This blog is written by Kimberly H, a bariatric patient who discusses being a new mother, eating well, working out, and trying to lose weight after weight loss surgery. Aside from sharing her experience with WLS, she discusses motivation, self-love, and mental health.
Have you ever heard of sleep eating? Yes, it is a thing. I never knew about it until I experienced it personally. This is something they struggle with before surgery for some bariatric patients, and they often wonder if it will go away after the procedure. Sleep-related eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating patterns during the night. It can be really overwhelming if you are struggling with this because it might make you worry if the surgery will even work with these habits.
A nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder is when people eat while they are asleep. Often, they do not even have a memory that they ate while they were sleeping. This can be an extremely challenging disorder to live with because you are entirely unconscious when eating, so it is hard to control. In addition, people with this disorder often struggle with type 2 diabetes and experience significant weight gain.
Another similar disorder is called a night-eating syndrome. This is when a person eats during the night with the full awareness that they are doing it. Often, they cannot go back to sleep unless they eat. This is what I personally experienced. I had a period in my life where I would wake up in the night and feel like I absolutely had to eat something. I could not relax and go back to sleep, and it would literally consume my mind. It was so hard for me because I tried everything to control it, but it truly felt like it took over my brain. I would finally have to get out of bed and find something to eat. Usually, it would be something unhealthy and easy to grab, like cookies or donuts. I remember I would literally be falling asleep while eating it, but it gave me the calmness I needed to fall back to sleep. I noticed that I was under a lot of stress during this time in my life, and I genuinely believe that contributed to the behavior.
It is definitely fear for some bariatric patients that struggle with a sleep eating disorder. Imagine working so hard throughout the day just to throw out your progress when it hits night. That is precisely how I felt. It was challenging because I would be eating so well and working out, but when night hit, I lost all control. The good news is there are things you can do to potentially help the disorder. I found that managing my stress greatly affected my disorder. Some people also comment that avoiding caffeine and alcohol can help as well. Medication is sometimes also used, but it is important not to take any sleep medications as this can add to any confusion you might experience during an episode.
It is also important to remember not to starve yourself during the day. As bariatric patients, we eat very small portions. However, you must ensure you get enough nutrition throughout the day, so your body does not feel like it has to make up for it at night. I often felt like my binge eating disorder came out during these episodes at night, and it was usually the strongest on days when I was eating too little throughout the day.
If you are pre-op wondering if it will get worse after surgery, I encourage you to talk to your surgeon and team of doctors about your concerns. You do not have to suffer through this alone, and I would definitely not use it as a reason you do not want to have the surgery. Explore the available options for treatment and make sure you take the steps you need to help the situation. For example, I learned that I cannot keep trigger foods in my house. It made it so much harder to binge in the night when there was nothing to quickly grab while I was half asleep. Have an open mind and be willing to make changes to see if that helps. Whatever you do, do not stop fighting! This is just an obstacle, but it does not have to be the end for you. You got this!