Exploring The Relationship Between Mental Health And Food Fixations

The relationship between mental health and food habits is interwoven, often with different presentations. Some mental health disorders relate directly to food while others influence one’s relationship and behaviors toward food itself.

For most people, food represents nourishment, pleasure, and comfort. However, when these basic characteristics are combined with mental health challenges, one’s relationship with food can become problematic. One common presentation symptom among those with mental health issues is a fixation on certain foods, textures, and flavors.

1. Food Fixations May Lead to Nutritional Gaps

When you eat one of your favorite foods, it’s hard not to be happy. But when you’re also managing mental health issues, a favorite food might turn into a fixation.

A food fixation may be as simple as eating the same breakfast each day or only eating chicken nuggets for every meal, craving it constantly, and feeling anxious or upset when it’s not available. While this isn’t always a bad thing, food fixations may result in nutritional gaps. Nutritional gaps can be especially problematic because they can lead to blood sugar spikes and vitamin deficiencies.

Other symptoms of ADHD may make it so periods of high stress also suppress appetites. This means that people often skip meals, and even water, putting more pressure on a fixated meal to be nutritious.

If you’re struggling with eating a variety of foods, it’s important to add more fruits and veggies to your diet. Planning meals ahead of time can reduce the guesswork of grocery shopping and busy mornings. If the meal is nutritious, the reliability of a routine can be comforting too, especially for those with ADHD.

Individuals with ADHD, anxiety, and depression all benefit from a balanced diet. In many cases, mental health symptoms can be lessened with a good diet and exercise.

While this doesn’t eliminate the need for treatments like therapy and medication, it does mean nutrition should be a priority. If meal planning doesn’t work or you don’t know where to start, try supplementing with a green drink powder or fruit smoothie. These can fill nutritional gaps and provide much-needed hydration even alongside fixations.

A study shows the effect of fruit and vegetable powder mix on hypertensive subjects, so make sure to consult a doctor before taking any type of green drink powder.

2. Dopamine Ramps Up With Food

Mouths salivate, pupils dilate, and dopamine skyrockets at the taste of a favorite food. There’s a reason why people love exploring new restaurants, trying new dishes, and experiencing unique flavor combinations.

Food is exciting, but if you’re seeking out dopamine due to a mental health issue, the adventure can be dangerous. This may look like only eating one meal, a singular food, or certain texture, which makes life difficult. Going out to eat is nearly impossible and the rigidity of this routine can become toxic.

People with ADHD are often seeking stimuli, or dopamine, to keep their mood elevated. This can be achieved by starting a new project, entering a research rabbit hole, or, you guessed it- eating food. This can lead to bad habits that are at minimum, uncomfortable, and worse yet, disordered. The excitement of eating may result in decreased chewing and forgetting to drink water. This can impact the digestion process, leading to discomfort, constipation, and decreased absorption of nutrients.

Hyperfixations can also devolve into disordered eating, especially binge eating. The dopamine rush may overpower any feelings of fullness, making an innocent snack turn into an all-out binge. This may or may not come with purging associated with bulimia, but an over-full stomach can easily lead to vomiting. Afterward, many people feel shameful, embarrassed, or depressed, which can be even more devastating to someone with mental health challenges. If vomiting after eating becomes commonplace, speak with a health professional for guidance.

3. Hyperfixation Tendencies Can Be Channeled Positively

Foods with sugar

Not all hyper fixation tendencies are bad, and when it comes to food, they can be directed positively. Recognizing that this tendency to hyperfixate on food is essential, as is knowing the signals and triggers for foods.

If some foods are repulsive due to texture, get curious about why, and see if reshaping the food is helpful. Bananas shift their texture by ripeness, but mixing them into a smoothie can help provide much-needed potassium and nutritional variety.

Pleasure-seeking tendencies can be directed positively toward developing nutritious and delicious meals. Dive deep into sourdough and pair the benefits of a hobby with nutrition. Try new recipes and techniques, while challenging the preference for immediate gratification. Sourdough, by nature, requires time and patience, so this type of hobby can be a positive and delicious exercise.

Baking and preparing food are also well known for their ability to bring people together. Leverage positive food habits by sharing your bounty with others during social engagements. Socialization is good for everyone, but it’s especially helpful for those with mental health struggles. Swap recipes, share sourdough starters, and catch up over a great meal to promote overall well being.

Understand the Drivers Behind Food Fixations for Overall Wellness

The first step to better understanding one’s self is to reflect on the “why” behind key behaviors. Recognizing the underlying drivers of food hyper-fixations is critical to developing ways to manage risks. Always ensure that basic nutrition and caloric goals are met by supplementing and planning.

Incorporate conversations about hyper fixation during therapy appointments and address the root cause. When you take a holistic approach to managing food hyperfixation along with mental health, you can achieve total wellbeing.

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