Do You Have Night Eating Syndrome?

My eating disorder journey started out with restriction, and when that no longer worked, I began to binge and purge…


I did that all throughout college.  First I'd restrict for a while, then binge and purge in a vicious cycle. Then came Senior year and as the stress was taking its toll from my ED habits, I acquired a third eating disorder: Night Eating Syndrome (NES).


NES is actually different from other eating disorders and something now diagnosed and treated.  But at the time, I didn't even know what it was. I would eat in the middle of the night, but thought nothing of it. It was occasional and weird but it was just "what I did." 


No one knew this about me at the time and I would never dare tell anyone. It was my dirty little secret. 


It wasn’t until I started my first real job after college in NYC that the night eating became a more serious problem.


I began getting up 3 to 5 times in the middle of the night to eat. I was only half conscious from lack of sleep, so while I knew what was going on, I had absolutely no control over it. If a food wasn't nailed shut, I'd eat it.


I lived with two other roommates and found myself eating their food too, and it felt so embarrassing. I was filled with so much shame that I would set my alarm for 5:30 am so I could go to the bodega across the street and replenish their food...


I’d sneak back to sleep and wake up not only exhausted but feeling hungover. It was at that time I had just started my recovery for anorexia and bulimia. I was learning to say no to restriction, binging and purging, but I was still really sick.


So, I picked up a fourth habit: downing several cups of coffee to manage my exhaustion. Between the excessive caffeine dampening my appetite by day (and stressing out my body's adrenals, blood sugar, ANS, etc.), then eating so much at night I felt full in the morning, I wasn’t hungry during normal day hours. 


I still didn't know how to feed myself yet.  I didn’t understand the inflammatory burden I created from eating in the middle of the night, then not feeding myself properly by day. It was such a vicious cycle: feel like shit by day, eat in the middle of the night, rinse, repeat.


Finally, I had enough. I enlisted the support of a therapist, nutritionist and was going to my ED support group.  To manage the night eating, I would have my friends or my Mom sleep over, but the minute they left I was back to the habit.  It felt hopeless.


The truth was (and still is), it wasn't hopeless.  It was a habit that needed to be changed with the right tools and the right support.  And I needed daily accountability.


I can relate so deeply and compassionately with anyone who has dealt with Eating Disorders and NES like I did.  I have been in recovery over 15 years now, and it's the best decision I ever made for myself when my relationship with food and my body spun out of control.  I needed help, and I got it.


Can you relate to this or have a loved one managing some form of ED?  The great news is that now, thanks to my recovery journey and becoming a Nutritionist, I can hold the hand of those in the midst of what I went through.  I can show them there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  


Here were some of the initial tools that truly helped me in my darkest times with NES and ED.


I made a decision:

I let go of the need to control everything and perfectionism.

I practiced acceptance and gratitude for my body and all that it does for me.

I decided to let go of shame, guilt and remorse and keep trekking towards recovery.

I decided to let go of secrets because they were hurting me and not bring me joy.

I decided to nourish my mind and body and enlist the help of experts to assist in this.

I celebrated even the small wins and now I know that even the small wins are BIG.


I chose not to suffer in silence:


When you talk about it you diffuse it and ED has less power.

There is no shame.  Recovery is hard and often times, it's one step forward and one step back. 

Give yourself some grace and share with your loved ones or folks that get what you're going through.  


Always eat when you're supposed to eat the next day: 

Don't wait because you are hungover or not hungry.  Restriction always leads to more binging.  


Create a morning and evening ritual.


Create Accountability. (More on that this coming week with a big announcement on how I can be your full-time accountability and support!)


Join a support group:

This was magical for me.  There was nothing better than hearing stories of other people's experiences, trials and tribulations.


Finally I was not alone, and I realized my situation wasn't as isolating as I thought it was.

I made some of my best friends in these groups.  Theres no better support than people who are going through or have been through the same situation.  


I give thanks to my ED for providing me the opportunity to guide and pay it forward like my mentors did for me.


If you're curious to learn more about NES, I encourage you to check out this article from Sleepopolis and reach out to me for a free support call.  You don't have to suffer in silence, cycling through deep shame, guilt, and pain like I did. I have all the tools you need to transform your relationship with your body and food.


Those days are behind me, but I'm always reminded I'll be in "self care mode" for the rest of my life to keep those gremlins at bay, and that's the sweetest gift I could ask for.  I wouldn't have it any other way. <3




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