Saturday, October 04, 2003
Got a Bad Habit or an Eating Disorder?
posted by Julie |
Night eating syndrome
My pop drops off to sleep around 9-10 p.m. every night, in front of the TV, with his paper in his chair, in front of his computer screen, while listening to the radio, it hardly matters what is going on in the house or in the world, he goes out like a match in a stiff wind.
But then, magically, at midnight - and the people in Greenwich set their clocks by it -- he awakens and without really even opening his eyes, heads to the kitchen for pie or ice cream or both. Something sweet. Lots of something sweet, eaten standing up, over the sink, with a large spoon.
He can't return to sleep without it. He's done it all his life.
This is what I call a habit. A bad habit, to be sure, but he's a skinny man with low blood lipids, and he's around 80, so who's going to argue?
But there are other folks who skip breakfast, eat a fairly light lunch or dinner, then consume more than half of their calories at night, either just before bed or several times during the night, sleeping in short fits, then waking to eat more meals of milk and cookies, chips, peanut butter sandwiches. Starchy meals. Sweet meals. Heavy meals.
They can't stop themselves.
And this is more than a bad habit. This is disordered eating, and it ranks right up there with binge eating as a fairly common disruptive behavior among obese people. It's called Night Eating Syndrome (NES), and researchers who are working to define it classify it as a true eating disorder alongside more commonly known eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
People who have NES are likely coping with other problems, it seems. They are people who may experience a great deal of regular stress, are more likely to be depressed, and test as having lower self esteem than average. They aren't necessarily overweight, but a higher percentage of overweight people experience NES than you find in the general population.
Night Eating Syndrome appears to have genetic links. But having the syndrome in your family doesn't necessarily sentence you to it. You can develop it at any time, and the triggers to beginning this behavior are not yet well understood. Several treatments are being explored, with the most promising so far being the use of SSRIs, or Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which are commonly used to treat depression.
So, poopsies, if you or someone you know has a big problem with eating after supper, after bedtime, after midnight, read up and consider getting some help.
NES described at ivillage
NES announced by the BBC
Research linking NES with depression and low self-esteem
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