Sunday, February 21, 2010

Night Hunger

Nighttime is often a real problem for people with compulsive or binge eating disorders. I’m no exception. Before my current stretch of success, I used to have very good days up until about 6:00 pm, and then I’d lose it and just start eating everything in sight. The chips that were eminently resistible up until 4:00 pm would start to beckon to me. By the early evening, their siren song would bewitch me and I’d be chowing down.

These days, a variety of factors have lead to an ability to resist, even in the evening during the hardest times. Part of what has lead to that is controlled giving in. Another part is my awareness of the calories I’m consuming in such binges. Before, I was working on the principle of calorie bankruptcy. What were a few thousand more calories once I’d “overspent”.

One thing I want to say is that I have not conquered the urge to eat at night. In fact, I often lie in bed thinking about all of the things I’d like to eat. And, I’m not talking about wanting junk food. Last night, I was thinking about eating tuna. Often, I’ll crave eggs. Frequently, I’ll also want cheese. It’s never the case that I want chips, cakes, etc. I want real food.

I’m not sure what brings this on, because I rarely eat earlier than 4 hours before bed. Sometimes, I eat within two or three hours so there’s no reason to be hungry. I’m guessing this is a biological rhythm, a circadian problem. My body says eat before sleep. It could also be some weird blood sugar issue, or, possibly even more likely, the fact that I’m cold at night now and my body is looking to gain heat through eating.

I should note that, when I was overeating all of the time, this daydreaming of food before sleep never happened to me. Maybe this preoccupation with food at night is a response to consistently losing weight. Perhaps this is some rebellious “feed me” activity.

At any rate, I never act on those desires to eat at that point, but it’s often a nightly battle. For one thing, it’ll completely wreck a successful day and I’ll hate myself for it. Additionally, at that point, I’m too tired to get up and prepare food. I always quell the voice that insists on food late at night with a promise of “tomorrow”. When tomorrow comes, I rarely want the food even when I can have it. I usually wake up and have a very small breakfast.

One thing that doesn’t seem to be a problem is ruminating on the food and thinking of the memory of how good the foods I crave are. I’m almost (ALMOST) placated by living through the memory of how good the food is. I’m just glad that thinking about it doesn’t make the desire more ravenous.


dlamb said...

This is a very interesting issue, because, as I've mentioned before, once I started changing my life-long habit of eating my main meal of the day at night, my problems with weight gain started.
I've shared with you that my schedule, since the time I was about 5-6 years old, started around 5 AM and ended around 8-9:00 PM. I was pretty much gone all day and food just wasn't much of an interest. In the evening, I'd come home, eat my "main" meal of the day, did homework and went to bed.
I never really thought of food during the day so I assumed that I ate something when I was hungry but I have no distinct memory of actual "meals". I have never had problems with digestion and going to bed with a full stomach was comfortable for me.
When I changed things around, in my mid 20s, I started suffering from major hunger pangs all day, though I was eating more calories than I had previously eaten and at night I was ravenous and miserable. I am not a good sleeper anyway; I have never been, but this, this was pure torture! It was when I hit my highest weight. A few times I was also injured but the main reason I gained wt. was because I changed my routine and started eating "low fat", high carb, first thing in the morning, ya' know, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day and everybody should start the day with a nice bowl of low nutrition cereal or bagel and skim milk, possibly with a banana, to really get that insulin flowing. Not criticizing anyone for whom that works. i am truly happy for them but for me, it was a disaster!

On the rare occasions when I could resist not eating before bedtime, I suffered for hours. Most days, I finished my calories by early evening and binged the rest of the evening, sleeping just great and being really distressed by my failure.
The first step, as I mentioned before, to my return to MY normalcy, was to go back to eating in the evening. My one meal at night was fantastic for me, as it removed the hunger and the food obsession during the day and I looked forward to my meal, my full stomach and the comfort of not tossing and turning with a growling stomach.
As I said, I no longer do that due to the need to take some supplements that necessitate a bit of fat and food, BUT I still save the majority of my calories for the last 3rd of the day. It works for me.
I guess it just goes to show that there are as many ways to eat as there are people. No one routine is right for everybody and those who think they've found "THE KEY" and force it on everybody else may be doing more damage than helping. It is one of the things I appreciate most about your blog. You not only allow for that, but support individual research on one's system, in order to find the optimum way of arriving at the best answer. This also makes it easier for others to share with you there own experience. They know they won't be judged for doing it "wrong".

screaming fatgirl said...

The need for there to be a "right" way and a "wrong" way fascinates me on many levels. This sort of rigidity in thinking applies in so many areas of life, and I imagine it is a consequence of upbringing. Parents are always telling kids about "right" and "wrong" ways to do things. My mother felt any piece of meat that wasn't cooked until it was as dry as leather was dangerous to eat. For her, this was the "right" way to cook meat. I learned otherwise when I started cooking for myself.

Similarly, lately I've been exposed to someone who has lots of ideas about what is "best" or "right" and that is the way she believes it should be done. Again, this does not relate to weight, but to multiple aspects of living.

What I have realized through time and consideration is that, when it comes to accomplishing a task, it's not about "right" or "wrong", but about what works and doesn't work, and that is so situational that making rules can be counter-productive. Many people make rules about the right way, even when those rules don't work well. They get more entrenched in proving their viewpoint than in solving a problem.

"It works for me," is really the most important thing. :-)

dlamb said...

I guess you know I am in complete agreement, right? You know, just in case I was not clear enough re. my position on this subject ;)