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8-year-old hoarding food

BunnyTech profile image

Looking for creative solutions. My 8-year-old son had ADHD and he takes Concerta, which really affects his appetite. He's lost weight since he's been on it, and he didn't have much to lose to begin with. He usually eats breakfast and dinner, but when his meds wear off, he's starving. He's developed the habit of getting up in the middle of the night and taking an entire box/package of something back to bed with him (last night it was tortilla chips, but it's been crackers, bread, fruit snacks, fruit, etc. Whatever he can easily transport back to his room). We've tried giving him a snack at bedtime, making food and leaving it in the fridge for him, we've had lots of talks about how he needs to eat even if he's not hungry because his body needs food. We're torn between being sympathetic to his situation and also trying to set up the predictability of eating at designated times so he won't lose more sleep. On top of it, he has all kinds of behavior issues that are simply there because he's exhausted all the time. Anyone else dealt with this kind of thing? What worked for you?

19 Replies


Thank-you for your post. So many of us have dealt with or are dealing with this issue. We were told this is not an eating disorder this is related to the impulse control and once off medication for the day it is very hard for them to control it. So here is the way we deal with it. We require him to eat as much protein as we can squeeze into him at ALL meals and snacks, including protein shakes ( we give him so many min. of video games for each shake, only 1 a day). We tell him his medication makes it so he doesn't feel hungry so it doesn't matter he has to eat.

We then do our best to lock every item we think he would want in our pantry with a coded lock. We have a second refrigerator with a lock on it. We just try not to let him have it. Each night we leave our on the counter things he likes and will eat at night. We try to make these yummy things. We do not allow eating or drinking in other areas of the house ( including his room/play room). Then we search his room everyday so nothing can build up. We have also limited the chips, candy and other tempting things. These have helped, but not stopped it.

We understand that this is a very common issue with children with ADHD. It is connected to self-control and impulse control. We discuss this at therapy and we are told let's hope he is 18 years old soon...

I am hoping others will add to this topic, but this has really helped.

Take care


Have you discussed these issues with a prescribed doctor? Is this doctor pediatrician? How long he is on Concerta?

My son is 7 years old and taking Ritalin short release after breakfast and lunch, both 5mg. We have tried Concerta and Biphentin. Both didn't seem to work.... low appertite and lack of sleep, also no positive difference. Then we tried Ritalin, made a big positive change.

When your son still has medication in his system, do you or his teacher notice a positive difference? We need to weigh pros and cons. If negatives are weighing more positive, you might want to consider different medication. When my son started Ritalin, his weight dropped but his pediatrician told us that his body will get used to the medication and his appetite will come back which was the case. His weight is good now. But I hear your concern..... My son is also skinny and didn't have much room to lose more weight.

Consult with the doctor.

I hope you'll find a solution.

oh yes, most of us have been there. My daughter usually doesn't eat lunch at school even though I pack her a good healthy lunch every.single.day. It's no uncommon with the meds they take. I made sure every morning that she has a good breakfast and I make sure she drinks a really high protein drink in the morning (it was hit and miss to find one that she likes) and then at night I get her dinner and then another snack before bed. I also make sure I have snacks around all the time like cheese and crackers. She loves those Sargento cheese snack thingys and the hummus with pretzels. I think the food thing is super hard so hang in there!

We tried to protein shake thing, and it didn't really work for a bunch of reasons, but we didn't try setting up a reward system. That's something to consider. He responds pretty well to the token economy idea. I think what I really want is for him to know it's okay for him to have a snack, but that he can't do it at 3:00 in the morning. I think it sets up a culture where he feels like he has to be sneaky and dishonest to get what he needs. That should never be true. I never actually thought of bringing it up with his pediatrician, but that makes perfect sense. He has an appointment today, so we'll make that a priority.

One thing that is hard is that you don't want to compare the natural behavior of a child that doesn't have ADHD to the child that does. So when you say, sneaky and dishonest- this is really what children do who have ADHD. Everyone says their kid lies. The sneaky is the urge which is an impulse. But I believe with maturity and change in habits, by not giving him access to the food that will change it.

Hope this makes sense, its changing the way you see it. Which comes with time. Not trying to criticize at all... just looking at it differently.

Did you see me say I don't want him to feel like he HAS to behave that way? I want him to feel free to get what he needs, but not have to sneak around about it. And yes, you were judging. Take it somewhere else. I have enough problems, and you're not one of them.

