Betty, a flamboyant redhead came barreling down the hallway heading towards my office chatting, “Dr. Lisa, I did it again, I woke up in the middle of the night and binge-ate cereal!” As we made our way to my office, people in the waiting room and around the reception area raised their heads to see what all the commotion was about.
When Betty arrived, all knew.
Betty was a spunky, loud woman, closing in on 70 years of age with the most infectious laughter. Just thinking about Betty as I write this makes me smile from ear to ear. Betty is a handful—but also a total delight. She is unique and eccentric and most of all fun.
Betty started night eating several years back after her dad became quite ill. Nighttime eating has been linked to some eating disorders, including binge eating disorder and night eating syndrome. People with night eating syndrome present a delayed food intake pattern, eating most of their dietary intake between late evening and early morning.
Night Eating Syndrome is an eating disorder characterized by a delayed circadian pattern of food intake. It differs from binge eating in that the amount of food consumed in the evening or late night is usually not a large amount of food, nor is it a loss of control over food intake required.
Betty left behind the comforts of her home of twenty five years moving in to care for her elderly dad as he declined. Almost nightly Betty rolled out of bed, in a blind-stupor, to console herself with a bowl of cereal, which turned into consuming the entire box, a can of ravioli, finishing off with macadamia cookies. Stuffed to the brink, she’d make her way back to bed often waking a few more times repeating the behavior.
Betty has binge-eating disorder and food addiction, and spent many years in and out of various Twelve-Step programs and sought a wide variety of therapists before she happened upon me. I knew what she was going through as I had binge ate and suffered from food addiction many years until I found the resolution over twenty years ago.
I invested in years of education, first with my masters degree in mental health followed by a PhD in addictions, with the emphasis on food addiction—and from there a masters certified addiction professional (MCAP) and a certified eating disorder specialist (CEDS) and national board certified clinical hypnotherapist. I was determined to understand eating disorders and addictions from every angle.
And then to top it off, I wrote two books on the subject: Release Your Obsession with Food: Heal from the Inside Out and Release Your Obsession with Diet Chatter: Heal from the Inside Out, and a third book to launch end of November: Release Your Obsession with Food Fest Frenzy: Heal from the Inside Out. A book to lead you out of the binge eating mentality during festive times–and there are many!
I thought I was the only one who practiced as a clinician as an expert in the field of eating disorders and personally worked through my own eating disorder, until I read a most interesting article in Psychology Today: How to Stop Binge Eating in Three Unusual Steps: A Weird But Systematic Way to Stop Overeating and Binge Eating, written by Glenn Livingston, Ph.D.
I was astounded and thrilled to learn about someone who mirrored much of what I have written and who also practiced in this field over the past 20 plus years. It was refreshing and enlightening to read from his perspective.
I love the line in Dr. Livingston’s article where he says, “I’ll spare you the full story, but let’s just say there’s probably nothing you’ve done with food I haven’t done myself.”
Oh my, I found my twin from another mother. He gets it! His riveting article goes on to point out three steps to over come binge eating that ring similar to my perspective on many levels, yet unique to his formula.
Dr. Livingston came to the same conclusions with night eating in his research and experience as I did with Betty, and others I’ve treated. Betty for sure wasn’t eating enough during the day and making up for it big-time in the evening. There were emotional components with the decline of her father, but it was also the fact that she was eating high, sugary foods in the late evening and early morning followed by long jaunts of no food to a quick fast food pick-me-up and then off to bed without proper nutrition, and without eating at regular intervals.
I concur with Dr. Livingston that it doesn’t have to be difficult to treat and cease. He states, “Identifying the cause is a good start place.” He notes over-restricting during the day, which is exactly what Betty does, along with not enough self-care during the day, which is for sure a neglect Betty has placed on herself, is also a remedy for binge eating.
Betty was too busy caring for her father, neglecting the care of her self…except at night, when she’d over eat. Dr. Livingston also notes not enough sleep is a culprit, which is an area Betty and I worked on. I emphasized the importance of good sleep at the same time each evening and waking at the same time each morning to create a pattern or a ritual that becomes a norm.
Though Betty is not quite out of the woods with her nighttime eating, it has ceased considerably in the amount of food and the regularity of the event. She has gone from 7 nightly binge eating episodes down to two evenings, every other week. She learned to prepare healthy meals throughout the day and spaces them apart and moved to the best of her ability away from sugar, flour, and wheat, which ignites chemicals in her brain fueling her food addiction.
Binge eating disorder can be a tough disorder to beat or it can be an easy fix with the right tools. There are many books and views, but Dr. Livingston’s book, Never Binge Again on Amazon, or any book store near you, is an excellent read, with many similar views and experiences I’ve have had, but from a male lens.
Do you binge-eat at night? What are your ways of treating this problem? Many would love to hear from you and learn from you? Perhaps there is something you disagree with, please share your view …it’s just as important as what you’ve read.
Stay tuned…you never know where my mind will wander…
Hugs to you…I care.
Speaker, writer, licensed clinical psychotherapist, PhD in addiction psychology, eating disorder professional, hypnotherapist changing the view about compulsive eating one addict at a time.