so under-stimulated. And being the pleaser that I am. I wanted to be able to focus on things. And so I met that stimulation deficit by eating. So from a very young age, I would self-medicate, or find myself in situations where I wasn’t stimulated enough. And that discomfort, and I would use food to fix it. And that worked pretty well for me as a little kid. Of course, it worked well. In some ways, and obviously not others
Moira Maybin 03:41
created issues in others. Yeah. Like when you were talking about when you were little, and you were hungry all the time, right? I don’t have really have memories of being hungry. Because I didn’t know until recently, what my hunger cues were. I never really woke up thinking I was hungry, but always had breakfast. For me, it was a lot more tied to body image and feeling like I didn’t have the right body. And I have felt that for as long as I could remember. And what I took on from, you know, the environment that I was in, was that always very body-conscious and very weight conscious. And so some of my disordered eating was a result of trying to cope with having ADHD and not knowing like it was a real comforting thing for me. And then at the same time, there was concern about that pre-puberty, a lot of children put on weight before they grow. And that’s actually what happened to me. But at the time when I was putting that weight on, it was also a time that I was struggling more with not knowing I had ADHD. So like mentally and emotionally and cognitively, it was a harder time for me, it was deemed that my weight was an issue, and the things that they say don’t do with kids,
Megan Rogers I’m so sorry.
Moira Maybin Like being on a calorie-restricted diet, getting weighed every week, having my food portioned at home, and being the only person in my family having all of that going on.
Megan Rogers oh, my god
Moira Maybin meant that I went to school and would eat whatever people would give me. Or I would go to the corner store. And I would eat it all before I came home. And so the hiding of what I was eating, and lying about what I was eating, became the routine. And then I got in sports, and I grew. And so like, I’m 510, and I played basketball all the way through, I got stuck at about 10 years old, in my head, at what my body image was, and my relationship with food. By the time I graduated high school, I’d done all the weight loss programs, you know, I’d have these experiences where I was 10 or 15 pounds heavier than my peers when I was 1718 years old. And I have a basketball coach say to me, well, you can keep up with them. Like it’s really you know, it’s really good that you can keep up
Megan Rogers Wow.
Moira Maybin I would have comments usually from men and coaches about my body size. And so the interesting thing for me in unpacking all of this is we blame ourselves. It was because of my body. It wasn’t because of me, or like looking back on relationships, and realizing that I sometimes would be interested in someone who really someone with ADHD is not a good fit for them. And they could probably see that a lot easier than I could. I would always blame it on something around my body. Right as opposed to we’re just a mismatch. Right? Yeah.
Megan Rogers 06:53
I can totally resonate with that.
Moira Maybin 06:57
Through my 20s and 30s. It was over-exercising, how I kind of managed things, and never really recognized that I was binging. And I had no idea that I had an eating disorder until about three years ago. No idea because I never purged. And so that was the thing for me that made me say, okay, and I never took laxatives. It wasn’t until after my ADHD diagnosis, and still being really aware and uncomfortable with my shape and my size, that I learned more about what binge eating is and realize that every box I ticked, and that it was really about a lot of times, finding comfort, or inadvertently restricting my ADHD, as I will really forget to eat it too. And think that I’m not hungry because it wasn’t until last year when I learned that when you have ADHD, a lot of the times your hunger signals are your ADHD symptoms getting worse. My daughter and I were like, oh, so I have to eat on a schedule. Yeah. And I have to set alarms and timers to remind myself to do that, like a transition to go to a meal. And then when I need to go to the meal, and I have to preplan it all and I have to make it easy. Otherwise, I won’t do it. Because I don’t save capacity for food. I know there was a lot there. Thank you for listening.
