This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rhea Kumar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

So What Exactly Is A Night-Eating Syndrome: An Account Of A Compulsive Night Eater

More from Rhea Kumar

By Rhea Kumar:

Just ten minutes left,” the examiner drawled, with a sadistic gleam in his eye. My hand hurt as I struggled to scrawl as many words as I could to get through the three remaining questions. For some strange reason, my pen seemed to be frozen. Before I knew it, the answer sheet had disappeared from view. As I groped with my hands and screamed a desperate “Wait!” everything around me faded away.

istock_000006356640medium

I woke up, trembling and drenched in sweat. It was that terrible nightmare again. I thought of the numerous deadlines I had to meet, the tests I had to study for, the projects I needed to submit. I thought of the piece for my guitar concert, which I still hadn’t perfected. I thought of the quarrel with Sania today. How dare she join the rest of the crowd in ribbing me about my weight? Wasn’t she supposed to be my friend and stand up for me? The truth was that I had no real friends at all. Plenty of hangers-on who would take advantage of my generosity and spend time with me looking for a treat, but they were never around when I needed them. I have been working so hard to control my weight but nothing seems to work. I feel I am fighting a losing battle and its affecting my confidence as a person. There are days when I have to force myself to get out of bed and get ready for school, knowing I’ll hear the same jibes, sniggers and smothered giggles as I walk down the corridor. Why can’t people mind their own business?

I tried to go back to sleep but failed miserably. And then the hunger pangs started. Food always helps me forget my problems, at least temporarily. Just a little midnight snack, what harm can it do? As I walked out of bed, images of the needle on the weighing machine danced in front of my face, veering dangerously close to the 80 kg mark. My pace unconsciously quickened, as if to beat the guilt before it overpowered me. I reached for the fridge, pulled out two slices of bread, a piece of goat cheese, some mayonnaise and bacon, and fixed myself a sandwich. As I gobbled it up, I could feel all my worries seep away magically. Nothing seemed to matter anymore, the taunts, the laughter, the fights, everything seemed so insignificant. Why was I fretting about such silly things? Soon, sleep overpowered me and I collapsed on the bed, happy and satiated.

The same night, I made two more trips to the refrigerator, gorging on a slab of chocolate and a large piece of apple pie. Each time I woke up feeling anxious and troubled but went to sleep feeling happy and content after my delicious snack.

These night time eating episodes have been happening since the last year and a half. They happen at least twice a week, sometimes as often as five times a week. I wake up from sleep feeling troubled and anxious about some event or incident and then find it impossible to go back to sleep without stuffing myself with a high-carb snack. In the morning, I wake up feeling guilty and ashamed of myself for being so weak-willed. Each day I resolve to follow a more controlled and regular pattern of eating like most other people but it just doesn’t work for me. The sight of food in the morning nauseates me. I leave home without eating breakfast and eat very little during the day. It’s only after dinner that my appetite seems to get active. My sleep is often disturbed and restless and I find myself eating several times in the night to get back to sleep. Sometimes I try and fight this urge to eat in the middle of the night but the desire is just too strong. I find myself rationalizing my behavior : it’s not like I’m overeating, it’s just that I have a different eating pattern. And a lot of people eat late at night, so I’m really not alone. My cousin Arushi tells me she and her friend binge all night in the hostel before their exams.

Of course, that interfering and know-it-all neighbour of ours, Archana Aunty (AA for short) will not rest easy till she convinces my family that I suffer from something called ‘Night Eating Disorder’. She thinks her degree in Psychology qualifies her to provide a free diagnosis for my peculiar behavior and suggest a line of treatment. In one of my emotional moments, I made the mistake of confiding in my brother who of course went and announced it to one and all in a bid to embarrass me. Just a few days back, AA told my mother my younger brother suffers from a mild form of ADHD, and all because he and his friends went and vandalized her garden by playing football in it. Serves him right for being so callous and insensitive! Can’t he keep a confidence?

In any case, AA has managed to convince my mother that I have a problem. Now, I’m given a daily lecture about how slim and beautiful I was and how I’m on the way to being obese and how it’s already too late etc etc. “There are too many distractions and too much pressure for youngsters nowadays. They just can’t cope and then fall prey to all these psychological problems…in my time, children were actually happy”, my mother mutters and heaves a long sigh, much to my irritation.

Dear reader, do you think I have a problem? Do you think my life is out of control? Well, I really don’t think so. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and self-harm: these are some of the ways people combat stress. These people have a problem, a problem that, if not solved, can have serious consequences. But food? Food is a basic necessity. In fact, it is the lack of food that leads to disorders such as anorexia. What my mom and AA do not understand is that eating at night is a very harmless way of combating stress, something a lot of youngsters practice. I do understand that I am a bit overweight, but I would rather be fat and content than end up in rehabilitation centers for anorexia or drugs.

Yet to tell you the truth, food doesn’t always give me the satisfaction I want. Sometimes, it feels more like a compulsion to eat rather than actual hunger. And while these midnight snacks make me drowsy and help me to go back to sleep, I always wake up with a lingering feeling of guilt. Food has become my sleeping pill, and I’m not sure whether that’s normal. Could that crazy AA be right then? Could I really be suffering from Night Eating Disorder?

Oh God! I look at the clock and realize that its already 7:30 am. The bus arrives in ten minutes; how am I ever going to get ready and reach the bus stop in time? I’ve wasted too much time brooding about this. I scramble to change my clothes and rush out of the house, leaving my breakfast on the table and my mother shouting after me, much like any other day. I can always make that up at night, can’t I?

You must be to comment.
  1. Rajiv Bhole

    The problem’s not with you but with the doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists. They see to it that we never know how to have balanced diet. If they did, they’d go out of business. All the work in our body is done by the body proteins, the building blocks of life. Proteins are nothing but chains of amino acids linked together. So if we don’t get sufficient quantities of at least the nine essential amino acids in our diets, we develop all sorts of health complications, including stress. This article of mine will tell you what nutrients get depleted in times of stress: http://www.karmayog.org/nonprofits/redirect/strred.asp?docId=5297 When the amino acid Tryptophan (milk, beef and meat, and also cashew-nuts, are rich sources of it) gets depleted in the body, the neurotransmitter Serotonin, which becomes Melatonin — the natural sleep inducer — at night, cannot be formed.
    Also for tryptophan to reach the brain, the brain makes us eat carbohydrates or sweets. This is why many people eat sweets at night for the brain to form Serotonin and Melatonin. But when we do not have sufficient Tryptophan in the body, we just keep on eating more and more. This is the main reason why people become fat. So I’d suggest you take a lot of tryptophan in your food, and also try and take lots of Niacin, i.e Vitamin B3 (you can take upto 2 B-coplex capsules thrice a day to get niacin), You could also do this meditation at night in a sleeping posture to get sleep: https://soundcloud.com/rajiv-behappy/sense-awareness-meditation And here’s a TOI Speaking Tree article on this meditation: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2007-03-26/edit-page/27869287_1_particles-e-mc2-law
    I hope this helps you Rhea, and also others who may be having a problem with stress and overeating.

  2. Rajiv Bhole

    And And Rhea, you can also watch this video on Stress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUORK9RkTIQ and also see the videos I have uploaded on YouTube.

  3. Rhea Kumar

    thank you rajiv, this is certainly very informative, and i think all night-eaters will benefit from this greatly. however, i think i forgot to mention that the article is a fictitious account 😛

More from Rhea Kumar

Similar Posts

By Ritwik Trivedi

By Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)

By Anshika Pandey

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below