At the end of a long workday, when the lights are low and the family settles down to watch television, a freshly baked pie or a batch of warm popcorn seems like the perfect accompaniment. But for people with night eating syndrome, a few bites of a sweet or salty snack are rarely enough to provide satisfaction. For these people, nighttime is the right time to binge on foods that the person might have avoided all day long. Knowing the warning signs of the disorder can help families know when to step up and get help for the people they love.
The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness reports that night eating syndrome impacts between 1 and 2 percent of the population. Almost anyone could develop the issue, but it’s commonly found in young women. Since the syndrome is associated with a repeated pattern of overeating, people who have this condition tend to be quite overweight. As a result, the Alliance reports that about 28 percent of people who seek gastric bypass surgery have night eating disorders. These people don’t feel capable of controlling their behavior on their own, so they turn to surgical interventions in order to find relief.
People who have night eating syndrome may feel intense shame about their eating habits, and they may go to great lengths to keep their issues from the people they love. However, people with the syndrome often exhibit a series of symptoms that are relatively easy for family members to spot. These signs include:
- After-dinner eating. About half of the calories a person with this syndrome eats during the day are consumed at dinner or in the hours that follow.
- Morning fasting. People may skip breakfast altogether, or look for ways to delay the morning meal.
- Food hoarding. Keeping a refrigerator in the bedroom or snacks in the nightstand could be a sign of night eating.
- Frequent trips to the store. People with this syndrome tend to focus on carbohydrate-laden foods, and they may need to head back to the store to replenish the foods they’re missing.
- Insomnia. People with the syndrome are prone to poor sleep habits, as their bodies are actively working on digestion at night.
People with night eating syndrome may also have mental health symptoms family members can spot. For example, a study in the journal Obesity Research found that people who were night eaters had higher scores of depression and lower scores of self-esteem, when compared to people who didn’t have the disorder. People with the disorder don’t get pleasure from the food they take in, and they may consistently seem low, sad and dissatisfied with appearance.
Most people with night eating syndrome know that they’re consuming foods in an unhealthy manner, and most people with the syndrome want to stop eating in this destructive way. Unfortunately, people with the disorder may also feel completely unable to modify the way that they eat, and they may feel hopeless and helpless about weight. We can help. At Futures of Palm Beach, we specialize in helping people who have eating disorders, and we have a long track record of helping people to recover. Our residential treatment programs provide emotional support and science-based therapies that can help people get control of their eating habits and move forward with their lives. Please call us to find out more.