Megan Rogers 08:36
Oh, absolutely. So when we talk about going back to kind of the beginning of your story. It’s really when I look back on it before I had any idea that I had ADHD I was like, why is it all about food and my body, and everything is tied back to people not liking my body. But I traded the binge eating disorder that I had as a child for another addiction. I had a binge eating disorder as a child and that was my way of keeping myself stimulated and able to do the good things that I was able to do as a child. I used that to feel normal and to live as normally as I could unmedicated untreated, undiagnosed. In that time of having that disorder, I was building an entire narrative, based off of the movies I saw in the media that I consume, that my body was undesirable the way that it was, and that I will never be loved or the main character or worthy of the spotlight. It was an entire formation of self around my body being undesirable. And then when I realized, at the same time I’d been excluded as a kid by different friend groups. And for now, what I see is like I was just maybe spazzy and annoying and probably interrupted too much. I was just different. And, you know, in a way that girls probably didn’t like. And I thought it was my body that was the issue. And that if I could lose the weight that would fix everything, I’d be desirable. Yeah, so you can imagine it’s like I was building up this pile of wood. And then when I finally started that addictive, restrictive eating, the amount of stimulation that I got from thinking that I was going to be desirable, for the first time in my life, if I lost this weight I wasn’t going to have any more issues with friends anymore. I would be worthy of love. Holy cow, the amount of stimulation from seeing the scale go down. Yep. Because I put so much weight in weight. Yep. And now it doesn’t, you know, I don’t get any stimulation now really, from losing weight, or going up because I don’t attach meaning to it. But at the time. It was like, cocaine, not that I’ve ever done it.
Moira Maybin 11:25
For me, there was always that break. Right. Like I think about when I was a teenager. It’s standing in my kitchen with a spoon, peanut butter, and jam and just shoveling it into my mouth. Right.
Megan Rogers 11:37
Okay, so this is so interesting. So I was not diagnosed with anorexia, I was diagnosed with orthorexia. I was never restrictive in terms of quantity, or in terms of volume. I would, I would eat loads of vegetables, loads and loads and loads of fruit and things that just go right through you. Yeah. So I was always stimulating myself with food, if not even more so. And I was Orthorexic.
Moira Maybin 12:10
And just for people who don’t know, can you give a brief explanation of what that is? It’s still new.
Megan Rogers 12:15
So orthorexia is the exclusion of different food groups. Yeah. And it’s believed to be linked to you know, the person suffering from it is doing it for like health reasons. Kind of more of like an OCD type of description Kind of like that.
Moira Maybin 12:34
You’re going to eat really clean. Yes. Really healthy. Yes. But there’s a point where it goes beyond. Yeah,
Megan Rogers 12:43
but that so that description and again, eating traditional eating disorder therapy never worked for me. And that description of orthorexia never resonated, okay, either. It was, I ate so much because it was related to stimulation. I remember the very first time that I learned ever about anything related to binge eating disorder, my therapist said, you know that your brain craves carbs because when you eat them, it releases serotonin and calms you down. Right. And I was like, no, I didn’t know that. And that makes so much sense. At that time, I was like, oh, I know that I have like school or testing anxiety, right? Like, you think anxiety and you think something different? And anxiety does feel different. But I just I was chronically uncomfortable. Yeah. And food made me feel better. Right. And so she was the very first person to say, you know, food makes you feel better, right?
Moira Maybin 13:39
Yeah, I noticed food making me feel better. This is how I think I destroyed my thyroid. thyroid disease does run in my family. But I got it earlier. And, you know, more intense was because I was running half marathons on repeat, and the pushing harder, you know, working full time and doing my master’s in Ed Psych, and tutoring students and all of these things going on. And I could just feel the energy just sort of going, right, like running out of gas. And then I could feel how when I ate certain foods, you know, through my teens, and 20s, or even younger than that, like, crackers, bread, all those things were the things that I gravitated towards what I find ironic now because what I need now is I need protein. If I’m not getting protein within an hour of getting up, I can feel it and I can feel the difference in my body. And so it’s been a really interesting shift for me, and I know I’m kind of going off in a different direction here. Once I knew I had ADHD and I got that treated chemically. Oh, yeah. And having ongoing therapy with a therapist that it actually worked to new ADHD and binge eating disorders. I was able to start developing other caring routines for myself that I wasn’t looking to get from food. What it gave me, which is what I kind of hear you saying, but it was a real physical thing for you. Right? Yeah.