My 7-year-old son lost weight when he first started methylphenidate and still eats minimal lunch. Our strategy has been to “front-load” him in the morning before meds. He gets up and has breakfast on his own-usually a huge bowl of cereal and then has second- breakfast with us. It is crazy how much he eats in the morning!

For lunch I don’t worry too much about packing a balanced meal because I know he won’t eat it. I just go for easy to eat calories-tortilla chips, peanut butter filled pretzels, granola bars. Anything he can eat while distracted in the incredibly short time period they get to eat lunch at school. I’m not winning any nutrition awards but I feel like something is better than nothing.

When he gets home he has a snack-we try for something more healthy. Then dinner is a struggle because often he isn’t that hungry yet and is a very picky eater. He can have non-junk food snack before bed if still hungry.

Lastly, I try to maximize calories in the foods he will eat (whole milk, whole yogurt, less-lean hamburger) while still trying to minimize sugar. It’s not perfect but his weight turned around and he usually seems satisfied at bedtime. This is just what worked for us though-best of luck-food is so frustrating!

You could add peanut butter as your night time snack ( even ants on a log) that should really last him. I think they get hungry because they say they are not at dinner, then they become if they don't eat enough.

Hello, you will need to lock up food and snacks. If you can invest in a locking door knob for the kitchen that would be even better. You do not want this to become a habit as he can become obese.

My son is 11 y.o. with ADHD and over weight. He will eat food right after dinner - whatever is around (crackers, cookies, more dinner leftovers, popcorn). He will eat food after school as well and they are generally meals, not snacks (large bowls of oatmeal, cereal, pizza or whatever he can find). Another thing he does is sneak food while I am in the shower or after I have gone to bed. He has taken food to his room a few times. He clearly is not hungry, but just unable to control the impulse to eat. I am not sure how to tackle this but I stopped buying snacks and I lock food in my car.

I fed my son big dinners at breakfast-time and for late-night snack, as he couldn't eat lunch or dinner while on concerta. We eat all over the house in this family. Now he is over 18 and off meds and somewhat overweight even though his ideal weight would be 200+. So my way has not given him ideal habits long term. Also he is a natural night owl. Exercise helps these kids in many cases. My son wrestled in middle school. He still stays up late at night eating. He asked me to quit buying deserts and junk food (i never bought much), and eats fruit and salads late at night.

My way is not great - just a glimpse of the future. He would probably benifit from military but we like having him around and he's studying fire-fighting at junior college.

Hello, I’m a Licensed therapist in southern Minnesota. I have adhd myself, a child with adhd, and I work with many children and their families, making initial diagnoses, educating, providing therapy, and referring to medical professionals for medications. Last year I was at the annual MACMH conference in Duluth and took a seminar on recent findings in adhd treatments. They recommended talking to pediatricians about using OTC Folic Acid to treat appetite suppression caused from stimulant medications. We did just that and started my daughter on folic acid each morning. She experienced a significant increase in appetite throughout the day. It was very helpful! This may help with binge eating after meds have worn off. Another idea is to talk to your doctor about a small dose of Ritalin after school to keep impulses at bay until they’re asleep.

Hope this helps!

Thank you so much!! Your experience is always welcome here. I think I will do this with my son. He is either starving or not hungry (zero or 100 miles an hour) drives us crazy.

BunnyTech profile image
BunnyTech in reply to LPCCDad

His pediatrician is reluctant to add another stimulant medication because of his history of prenatal exposure to meth. However, folic acid is definitely something we can try.

Does he maybe have Asperger's? Their known for this?

It's possible. I wouldn't be surprised. He hasn't gotten an ASD diagnosis, but I feel very strongly he's on the spectrum somewhere.

See about having him diagnosed?

We'll get there. It's a process, and our insurance has this weird gatekeeping system when it come to mental health and learning differences. We're working on it. Always working on something, you know?

God I know how insurance companies can be, they don't want to pay for anything if they don't have to. Good luck with your son

When my grandson was on Focali. XR he hardly ever ate lunch. His doctor said as long as he is a big breakfast and dinner and maintained his weight he was OK which he did.

But we never had the middle of the night cravings which is disrupting sleep. I would definitely talk to your doctor about making a change somewhere.

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