You’ve heard of anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating, but have you ever heard of night eating syndrome?
It is a relatively new member of the eating disorder group that is starting to get attention. Unlike some of the other conditions, this one has more to do with signs of serious mental illness than just a problem with eating.
According to the New York Times, Dr. Albert Stunkard is credited with discovering this condition in 1995. According to research, it is a combination of three disorders: mood, eating, and sleep. The person suffering from night feeding syndrome is fully awake and aware of their surroundings. These individuals are not sleepwalkers or do things while in a sedative state.
Instead, most of these people feel that food will help them get back to sleep, which is where their sleep disorder comes in. It is not uncommon for someone who is under a great deal of stress to work through lunch and regain all those lost calories when night falls.
Another common scenario is that you may be in a very restrictive diet That leaves you hungry at night You have all the willpower in the world while busy at work, but you binge at night when all you can think about is food. Others find that their depression worsens at night and there is nothing that relieves it like high calorie sweets and junk food.
Facts about NES
According to Anorexia nervosa and related eating disorders, night feeding syndrome affects about two percent of the population. Unlike bulimia and anorexia, which women often use to fit in with social norms, NES is equally present in both genders.
While there have been many studies on this eating disorder, one was particularly interesting made by JAMA. The researchers found that people with NES only consume about a third of their daily calories at dinner time, or from 5 to 6 p.m. Interestingly, those who do not have night eating syndrome have already consumed more than 75 percent of their daily calories.
There is a direct link between substance abuse, self-harm, and night eaters. Those who overeat in the evening hours are also more susceptible to an addiction problem. Those in recovery are often found to use food as a coping tool and trade one addiction for another.
The same can be said for those who engage in self-injurious activities, such as cutting themselves. Cutting is the result of intense anxiety that they cannot control, so if they try to manage their stress less aggressively, they may turn to food. Since both depression and anxiety seem to be greatest during the evening hours, it makes sense for eating to increase when stress is at its highest.
A connection to stress
Stress seems to be another important consideration for those with this eating disorder. For example, a study was conducted by The Teen Health Magazine which showed some interesting results. College students and those who are under a significant amount of stress are at increased risk of developing this condition.
Students generally stay up late trying to cram for exams and don’t get enough sleep, putting them at higher risk of getting NES. The same could be said of those who work long hours and return home unable to sleep due to their racing mind and unable to relax from the anguish of the day.
Symptoms of night eating disorder
If you think you have symptoms of NES, many signs indicate this condition. However, keep in mind that not all people will have all of these. The diagnostic criteria are that it has 2-3 with a prevalence that lasts a month or more. Here is a checklist that you may have this eating disorder.
1. You have a poor appetite in the morning.
2. You notice that you have uncontrollable urges to eat during the afternoon or evening.
3. You think eating will help you sleep.
4. You have ongoing problems with depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems.
5. You experience frequent sleep disturbances.
6. Others notice that food is missing from the kitchen that you know took.
7. You find clutter in the morning and vaguely remember making it.
8. You hoard food to make sure you have enough.
9. You are gaining unexplained weight.
10. You have the feeling that you have no control over your behavior.
11. Your eating habits cause you deep shame, so you hide them.
12. You are overweight and have other medical problems such as high blood pressure.
13. Has a negative self-image due to weight problems and lack of self-control.
14. You have a history of substance abuse problems.
15. You constantly binge on high-calorie snacks and crave sugars and starches.
16. 25 percent of your daily caloric intake is consumed after dinner.
17. You frequent restrictive diets to lose weight.
18. You are prone to self-medicating due to pent-up stress.
19. Often eats large portions in short periods, similar to bingeing.
20. Participates in other eating disorders.
There is an element of shame that accompanies this disorder, which is why many people choose to eat in secret. You may find that it is easier to binge when everyone else in the house is in bed. You may also find that it is best to hoard or hide food to ensure you get everything you want.
A neglected child, like those in foster care, may grow up thinking that they need to hoard. Food hoarding it is a preventative measure for someone who feels they will not get enough or is in danger of starving. Binge eaters use food as medicine for underlying problems such as depression, anxiety, stress, or other circumstances beyond their control.
Risks and predisposing factors
There is a lot of research linking genetics to eating disorders. The Mayo Clinic addresses this issue in one of his articles. Biological factors cannot be denied in bingeing.
If their parents have trouble with eating disorders, it makes the child more susceptible to such behaviors. Additionally, there are mental health components to all of these illnesses, specifically the night eating syndrome. Having depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders can increase your chances of developing something like night eating syndrome.
Those who have a poor relationship with food and have a history of yo-yo dieting or who use restrictive methods may be susceptible to NES. Dieting can change the chemicals in your brain, and if your body doesn’t get the pleasure receptors caressed the way it wants, it can cause binge eating.
The most common age for this and other eating disorders is between 20 and 30 years of age, although they can occur at any age.
Prevention and awareness
It would be nice if there was an herb you could take or some exercise you could do to keep eating disorders at bay. However, there are some strategies you can use to teach your children how to develop a good relationship with food.
One of the best things you can do as a parent is to avoid dieting and discuss diet with your child. Keep your weight struggles private, at least most of them. Your child needs to develop good family eating habits, as this can help build a good relationship with food, so never underestimate the power of family mealtime.
Teaching your children to eat a well-balanced diet should be done in word and deed. Another major problem today is body image that is touted as acceptable. Women tend to have more problems with this than men, but the news and other media parade women to have a perfect figure when they are half starved.
As parents, you must correct any misunderstandings and help them avoid the attraction of these dangerous ideas. Sure, you can lose a lot of weight with a condition like anorexia, but this disease does so much damage to your heart that it could end your life prematurely.
Finally, it is essential to love the skin you are in. You may never be a stick figure with the perfect body, but it would be a boring world if everyone looked the same. Eating disorders can cause you to gain or lose weight, but they all stem from the misconception of not loving your body or feeling like you fit in. Of course, there are also psychological aspects.
There is no magic pill you can take and the night feeding syndrome will go away. Instead, counseling and addressing issues related to mental illness is essential. These behaviors are often seen in people with obsessive compulsive disorder as their urge to eat soon becomes a compulsion.
Various therapeutic approaches appear to be the most helpful, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Brain retraining and better relationship with food is the key to reversing this problem. Looking at your body differently and learning how to manage your stress levels can help you manage this condition effectively.
Eating disorders of all varieties are hard on the body. Gaining too much weight due to NES or bingeing can cause high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and type II diabetes. You need to address the underlying problems that you are trying to solve. self-medicate outside.