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April 21, 2004


America's unhealthy relationship with food: Night Eating

The authors of a new book, Overcoming Night Eating Syndrome, say that getting up in the middle of the night and eating uncontrollably is not a new problem, but an old problem that is getting new attention. Night eaters seem to mostly be women, and they are characterized by lack of hunger during the day, insomnia, and inability to fall asleep unless they get up and eat. A lot. Which makes them feel horribly depressed, and sometimes suicidal. It's not related to dieting or anorexia, but rather to stress and insomnia. The authors say, "Eating becomes a conditioned response to waking, working better than any sleeping pill."

If night eating is really a result of insomnia and life stressors, why does it just so happen than these women are turning to food as their source of relief? The many different ways that people can have weirdly secretive and dependent relationships with food ("I sometimes fall asleep with food in my mouth") that have been problems for decades points to a larger problem that our culture still has with food. Therapy for night eating mostly consists of eating three regular meals a day, instead of addressing the underlying stress and depression that is causing the behavior in the first place. Even the experts on this issue are identifying food and overeating as the problem. Eating three meals a day might make night eaters lose weight, but will their lives and self-images improve? This kind of treatment sounds to me like prescribing Pepto-Bismol for bulimics, or suggesting that alcoholics stop going to happy hour so much.

categories: Books, Gender, Health
posted by amy at 12:49 PM | #