ADHD, Food Hyperfixation and You: Is it Really a Bad Thing?

Julia Ovcharenko, CEO of Numo
May 22, 2024

Ah, foods. There are so many of them. But, sometimes, we just can’t get enough of a specific one. It's almost like a food hyperfixation that seems infinite…until it isn’t.

Confused? Well, let me tell you a personal anecdote. 

I really like my breakfast a particular way. So, each morning, I’d wake up, get my bowl of oatmeal, mix in a spoon of peanut butter, chopped banana, and assorted nuts. 

And I would eat that breakfast every day without fault for two years…until one day, I woke up with disgust and refusal to even look in its direction.

If you feel called out here, then you might be a fellow enjoyer of ADHD food hyperfixation! 🤓

So, why does it happen, what makes it so appealing to chomp down on familiar foods, and is it ultimately a good or bad thing?

All of that (and more!) in today’s read.

Let’s dig in 💪

What is a Hyperfixation Meal?

From a dive into ADHD symptoms, we can bust one common misconception that ADHDers cannot focus on things.

Quite the opposite! ADHDers are sometimes too good at fixating on one thing

Thus, when we hyper-fixate on one thing, we become completely obsessed and engrossed by it, incapable of thinking about anything else.

In the dietary context, this means that when we hyper-fixate on food, we cannot imagine eating anything else to the point where we would rather starve than eat non-comfort food

Hyperfixation vs Hyperfocus

Now, in casual conversations, there’s probably not much of a difference between these two.

But since I’m a pedantic nerd 🤓, I decided it would be an excellent opportunity to drop some knowledge. 

Indeed, hyperfixation and hyperfocus have a lot in common because when you “lock in” on a thing/activity/hobby, there’s nothing the universe can do to pry it from your hands.

Yet, the main distinction here is that if you are hyperfocusing on something, it doesn’t mean that you’re obsessed with it.

For example, you can get into the zone (maybe with the help of some static noise?) and start working on your school project with speed and precision that neuronormals will get jealous of.

But does that mean that once you’re done, you can’t wait to get started on the next project? 

Of course not! 

Thus, I’d say that the main difference between the two is how persistent and focused the obsession is! 🧘

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What Causes Food Hyperfixation?

Well…your ADHD does, durr 🤪


On a more serious note, hyperfixating on food is more of a consequence than a cause. 

What I’m trying to say is that “There are ADHD symptoms that do this, hence we are going to fixate on…” 

That said, what ARE those things? 👀

Decision Paralysis

ADHD paralysis is a tune as old as time. We have so many options that we can’t choose one…so we decide not to choose anything at all! 

Which seems like a safe bet for a lot of things. But we still gotta eat, you know?

Hence, we turn to our safe foods that we know will always be there for us. 

Impatience and Instant Gratification

Have you noticed that a lot of the time, safe foods are also quick or “lazy” ones?

Bananas, peanut butter, nuts, and other fruits. You don’t have to spend time preparing and cooking those, and the clean-up is minimal (thank god for no chores 😄)

That’s because when we want something, a lot of time, we want it now NOW. And waiting for something is definitely not an option, no sir.

Executive Dysfunction

And speaking of doing tedious things…sometimes our executive dysfunction can really be in its prime, making it almost impossible for us to plan ahead and do things

Buying groceries, cooking them, etc., etc. These things sometimes…well, they’re not on the agenda, alright! 😡

Thus, sometimes, it can be literally the only thing in the house because we’ve stockpiled it. 

And I mean…if there’s already good, delicious “safe food” inside our walls, why bother with an adventurous option, you know? 

Sensory Issues

It feels like these are primarily associated with autism, but nah. 

The latest research into ADHD reveals that being too receptive to external stimuli is a thing that ADHDers have as well! 

Add that to the pile of “things that we and people with autism have in common!” 

But on a more serious note. We might not enjoy things because of the sound they make (I hate the crouton crunch, for example), the mouthfeel, or a particular taste or smell of the food. 

And because of that, it sometimes becomes difficult for us to enjoy things, especially if we are in a relationship and thus aren’t cooking or ordering food for one all the time. 

A “safe food” provides reassurance and comfort, knowing that - if everything else fails, I have my PB&J sandwich. 

Guess it’s not difficult to see how hyperfixating can develop out of this, huh? 

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But is it wrong to if I have ADHD and am eating the same thing all the time? 

There are two answers to this question: medical and philosophical.

From a nutrition standpoint, it depends on what you are hyperfixating on and whether you eat anything else. 

So, let’s say that your safe food is potato chips. A fine snack, a delicious treat…but it can’t be like the centerpiece of your diet. You simply won’t get enough nutrients from it! 

Something like peanut butter is a more well-rounded choice! It has protein, fat (even some fiber!)

But, still, it doesn’t have everything your body needs, like vitamins and whatnot. So it makes sense to explore more safe options you feel comfortable eating unless you want to get scurvy 🏴‍☠️ 🍋

So. In a vacuum, food hyperfixation is not an eating disorder!

Now. The more philosophical answer.

I know, I truly know, that the world can be a scary and unforgiving place, especially for neurospicy friends. 

But similar to how working out in a gym will make your muscles sore, we cannot grow if we don’t expose ourselves to a risk of being hurt

And so. There’s nothing wrong with having the same breakfast daily, having safe foods, or hyper fixating on the same option. But how do you know there isn’t something better if you haven’t tried it? After all, there was a day when you tried peanut butter for the first time…imagine denying it to yourself now because you were “unfamiliar” with it.

If nothing else, consider this: one day, your hyper fixation will end, and you will be on the hunt for a new food of choice. It makes sense, then, to broaden your palette to have more options to choose from, no? 😉

And if you don’t know where to find inspiration for your next BIG FOOD

Consider Numo: our GIGA app of planners, friends, and memes. 

Yes, that’s right ⭐

Even though our app is mainly known for being one of the best ADHD planner apps out there, in my opinion, its crowning jewel is not that, but! Our squads and tribes 😎

These are our community boards where you can ask and answer questions, share fun memes, or just simply vent when the need arises. 

And, given the today’s topic. It also makes a great source of inspiration to ask about people’s favorite safe foods or how they manage their hypefixations. 

So, if you ever feel like what you’re doing is wrong or maybe you just need some reassurance…Numo family is always there, one click away 😌



So, what have we learned today?

  • Hyperfixating on food means that you are eating only one thing (like the same breakfast every day) and cannot imagine eating anything else
  • It differs from hyperfocusing because hyperfixation persists even after the deed is done.
  • The causes of hyperfixation are multifaceted: from sensory processing issues to decision paralysis, food hyperfixation is more a consequence of most ADHD symptoms.
  • It’s perfectly normal to have hyperfixations and safe foods as long as you get all your nutrients and it doesn’t interfere with your life. 

So, next time someone tries to shame you for munching on that PB&J…tell them to eat dirt 💪

Remember, as long as you listen to your body and get everything it needs…there is no right or wrong way to eat away at life. 

But of course, if you are ever uncertain, don’t listen to silly blogs on the internet and consult with your healthcare provider.

See you around 👋

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