Megan Rogers 15:13
Oh yeah. And this is another thing too, some of our modern food landscape is not food that we were ever meant to consume. And so you talk about the canary in the coal mine, how we’re just more sensitive. So if you think about ADHD, in the context of addiction of making it really hard to stop, something that’s very rewarding for your brain in addiction is something that’s very pleasurable to the brain, we are surrounded by foods that have been chemically engineered to keep us eating. And so for me, there’s so much tension between the neurotypical eating disorder recovery landscape of being like, eat whatever you want, intuitive eat, that’s self-love. When for me, I know that those foods are made to hurt me.
Moira Maybin 16:00
It’s interesting because my dietician, like I have worked with so many dietician nutritionists over the years. But this one, she’s got a podcast called Let us eat cake. And she talks about what you’re talking about, like finding food that fuels you, is a part of intuitive eating, that it’s a bit of a misconception to think it’s like, eat whatever you want. Because there are 10 steps to it. Like one of the things I don’t have a doubt is the rejecting diet culture. Right and diet mentality. Yeah, and having ways to care for yourself. So that’s the part that I’ve been learning more of, because I was like, Well, what are the steps? What do I do, and she’s like, it’s really about learning to trust your own lived experience. And trusting. And that’s what as people with ADHD, we can so mess up with that. And I can have whatever I want in my house. And I’m still blown away by that. And I may not eat any of it, I made some of it. I wanted food not to have power over me. But pre-knowing I had a binge eating disorder, I did a lot of work with Geenen Roth, whose one of her first books is called When Food is Love. And so I had done a lot around mindful eating, but it’s such a personal experience. And it’s so hard to unpack because it’s so hard to get the help that we people need individually.
Megan Rogers 17:41
Mm-hmm. There’s a different manual for every single person. And so, you know, I was handed intuitive eating, because that is, you know, so helpful for so many people. But was so not helpful. For me personally, that’s a loaded statement too. I love intuitive eating the different chapters in there are about like, physiologically, what happens when you eat slow. And that makes sense to from a canary in the coal mine perspective, ADHD, or to have to really come down a lot more from whatever hyper fixation that we were in, to be able to feel ourselves even eating, or to feel hunger and separated from everything else going on in our body. But it was dangerous for me to be recovering from an eating disorder, a restrictive eating disorder, and then just be told, okay, try eating whatever you want.
Moira Maybin 18:33
Yeah, I get that. And there is a lot more, there’s so much more to talk about. And we haven’t even talked about our interoceptive awareness of what’s going on in our body and how that’s hard for people with ADHD, which relates to both of these things. We haven’t gotten to the cup metaphor yet. Yeah,
Megan Rogers 18:51
the cup metaphor. And then honestly, just digging into what we each do. It’s cathartic in a way to talk about different symptoms because that validates people that listen are like, Oh my God, I didn’t know anyone else struggled with that. But I think it’s like, equally necessary to be like, here are XYZ things that I do, like you said, putting your cycle in your calendar that helped me and I have a whole spreadsheet now that I use to track my cycle. I use running to help and supplements like I carry earplugs on me all the time now because I am not needing to suffer anymore, needlessly, all that stuff, little things we do.
Moira Maybin 19:31
Well, thank you so much, Megan, for gifting me your time and your insight and experience. And I look forward to having you back on the podcast
Megan Rogers 19:43
I look forward to being back. Thank you so much.
Moira Maybin 19:55
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s show. And we’d love to hear your thoughts. To get in touch you can write me an email at ask at ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com. Connect with me on my website, Instagram, and Facebook at ADHD Friendly Lifestyle, or Twitter at ADHDFL. Every episode has a website page, show notes, transcripts next steps resources, and articles related to the topic. To get these visit ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com. If you’d like to support the podcast, the best way is to subscribe to the podcast player of your choice and by taking the time to rate and review it there. There are other podcasts for your listening pleasure. On Hacking your ADHD Will Curb gives Tips Tools and insights. Brendon Mahan hosts ADHD Essentials focusing on parenting and education. Thanks for listening. See you later.