Most people have their secret cravings. But we who have ADHD specialize in one kind of craving. We crave carbs.
It’s the pint, quart, or even gallon of Cherry Garcia or Mocha Nut Fudge ice cream in the middle of the night as a “snack”. It’s the jar of Skippy’s Smooth or Peter Pan Crunchy peanut butter that always seems to be one knife stroke short of empty, no matter how many jars we buy. It’s the jumbo bag of M&M Peanut that we refuse to share when we go to the movies (those days will return. . .). It’s the extra spoonful of gravy we slip onto our mashed potatoes after topping them with more than an average serving of butter. It’s the beer we love. It’s the sugar we add not in teaspoonfuls but in tablespoonfuls (if we bother to measure) to our coffee, tea, cereal, or bowl of blueberries.
We may be overweight. . . or not. We may be pre-diabetic or diabetic. . . or not. We may be behind in our dental bills, or we may avoid the dentist. . . or not. We may or may not be paying a medical price for our sugar cravings and our carb loading. We may or may not suffer pangs of shame and guilt because of it. We may or may not try to curb giving in to these urges.
But most of the time we who have ADHD do not understand the very logical reason that we just can’t resist that final piece of cake. It beckons us all the way from its resting place in the kitchen upstairs to our bedroom just as we are about to fall asleep, only to rouse up out of bed to snarf down that slice before finally going to sleep.
It’s because of the shot of dopamine carbs give us. Remember, we’re on a perpetual search for the dopamine shot, we don’t have as much as neurotypical people. It’s also why we’re 10 times more likely to develop compulsions or addictions of many kinds: to alcohol; to nicotine; to weed; to cocaine; to opiates. And to the many behavioral compulsions and addictions: shopping and spending; gambling; pornography; extreme sports and exercise; and games and screens of all kinds.
And then there’s food. Most people don’t make the dopamine connection with food, especially carbs. The fact is that a spoonful of sugar doesn’t just make the medicine go down, it becomes a form of medicine itself. Not a good medicine, but a part of many of our regimens to self-medicate.
As a means of relieving tension and getting instant pleasure, carbs work even faster than alcohol. It’s much safer from a social standpoint to be a carbs junky than a drug or alcohol devotee. But it can be dangerous nonetheless. Most of us who flirt with the carb cravings—like me—wish we didn’t and try to find better ways of getting that dopamine shot.
The best way to beat the carbs carousel is to develop other ways of getting that dopamine shot. At the top of my list is a creative outlet. Mine is writing. Writing this very note right now is giving me the shot I might have sought from an ice cream or a Triscuit covered with peanut butter. Yours might be drawing, or making a cool TikTok, , re-designing your garden or trying a new recipe. Whatever it is, have a creative outlet!
Second on my list are connections – human or canine. We just adopted two kittens, so I should add feline to the list. Have regular contact with a friend or relative you really enjoy talking or being with. Walk your dog or play with your cat. Connection with another living being makes a huge difference to our mental well-being.
And then physical exercise is among one of the very best ways you can get some good old dopamine. Maybe you like running or going to the gym. Maybe you hate the thought of sports! Use that creative mind and think out of the box for exercise that might tempt you.
So next time you’re courting that bowl of Cookie Dough or that jar of peanut brittle or the stack of pancakes overflowing with syrup, think to yourself, it’s just the dopamine shot I’m craving. Rather than reaching for the snack, how else can I get it? You’ll be glad you did, as you start to develop healthier ways of satisfying your brain.